Revealed: Crowe set to face Sam Burgess queries

 

South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe may be asked to speak to the NRL's integrity unit as part its investigation into Sam Burgess.

Crowe was key to convincing Burgess to join Souths and the pair formed a strong friendship in the years that followed.

He could be called on to help the NRL with its inquiries into the saga that has engulfed the club - which he co-owns with Crown Resorts billionaire James Packer - although a final decision has yet to be made, sources said.

The Australian revealed that Phoebe Burgess told Crowe about Burgess's ­alleged use of "heavy drugs" as well as "booze" and "girls on social media" in a text message on ­November 26, 2018.

Russell Crowe has been heavily involved with Sam Burgess at the Rabbitohs. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Russell Crowe has been heavily involved with Sam Burgess at the Rabbitohs. Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

 

Phoebe and Sam Burgess in November 2018.
Phoebe and Sam Burgess in November 2018.


The messages were annexed to Phoebe Burgess's statement to police as part of her father's AVO case against Burgess. Crowe was concerned enough to contact Burgess, who in turn questioned his former wife in a text message two hours later.

Phoebe Burgess also contacted Crowe in September 2018 after she failed to locate Burgess for two days after a Rabbitohs' final against the Roosters.

Separately, NSW Police have asked the NRL to focus on matters relating to rugby league and leave any potential criminal allegations surrounding players or officials.

The police request suggests the integrity unit could have one hand tied behind its back as it investigates allegations of drug use and domestic violence involving the Rabbitohs' former captain, now a coach at the club.

But while Burgess has been stood down from his Souths commitments, club doctor Andrew McDonald continues in his position despite allegations first reported in The Australian on Thursday that he prescribed Burgess with a tranquilliser under another man's name.

Dr McDonald on Monday was backed by Souths' former head of football Shane Richardson, who said he was "a doctor of great principle". Mr Richardson said: "There is no doubt in my mind that in the 31 years I have been involved in rugby league, he is the best doctor and most honourable doctor that I have ever dealt with."

Sam Burgess with Russell Crowe after winning the 2014 NRL Grand Final. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Sam Burgess with Russell Crowe after winning the 2014 NRL Grand Final. Picture: Gregg Porteous


Phoebe Burgess's father Mitch Hooke told The Australian last week that Dr McDonald had written a script for liquid valium - intended for Burgess - in his name in November 2018.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, which oversees the nation's health professionals, said it expected doctors "display a standard of behaviour that warrants the trust and respect of the community".

The Health Care Complaints Commission, which administers registrations in NSW, did not respond to questions. NSW Police have already interviewed Phoebe Burgess and she is also expected to talk to the NRL integrity unit.

Officials at the highest levels of the club were notified about Burgess's drugs use prior to his promotion to club captain last year, The Australian reported.

"We have to let the process play out but it gets down to the night (of the bender), who was there, who was involved and whether or not anybody told Blake, myself or Nick Pappas about what was going on," Mr Richardson said.

"I know that didn't happen."

The NRL inquiry, which will take a back seat to the police investigation, will have sweeping powers to compel registered officials to answer any question put to them and produce any documents regarding relevant matters.

Section 45 of the league's rules says the club must make available for inspection and copying any proper records regarding the conduct of their players and participants including all written and email communication, file notes of every substantive oral communication, internal or external reports, CCTV footage, video and audio recordings, website data, images or other evidence they believe might constitute a break of the code.

Originally published as Revealed: Crowe set to face Sam Burgess queries