George Burgess Rubbed Out For Nine Weeks Over Eye Gouge
George Burgess will miss the rest of the regular NRL season after being handed a nine-game ban for his eye gouge last Thursday night.
The three-man panel of Bob Lindner, Mal Cochrane and Dallas Johnson took 30 minutes to give their verdict in a hearing that lasted almost two hours.
Flanked by defence counsel James McLeod and Rabbitohs football manager Mark Ellison, a remorseful Burgess admitted being deeply hurt by the footage that clearly showed his hand pressing around the eye region of Wests Tigers opponent Robbie Farah.
On several occasions, Burgess caught his emotion before answering questions, and towards the end of his grilling, stopped watching the replays.
"I've been pretty upset. My career is probably in the balance. What I've done looks pretty disgraceful on the footage there. It's a shame really," Burgess said.
"I'm definitely going to change the way I play. I'm going to be a lot more cautious."
However he rejected any accusation that the play was deliberate, insisting he was completely unaware of where his fingers were.
"My hands ended up in a dodgy place. I wasn't thinking about it at the time. I was sort of in auto-pilot. I'm angry with myself about the situation," Burgess said.
"Towards the end I realised I might have been on his face. I didn't realise in the tackle I had contact with his eye. It was only until I saw the footage did I realise."
He later said: "Things are going a million miles an hour. I swear on my kids' lives I didn't know I had my hands in his eyes."
NRL counsel Peter McGrath attempted to draw an admission from Burgess at least a dozen times that the gouge was deliberate.
He showed the panel another two pieces of evidence, including Burgess' eye gouge of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak last year that resulted in a four-game ban.
The third footage was of Canberra forward Hudson Young, who was suspended for a grade-three eye gouge earlier this year and was banned for five games.
McGrath asked the panel to consider a penalty between 800-1000 points, while McLeod claimed the incident was no worse than Young's.
Together with Burgess' show of guilt, he asked for 500-600 points.
Ultimately the suspension, which included the loading from last year's incident, amounted to a nine-game ban - the NRL's largest in seven years.
With just nine games left in the regular season, Burgess, who is without a deal for next year, can only return should Souths make the finals.
"It's a tragedy for George and his family and the whole situation that's come up," Rabbitohs general manager Shane Richardson said after the hearing.
"I want to say this though: George is a loving father, a brother, and a son. And at South Sydney he's nothing but an ornament to the club all the way through.
"I don't think this should ever define what George Burgess is about in any way, shape or form."