NRL star Sam Burgess has described how an access visit with his two children descended into a slanging match with his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke after the break-up of his marriage to wife Phoebe.
Burgess has given evidence that three days before the alleged assault he met Mr Hooke to discuss the break-up with Phoebe, ‘basically just to open up lines of communication’.
The retired footballer said Mr Hooke had asked if it was possible the couple would reconcile and Burgess told him that after 18 months of trying to save their marriage it was over.
The conversation then turned to recent comments by Burgess critical of the NRL judiciary. According to Burgess, Mr Hooke told him he could have helped handle the media fall-out from his comments.
NRL star Sam Burgess (pictured) has stepped into the witness box to defend himself against allegations he assaulted and intimidated his ex-wife Phoebe’s millionaire father Mitchell Hooke
Mitchell Hooke, the father-in-law of former NRL player Sam Burgess, leaves Moss Vale Local Court in Moss Vale in November
Burgess has given evidence that three days before the alleged assault he met Mr Hooke to discuss the break-up with Phoebe, ‘basically just to open up lines of communication’. He is pictured with Phoebe above in 2018
As Burgess drove off he exchanged a series of text messages with Phoebe, who told him, ‘Don’t you ever message me again’
‘He reminded me that he was the guy that brought down the Kevin Rudd government,’ Burgess told Moss Vale Local Court.
‘Which I found really strange.’
Mr Hooke, who completed his testimony in November, was in the public gallery to hear Burgess’s evidence on Friday. Burgess’s mother Julie was also in court.
He has previously denied bragging to Burgess that as CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia he had ended the prime ministership of Kevin Rudd.
In that role Mr Hooke had won a brutal fight over what was sometimes known as Mr Rudd’s proposed resources super profits tax.
Two hours before the scheduled visit Burgess said Phoebe withdrew an offer for him to come earlier to spend more time with the children.
‘I was disappointed considering the very short period of time I was allowed with the children,’ he said.
To fill in time he spent about an hour and a half in the Royal Hotel at Bowral talking to locals and drinking four schooners of Great Northern mid-strength beer.
Burgess said when he arrived at the Hooke home about 2pm he was met by Mr Hooke who told him, ‘The kids are there, instructions are there’ then left him alone with the children.
About 4pm Phoebe, 31, sent Burgess a text message asking him to leave the property. At 4.04pm she sent another message saying, ‘Let me know when you’ve left’
Sam Burgess grins as he heads into court with his lawyer to face charges of assault and intimidation against his estranged father-in-law
Burgess, pictured with his mum Julie left, is accused of assaulting and intimidating Mitchell Hooke at the Hooke family home, although no actual physical violence has been alleged against him
About 4pm Phoebe, 31, sent Burgess a text message asking him to leave the property. At 4.04pm she sent another message saying, ‘Let me know when you’ve left.’
Asked how he felt after receiving that message, Burgess said, ‘I was happy because I’d got four minutes extra by this point.’
Burgess sent Phoebe a text to say he would wait until she returned to the house because he did not want to leave the children unattended.
Phoebe insisted Burgess leave in another text, then Mr Hooke emerged from his office and spoke to Burgess.
‘He tapped his watch and said, “Time’s up, let’s go”,’ Burgess told the court.
‘I told Mitch I thought that this was inhumane.
‘At this point I didn’t really want to argue or discuss things in front of the kids. I said, “Mitch, please, not in front of the children. Let’s leave it.”
‘He said, “Since you opened the batting I’m going to continue”.’
Burgess said he left the house and Mr Hooke followed him outside.
He attended Moss Vale Court for the final AVO hearing on Friday with his lawyer Bryan Wrench (left)
‘I said, “Mitch, I think you’re a bad person inside and out… and that’s why Phoebe is the way she is.” I told him he couldn’t make up for lost time.’
Burgess said Mr Hooke approached him on the pebble driveway and said, ‘You could have had all this’.
‘I think he meant the property,’ Burgess said.
‘He was pretty upset. He then shouted at me. He said, “F*** you Sam”. I returned serve. I said, “F*** you Mitch, you’re a piece of s***”.
