LAST year’s grand final-winning Mal Meninga medallist Darren Burns is set to come out of retirement to once again play for the Gympie Devils.
Burns indicated his willingness to lace up the boots for the Devils yesterday, but said he wouldn’t run on for the injury-plagued outfit until June 26 because of personal commitments.
It’s great news for Devils’ fans and coach John Greensil, who have seen last year’s Sunshine Coast/Gympie Rugby League premiers limp through the first part of the Sunshine Coast season notching only three wins because of a mounting injury toll.
The 38-year-old said his main motivation for returning to the Devils was to play in the same team as 17-year-old Jake Harney.
Burns has been one of Harney’s mentors who has watched the teen grow through the ranks at the Gympie Devils.
“When I first came to town Jake was only 12.
“I helped get him into the Broncos when he was 13, coached him, and now he is one of my trainees.”
Burns said this may be his last chance to play a game of league with Harney, depending on what the Year 12 Gympie High School student does when he finishes his schooling.
The other reason Burns said which coaxed him from retirement was to help the Devils through their injury woes.
The side has lost close to 11 players with major injuries this year, including props Kurt Fleming and Brad English, and fullback Josh Williams.
Coach John Greensil said Burns’ return to the team was great news for Gympie’s rugby league fans.
He said Burns’ experience at NRL-level, playing for Western Suburbs, South Sydney, Sydney Roosters, and the Brisbane Broncos, was invaluable for the team.
“He gives the boys confidence just by being on the field,” Greensil said. “He is a calming influence.
“When the boys get flustered he settles them down, he leads the way and controls things.
“It is a huge boost for the team.”
Burns announced his retirement when the Devils won their first Sunshine Coast/Gympie rugby league grand final last year.
He scored two tries and won the Mal Meninga Medal for the best player on the field.
Burns said he hasn’t missed playing league, but missed training with the boys.
“If Jake wasn’t playing and the team didn’t have so many injuries, I wouldn’t be playing,” Burns said.
“My fitness is still pretty good, I train a couple of times a week.
“I don’t expect to be playing 80 minutes – just come off the bench for a few runs. If I can help, I might as well give it a go,” he said.