Souths coach Michael Maguire has delivered a blunt ultimatum to George Burgess – fire up or flounder in reserve grade.
The premiership-winning prop has been left out of Maguire’s 17 for Friday’s NRL season opener against the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium.
Burgess has fallen hard since establishing himself as one of the game’s best big men during the Bunnies’ drive to the 2014 title.
Maguire has shown he has no regard for reputation by naming 20-year-old Zane Musgrove to start in Burgess’s place for round one.
Burgess struggled for impact last year as a result of hip and groin injuries but declared himself problem-free heading into 2017.
He had an unhappy Charity Shield, dropping the ball with one of his first touches, and failed to impress Maguire during the pre-season.
Maguire attempted to light a fire under Burgess by saying he wasn’t playing up to standard but left the door open for him to return in coming weeks.
“George is still progressing on the back of that injury he’s had,” Maguire said.
“It’s about performance in this club and he knows the areas that he needs to improve on.
“Someone like Dave Tyrell and Zane have excelled in these earlier games. Each week we’ll look at who we need to carry and this week we’ve gone with those two boys.”
It opens the door for Musgrove, who Maguire rates very highly and has put a lot of stock in.
Late last year he was re-signed on a four-year deal which will tie the Auckland product to Redfern until the end of 2020.
Musgrove made his NRL debut in the corresponding game last year however broke his wrist and wasn’t sighted in first grade again until round 21, playing six games in his rookie year.
“He’s an up-and-coming forward, he’s dedicated and works hard off the field and really hard at his game,” Maguire said of Musgrove.
“Having guys like Sam (Burgess) and GI (Greg Inglis) around have really helped him off the field and it’s now showing on the field.”