Sunny days ahead with Bennett at helm: George Burgess

The historic inaugural NRL clash at Sunshine Coast Stadium is set to be a promoter’s dream when new South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett makes his homecoming to Queensland in the round five clash with the New Zealand Warriors.

The April 13 showdown will begin a partnership between the Rabbitohs, Sunshine Coast Council and Tourism and Events Queensland for the Redfern-based club to play one home game at the venue for three years through until 2021.

Rabbitohs forward George Burgess visited Alexandra Headland on Friday with his wife Joanna, who hails from the Sunshine Coast, and their children Boston and Birdie, to promote ticket sales for the clash which go on sale to the general public on Monday.

"We’ve had great success taking our home games on the road. We had a great time in Perth, Cairns and Mudgee as well so we are looking forward to coming up here to the Sunny Coast where we have a lot of fans and members,” Burgess said.

"My wife is from up here and I am heavily invested up here. We’ve got 3000 members in Queensland and the majority of them are in south-east Queensland. We are looking forward to engaging with them in the community."

Burgess is not due back to Rabbitohs training until January due to his commitments with the England side.

George and Joanna Burgess with Birdie and Boston on the Sunshine Coast.
George and Joanna Burgess with Birdie and Boston on the Sunshine Coast. ©www.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

He said Bennett had already made an impression on South Sydney after arriving for his first training session on Tuesday. The veteran coach’s appointment, after Bennett was replaced by Anthony Seibold at Brisbane, ended weeks of upheaval at the Broncos and Rabbitohs, a saga Burgess said he was glad was now over.

"From what I’ve heard [Bennett’s] been great these first few days and it is good to have clarity now and both clubs can move forward and start their preparations for what is going to be a great 2019,” Burgess said.

"[The trip to the Sunshine Coast] will be a good homecoming for him.

"Seibs did a great job and left a great impression on all of us at the club. He has got his own ambitions as well and I am really glad for him that he got the gig at Brisbane."

Bennett and the Rabbitohs will make four trips to Queensland in 2019. They will play the Cowboys twice, once at Suncorp Stadium in Magic Round in round nine and again in Townsville for round 18 before the round 23 clash with the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

Wayne Bennett at Rabbitohs training.
Wayne Bennett at Rabbitohs training. ©rabbitohs.com.au

Burgess, who said Damien Cook’s re-signing was "a great coup" for the club after the NSW and Australian hooker enjoyed a breakout season, will not be available to play for the Rabbitohs until round four next year after being suspended for three weeks for eye-gouging in the third Test against New Zealand.

"I will miss the first three rounds which is not ideal," he said.

"Everyone that knows me knows that I am not an eye-gouger so I suppose I’ve just got to cop it in the chin."