George Burgess hit with nine match man

George Burgess - hit with big ban
George Burgess - hit with big ban

England forward George Burgess has been banned for nine matches after being found guilty of eye gouging.

The 27-year-old Dewsbury-born South Sydney prop's reputation is tarnished after he admitted a charge of dangerous contact on former team-mate Robbie Farah during his side's defeat by Wests Tigers last weekend.

The Rabbitohs have just nine matches left of the regular season so would need to reach the play-offs for Burgess to have a chance of playing for them again this year.

However, Burgess, the younger brother of Sam who moved to Souths in 2012, is out of contract this season and has not been offered a new deal by his club.

Burgess, who rejected an offer of a three-year contract from Parramatta earlier this year, suggested during the hearing that his career "is probably in the balance", but insisted he was determined to mend his ways.

"I've been pretty upset," he said. "My career is probably in the balance. What I've done looks pretty disgraceful on the footage there. It's a shame really.

"I'm definitely going to change the way I play. I'm going to be a lot more cautious."

Two other NRL clubs were reported in May to have been interested in signing Burgess for 2020 but Tuesday's verdict may force a rethink.

South Sydney general manager Shane Richardson sprang to the defence of the player but stopped short of offering him long-term security.

Richardson said: "I just wanted to say we're happy with the hearing we've got tonight.

"It's a tragedy for George and the family. George is a loving father; brother and son. He's been an ornament at South Sydney. It will not define his career."

The ban is the longest handed down by the NRL judiciary since another England prop, James Graham, was given a 12-game suspension in 2012 for his Grand Final bite on Billy Slater - but it could have been worse.

Burgess had a 50 per cent loading from a previous gouging offence on New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in England's second Test win over the Kiwis at Anfield last November.

That incident was used in evidence by NRL counsel Peter McGrath, who attempted to draw an admission from Burgess at least a dozen times that the gouge was deliberate.

However, Burgess argued his actions were careless rather than deliberate or reckless.

"My hands ended up in a dodgy place," he said. "I wasn't thinking about it at the time. I was sort of in auto-pilot. I'm angry with myself about the situation.

"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."

Burgess later added: "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."

Burgess will still be available for Great Britain, who will tour New Zealand and Papua New Guinea under South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett in October and November.

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