LET me say from the top - I love Sam Burgess, absolutely love him. Adore him even.
I've said often to anyone who'll listen that he's the best forward I've watched play the game. Previously that mantle belonged to Gorden Tallis, a back-rower who could influence the entire outcome of game.
It's a distinction normally reserved for play-makers - halves, hookers, fullbacks - not back-rowers. Burgess' effort with a fractured cheekbone in the 2014 grand final is a fine illustration.
Burgess has it all. Aggression, work rate, athleticism, a deft touch with the footy and aggression. It's not a typo, aggression is there twice and it's fast becoming a problem for big Sam.
It's obviously been a source of frustration, Burgess' tense exchange with a journo this week after being asked whether he needed to curb his aggression is evidence of that.
However, one doesn't merely sense frustration in his responses but bemusement. See, he's playing the game the same way he always has, the way that's seen him lauded in the past.
He seemed entirely surprised to even be at the judiciary after KO'ing Matt Moylan against Cronulla a month ago - even more so by the reaction after he got off at the judiciary.
Now he's missing a finals match for the crime of pulling a rival's hair. He deserves it, it was just silly but it was clearly the product of Burgess' overall frustration.
To Burgess, football is war. Asking him to curb his aggression is like asking a boxer not to punch too hard. It just doesn't make sense.
Of late, he's reminded your columnist of Grub Henderson, the lead character played by Matt Nable in The Final Winter - a marvellous film written by Nable himself.
Grub is from the old school, plays the game one way, the way he always has. It's the unwillingness to compromise on those qualities that have made him so revered in the game.
Playing in that fashion is his own personal fight for what the game used to stand for. It's ultimately what brings him undone as the game moves on.
It's where the art of the film most imitates life. The game, and the expectations of those who play it, are always changing.
I was one of those rusted-on's screaming, yelling and stamping my feet when they banned the shoulder charge. I cried even louder at the innocuous ones that went penalised in the immediate aftermath to the ban.
Nowadays it's all but disappeared from the game and I can't say I miss it all that much. I don't mind heading over to YouTube every now and then for a stroll down memory lane, but the game isn't actually poorer for the lack of it.
Same goes for punching. I do miss it but hat's easy to forget is that punching was always 'outlawed'. In most cases punching just about always drew 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
The punching ban simply formalised what was already an informal system. What's changed is that coaches are well aware that being a man down for 10 minutes is simply too much of a disadvantage in today's game.
This, more than anything else, is what's seen punching eradicated from the game. Expectations have changed.
We now know more about concussion than we ever have and it's changed our view on a lot of what goes on in the game.
It's why so many of us saw Burgess' shot on Moylan as something that needed to be punished. Most thought the fact he escaped suspension was labeled a joke.
Just a few years ago, maybe in 2014, most of us would've seen that same tackle as merely an accident and labeled any suspension for it a joke.
Now our expectations have changed. It was unfair for Burgess to play the following week while Moylan was missing due to concussion.
The game is always changing. Often it's the players, so caught up in the day-to-day, who are the last to realise. In this instance, Sam's showing himself to be slow on the uptake but the facts are there.
The Rabbitohs are heading into a finals match without their leader. It's not the first time they've been without Burgess due to suspension during his time in the NRL. Wayne Bennett's not so subtly spelled that out.
It's still the inclination of many to leap to his defence - your columnist included - but it's not just Burgess we're trying to protect.
Ask just about anyone who's watched footy for any decent period of time and they'll all pine for the old days and the way the game "used" to played.
Suddenly, even though he's midstream in his career, Slammin' Sam represents the way the game used to be played. We loved it, we loved him.
It's why we so readily become apologists, pretend him missing a game for pulling a bloke's hair is a symptom of the game going soft and not one of his own previous ill-discipline.
Burgess is now faced with a choice - change his ways or let the game pass him by. The game will move on regardless, just like it did from the shoulder charge and from punching.
We know it's inevitable, it's just so damn hard to cop.