Reality TV

This year, Sam Burgess' SAS Australia redemption arc wasn't enough

What standards should we hold to our public figures on reality TV?

By Faye Couros
During this year's SAS Australia finale, former NRL player Sam Burgess not only became the sole winner but also received his redemption arc, regaining fans and making new ones in the process.
Of course, the 32-year-old isn't the only high-profile person to receive a rebranding through reality television.
Convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby appeared on the show's first season before being cast on this year's Dancing With The Stars, but when it came to the allegations from Sam's past are very different.
In the last few years of his marriage to Phoebe Burgess, tumultuous details about their sour split took over headlines as well as details of his drug and alcohol struggles, which resulted in the rugby player getting pulled over and charged with DUI that he later pled guilty to.
"I don't think I was the greatest husband at times," Sam confessed on SAS.
"I embarrassed my wife. I'd had an affair with a girl, a woman in Melbourne. That's true. I was away on tour and regretful that it happened. It would've been a tough place for Phoebe to be."
Sam also spoke about how he found it difficult to navigate co-parenting and the emotional distress that comes with a marriage breakdown
"When it became emotional stuff with losing my kids, not seeing my kids every day, my marriage breakdown and that put pressure on my ex-wife... I didn't like that."
"I hated that I'd caused pain for other people I couldn't manage."
It certainly made for good television and had even the most disinterested viewers shedding tears. Before long, he alone won the competition, and along the way secured the respect of viewers.
Sam was crowned the winner of SAS Australia this week. Channel Seven
"It was more not so really coming clean it was me being open and honest," he told Kochie and Nat Barr on Sunrise after his reality TV victory.
This is a win for Sam, was he really deserving of such a lucrative podium to repent on?
While Sam recounted his family turmoil on screen, Phoebe shared an Instagram post featuring their children Poppy and Billy sharing details of her new life as a single mother. In a stark contrast, they look resoundingly at peace with their big smiles and the sun pouring down on their face.
Phoebe posted this picture with her children after Sam made his emotional admissions on SAS. Instagram
If Sam's journey on and off screen brings an eerie feeling to the pit of your stomach, it's not in your head.
Over the past two years we've dealt with the Me Too movement, bushfires, rising domestic violence, suicide, and loneliness rates and a global pandemic, so naturally our attitudes towards who gets a platform to speak has slowly changed.
Men in power are given leeway, they're given authority over their integrity. Specifically white men in power – let's not forget when another sporting superstar Adam Goodes was slammed simply for calling out racism.
WATCH BELOW: Sam Burgess admits to marital affair. Post continues after video...
Although Sam is deserving of empathy from people in his life, and he should be given a chance to learn from his actions, he doesn't deserve the sympathy or validation from the public – he isn't a politician who owes his electorate an explanation.
Speculation around Sam can't be placed on trial by social media. Still, there needs to be more contemplation over who gets their comeback tour on reality TV.