SAM Burgess knows a thing or two about ending lengthy title droughts.

So as he becomes the latest head coach to banish the 68-year-old spectre that floats around Warrington Wolves, he does so with experience of exorcising similar ghosts.

Back in 2009 having dominated Super League as a teenager, the fresh-faced Yorkshireman moved to the other side of the globe to a South Sydney Rabbitohs side that had not won a Premiership title since 1971.

It took a few years but in 2014, he was at the heart of the Bunnies side that finally brought the crown back to Redfern after 41 long years having famously played on through a fractured cheekbone sustained in the Grand Final's first tackle.

It cemented what was an already glittering reputation as one of the modern game’s great players and if he can mark his first senior head coaching job by finally ending more than half a century of primrose and blue heartache, it will mark his card as a top off-field operator.

“There’s a lot of similarities and parallels,” he said.

“I felt the weight of that expectation and there’s no greater pressure, especially over there in the NRL. It’s the number one sport in the country, so there is a lot of pressure that comes with that.

“I know there’s a similar kind of pressure here. Will that experience of breaking that drought as a player help me? I think it will.

“All of the decisions I’ve made as a player and a young coach have helped me and shaped the way I want to go but essentially, I’ve just got to do it now.

“I’ll enjoy what I’m doing, it sounds cliché but I’ll take it a week at a time and not look too far ahead.

“I won’t think about the big prizes at the end, I’ll just focus on being better today.”

Burgess’ reluctance to make grand statements arguably speaks to the gap that currently exists between Warrington and those currently competing for the game’s big prizes.

Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Catalans Dragons will be among the favourites again and while their record against the French side is reasonable, their wait for a victory over their two near neighbours will have ticked over to a third year by the time they next face one of them.

The first order of business is for that gap to close and in order to do that, they have gone from the vastly experienced Daryl Powell to a man in Burgess who was an incredible on-field leader but is completely untried as a top-level head coach.

Warrington Guardian: Games against the likes of Wigan and St Helens have been exclusively about heartbreak for Warrington in the past two yearsGames against the likes of Wigan and St Helens have been exclusively about heartbreak for Warrington in the past two years (Image:

So what did he see from afar as he prepared for his new role? And how will the inspirational qualities that marked him out as a player transfer to his coaching?

“I like to think I was pretty balanced as a player,” Burgess said.

“I had my eyes on most things happening within the team and I’d be very aware of rifts or people’s moods.

“I’m a first-time head coach so I don’t know everything, but I do understand team balance.

“I’ll probably do it differently to most, but I’m going with the flow at the minute. We’ll get challenged no doubt, but I’m looking forward to that.

“From I watched last year, I saw a great team that probably needed a bit of direction.

“That’s not saying anything about previous coaches, but there were a few small things I could see that could have been better.

“I’ve had them for three months and we’ve put some of those small changes in. Now, it’s about sustaining with them and keeping them going.

“It has happened very quick, but I like being thrown in at the deep end.

“I’m really enjoying what we’ve done already and I’m looking forward to what’s coming up.

“There will be a lot of ups and downs throughout the year and we have to manage that – that’s part of being a coach.”

While there have been some additions – Zane Musgrove and Lachlan Fitzgibbon bring NRL experience while Sam Powell arrives having been a part of a Wigan side that has consistently edged The Wire out in crunch matches – Burgess must find a way to squeeze a little extra out a squad that is largely similar to the one Powell struggled with.

The creative spine, for example, will be unchanged minus the departure of Daryl Clark to St Helens while the pack is less experienced after Thomas Mikaele and Sam Kasiano moved on.

With the tools at his disposal, Burgess and assistants Martin Gleeson and Richard Marshall have been tasked with putting together a style to suit what they have.

“It’s something that will evolve,” he said when asked about how a Sam Burgess side would look stylistically.

“You’ll hopefully see my ethos and what I’ve tried to bring in the first four or five games, but the team will have their own dynamics.

“We’ve got some really gifted players and my job isn’t to over-coach them. It’s my job to enhance them and try to make it work best for them.

“The team’s style will evolve but as long as we’re doing the basics early, I’ll be happy.

“We’ve tried to create a framework by getting them fit and getting an understanding of the basic skill of the game, then we’ll see their skill and opportunities come off the back of those simple things.”

Warrington Guardian: Burgess has been crafting a style of play alongside assistant coaches Martin Gleeson (pictured here with Burgess) and Richard MarshallBurgess has been crafting a style of play alongside assistant coaches Martin Gleeson (pictured here with Burgess) and Richard Marshall (Image: Joe Richardson)

And it is easy to forget that, as well as all of the stresses and strains of such a high-pressure job, Burgess also has to adapt to moving back across the globe.

Given both he and his partner Lucy are back in their homeland, the transition is easier than most although having spent the past 15 years in Australia, life in England will still take some adjusting to having arrived with newborn daughter Robbie in tow.

“My daughter has dual-citizenship and she’s seen it all at four months old, which is pretty impressive,” he said.

“We were dreading the weather, to be honest.

“We had two months off in Sydney before coming here and we were on the beach every day, so it’s a change of lifestyle but after the first week, you just get on with it and adapt pretty quickly.

“I’m not too happy when it’s minus seven and you can’t train on the field because it’s like a car park, but I’ve actually really enjoyed it.

“We’re a young family and we’ve embraced the whole change of lifestyle.”

Warrington Guardian: Burgess has returned to England with partner Lucy and their newborn baby daughter RobbieBurgess has returned to England with partner Lucy and their newborn baby daughter Robbie (Image: Warrington Wolves)

And so, with all of the above in place, Burgess prepares to embark on the latest chapter of a life lived pretty much permanently in the spotlight.

In Australia, his every move was front and back-page news with his off-field issues following his retirement from playing in 2019 well-publicised.

Even as recently as last week, he had to virtually attend an Australian court session to see that driving charges against him were dismissed.

He insists, however, that all of those experiences at both ends of the spectrum have prepared and hardened him for what is to come.

“I know I’m only 35, but I’ve packed a lot into the last 20 years,” he said.

“I’ve been right at the top and right at the bottom, then in the middle for a long time.

“I’ve got a lot of life experience and in some of those moments, you learn a lot about yourself.

“I think I can share a lot of that as it’s helped me stay calm and present in a lot of stuff.

“I don’t get too high or low anymore and the experiences I’ve gained over the past 20 years will shape the way I’ll coach.”