Role Model Status ‘Part of the Job’ – Burgess
Rabbitohs prop Thomas Burgess has spoken out on the responsibility of being a role model and the need for all NRL players to accept that as "part of the job".
Making his debut for the Harvey Norman World All Stars on Saturday night, Burgess was joined at Woodcrest College in Springfield on Wednesday by Indigenous All Stars back-rower Greg Bird and Jillaroos representatives Tallisha Harden and Brittany Breayley, speaking to captivated youngsters about the NRL's Wellbeing program.
The program this year is targeting healthy eating, hydration and sufficient levels of sleep, the towering frame of Burgess a shining light of what's possible when you eat plenty of the right foods and live a healthy lifestyle.
Whether elite sportspeople should be considered role models is a topic widely debated but in the light of recent off-field incidents Burgess believes that in order to play in the NRL players must be conscious of setting the right example.
"To be honest, I love it. I love coming to schools and to be someone that these kids can look up to and I think that's part of your job," Burgess said.
"If you want to be in the NRL and play in it it's something you've got to take on board and be aware of.
"Some players may not realise that straight away but most players now are getting on to that and it's great that we can make a difference in these kids' lives."
Burgess regularly works with the Souths Cares program in delivering positive messages to schools and also engages in additional charity work such as fundraising for the Cure for MND Foundation, the debilitating disease that claimed his father when he was just 14 years of age.
Over the course of his 14-year career Greg Bird has been embroiled in a number of off-field incidents and is currently working hard to prove that he deserves to once again captain the Gold Coast Titans.
Due to become a father for the first time early in the 2016 season, Bird says he is understanding of the influence that NRL players can have but that they also shouldn't be the primary role models in the lives of young people.
"It's always a balance. There are a lot of role models in these kids' lives teaching them what they should be doing," Bird said.
"Their parents and their teachers more so than us, but it's good to come out and see them and share a bit of knowledge on what we do and our opinions on what it takes to get as far as we can in whatever we want to do in life.
"I understand that we're all role models. We're in the spotlight and everything we do is scrutinised a lot more than everyone else and I understand that side of things.
"But I don't look at us as the be-all and end-all role models in these kids' lives."
On Thursday both the World All Stars and Indigenous All Stars teams will join with the Indigenous Youth Summit that runs in conjunction with All Stars week.
NRL clubs have selected 64 young Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island and New Zealand Maori students to attend the Summit, each participant carefully selected based on participating in a number of education and community initiatives in their local communities.
This article first appeared on NRL.com.