‘He said, “Sam, nobody loves you. Your own family doesn’t love you We loved you. You’ve thrown that away.”‘
Burgess said he then told Mr Hooke: ‘No one in this whole town likes you. You’re a bad person’.
‘Then I called him a piece of s***,’ Burgess said.
Burgess told the court he was unhappy about leaving the multi-million dollar Glenquarry estate outside Bowral, known as Daffodil Downs, before Phoebe returned.
‘I didn’t want to leave the children with Mitch because I didn’t trust him with them,’ he said. ‘He’d never had them before by himself.’
As Burgess drove off he exchanged a series of text messages with Phoebe, who told him, ‘Don’t you ever message me again’. At 4.29pm she sent a message in which she called Burgess ‘a f***’, ‘an absolute lowlife’ and ‘a pig’.
Hours later when Burgess was at home he received a call from police about 10 or 10.30pm.
Burgess was asked if there had been an incident at the Hooke property and replied there had been an argument. He denied threatening Mr Hooke and said his father-in-law had threatened him.
Among the first people NRL legend Sam Burgess contacted after a heated confrontation with his father-in-law was celebrity trouble-shooter and accountant-to-the-stars and Anthony Bell.
Burgess said he had called Bell about 15 minutes after an argument with Mitchell Hooke, amid a heated text exchange with his estranged wife Phoebe.
Police prosecutor Inspector Jamie Palmer suggested Mr Bell was ‘known as the fix-it man’, who had been involved in handling the fallout of previous scandals Burgess had faced.
She then asked if Mr Bell, who has described broadcaster Alan Jones as his mentor, was considered a person who celebrities called upon for advice when they faced potential bad publicity in the media.
‘He is an adviser to some people,’ Burgess said. ‘He’s actually my friend.’
Mr Bell’s prominent friends have included former Test cricket caption Michael Clarke, rugby league and union players, as well as television personalities such as Karl Stefanovic.
Burgess is accused of assaulting and intimidating Mitchell Hooke at the Hooke family home, although no actual physical violence has been alleged against him.
Burgess has pleaded not guilty to charges of intimidation and common assault after an alleged confrontation with his father-in-law Mitchell Hooke at the Hooke family home (pictured)
Burgess said his relationship with Mr Hooke had deteriorated over the last 12 months of his marriage to Phoebe but he had always treated him with respect.
He agreed Mr Hooke had helped him with some difficulties in the United Kingdom and was asked if Mr Hooke had embraced him as part of the family. ‘In his words, yes,’ he said.
Burgess called Mr Hooke ‘Mitchy Boy’ in text messages and accepted he had routinely signed off with ‘love you’ and Xs out of politeness.
‘He’s my father-in-law,’ he said.
He did not think it was Mr Hooke’s job to tell him what to do with his children and agreed he had called him a ‘s***house grandfather’.
Burgess had been ‘calm’, ‘angry’ and ‘upset’ during the encounter at the Hooke family home and blamed Mr Hooke in part for not being able to spend more time with his children.
Sam’s ex-wife Phoebe leaves court after admitting to giving damaging documents about her ex-husband Sam to The Australian newspaper. She denied she did so to destroy his reputation
Sam married Phoebe at her parents’ home in December 2015 and have two children, Poppy, who turns four next week, and Billy, who turned two in December.
The couple separated in late 2018 before rekindling their relationship by April 2019. They split again in October that year and have since divorced.
Burgess’s off-field reputation has taken a battering in the media since his retirement with allegations of excessive partying.
He has been waiting for more than a year for this case to be finalised, having insisted through his lawyers from the start he was not guilty of committing any offence.
Burgess, one of four footballing brothers, was lured to the Rabbitohs by club part-owner and Hollywood star Russell Crowe, and helped guide them to the 2014 premiership.
He quit rugby league in October 2019 due to a chronic left shoulder injury.
Mitchell Hooke ran the Minerals Council of Australia. He is pictured with daughters Phoebe (centre) and Harriet after being made a member of the Order of Australia in 2016
Sam Burgess married Phoebe Hooke at her family home just outside Bowral in the NSW Southern Highlands in December 2015. The couple had two children and split in late 2019