Russell Crowe’s bush footy team FOLDS in shocking blow for former coach Sam Burgess after he guided them to the Grand Final – leaving the Souths legend ‘gutted’
Former NRL star Sam Burgess said he’s ‘gutted’ by the demise of the Orara Valley Axemen, Russell Crowe’s bush footy club.
The New South Wales north coast rugby league club folded this week, with officials confirming in a statement the outfit had made the ‘difficult decision to withdraw from the Group 2 competition.’
The South Sydney legend made the surprise switch to coaching last April, when he was appointed in charge of the Axemen and led them to a Grand Final loss against South Grafton Rebels.
His appointment came just two years after Crowe helped save the Axemen when they were forced to withdraw from their local competition in 2020.
‘I’m really gutted. The energy and hope that was put into the area is not going to be there again this coming season,’ Burgess told the Daily Telegraph.
Sam Burgess has been left gutted by the demise of the Orara Valley Axemen
The former NRL star took charge of the New South Wales north coast rugby league last year
‘This is the challenge the game faces out in country regions with people power, support and participation numbers.
‘I hope they don’t give up and maybe take 12 months to rebuild and get back into the competition because it’s desperately needed up there.’
The Axemen were forced to fold after failing to recover from a significant loss of players at the end of last season.
‘The decision to withdraw from the competition has been a heart breaking one for all involved.
‘We extend our sincerest gratitude to all of our loyal supporters, sponsors and volunteers who have backed us throughout the years.
‘It is because of your unwavering support that we were able to field a competitive club and establish ourselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Group 2 competition.
‘We remain committed to our community and will continue to support rugby league in our region. We hope to turn this around before the 2024 season.’
The Axemen were rescued from the brink by South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe in 2020
Burgess was surprisingly appointed as coach of the Axemen in April last year
The former dual-code England international has since returned to the Rabbitohs and is part of Jason Demetriou’s coaching staff
Burgess has since moved on himself, returning to South Sydney as part of Jason Demetriou’s coaching staff for this season after being linked with a reunion with Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins.
Benett coached the former dual-code England international during the latter’s final season at Redfern in 2019. Burgess spent eight years with the Rabbitohs, winning the 2014 NRL Grand Final as the Bunnies ended a 43-year wait for a premiership.
And Burgess called for the NRL to establish a pathway to ensure some of the game’s biggest stars can lend their expertise to clubs in rural areas to help the code flourish.
‘I also believe there is a system somewhere where past and retired players – in a transition period out of the NRL – can go back to where they’re from in rural areas and give back to the game for one or two years,’ he said.
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