“I started to reflect. I played for Nan and she would have been proud.
“My grandma and grandpa raised me. It’s like losing a mother. It’s hard. She loved my footy. She used to take me to all the games when I was younger, and she would have wanted me to play [in the Charity Shield]. I’m glad I did.
“She’d been sick a while but it was still unexpected.
“[Souths coach Wayne Bennett] wanted me to get out in the Charity Shield and do my job, and I feel I did.”
Burns’ teammate Cody Walker attended Gail’s funeral in Dubbo on Friday. As his father Jonathan served time in Long Bay and mum Tanya was locked up in Silverwater, Burns was raised by Gail who made sure he knuckled down and eventually landed an Aboriginal scholarship at St Joseph’s College in Hunters Hill.
The 22-year-old Burns is one of many outside backs pushing for selection as Bennett appears set to keep Souths fans guessing.
He has impressed plenty of people at Redfern over the off-season, including Bennett.
Burns said Bennett viewed him as a centre and that was where he would try to play this year.
“Wayne sees me as a centre, so I’m hoping to lock down a centre spot,” Burns said.
“Greggy [Inglis] has got to come back, but I’m confident I will get one of the centre spots, and hopefully I do.”
Inglis is expected to return from a knee injury via the centres and told the Herald at Thursday’s NRL launch: “He’s always trained hard, he’s young and learning, but the more confident he gets the better player he will be. He’s a great person off the field, he does a lot of charity work and a great role model for the next [Indigenous] generation coming through.”
Inglis was giving nothing away about if – and where – he would play in round one. ”You never know what will happen, you will just have to wait and see,” he said, smiling.
Boom Broncos recruit Corey Allan bagged three tries in the Charity Shield and is seen as the club’s long-term fullback option, but Bennett said after last Saturday’s game he was unlikely to figure in the early rounds.
“Souths recruited him before I came here. Nobody doubts he’s got ability, it’s just a matter of maturity now . I don’t see him getting a start in round one,” the supercoach said.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.