George Burgess has been cited for this alleged eye-gouge in the Test against the Kiwis.
George Burgess has been cited for this alleged eye-gouge in the Test against the Kiwis.

Bunnies lose Burgess for start of 2019 season

GEORGE Burgess will miss South Sydney's opening three matches of the NRL season after being handed a four-match ban for eye-gouging.

The England forward was found guilty of an eye gouge on Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in their Test win over New Zealand at the weekend.

The incident, which occurred 20 minutes from the end of England's 20-14 victory, went unpunished by referee Gerard Sutton and Watene-Zelezniak brushed off the clash in his post-match interviews.

However, the Rugby Football League announced on Monday that New Zealand cited the incident and Burgess was referred to a disciplinary hearing. The Rabbitoh was also fined STG500, but has the option to appeal.

Kiwis and Penrith fullback Watene-Zelezniak had to have treatment for the injury, shortly after coming into contact on the ground with Burgess.

Burgess later apologised for the incident, saying on Twitter: "I want to make it completely clear to everyone that it was never my intention to ever gauge (sic) anyone.

"It is not in my makeup as a rugby league player and never has been. I sincerely apologise to anyone who thinks bad of me after seeing the footage.

 

"I accept my punishment but I will never accept that I gauged a fellow players eye intentionally. I have too much respect for the players I play against and with." 

Burgess will miss miss Sunday's third Test against the Kiwis before serving his NRL ban.

The suspension is a major blow for Souths, who face defending-premiers Sydney Roosters in the opening round before a clash with the traditionally fast- starting St George Illawarra at Kogarah.

The Rabbitohs are already facing an uncertain start to their pre-season with speculation continuing to mount that Anthony Seibold and Wayne Bennett's coaching swap will come within weeks.

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