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From Tears To Cheers

Season 2012 was the beginning of a new era for the Grand Old Club. After years of underachieving, a new coach and new-look side spearheaded the South Sydney Rabbitohs into the top four for the first time in nearly 25 years.

Despite falling to the Melbourne Storm in week one of the finals, Souths regrouped to record a historic victory to crush the Canberra Raiders. This set up a meeting with Minor Premiers and fierce rivals, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, in the preliminary final.

All was going well for the underdog Red and Greens, who took an early 8-nil lead and were dominating in all facets of the match. That was, until an unforeseen injury to rookie halfback Adam Reynolds, one of the side's key players, crippled the side's chances, which saw Canterbury take a commanding 32-8 win.

For Club Media and Communications Manager Jeremy Monahan, it was just the first tough lesson the side took in that period. 

"For a lot of us 2012 was new territory because we played in the finals once since 1989 and got bundled out in the first round," Monahan said.

"This time we had finished in the top four, and from the football team point of view, the coaching staff had been there before but they had to make sure the players had to be ready to perform at that level.

"We wouldn't have had many in the squad who had played top four, or even finals football, maybe Greg Inglis, Michael Crocker and Roy Asotasi.

"When we took on the Bulldogs in that preliminary final the crowd was absolutely enormous. People talked about splitting ANZ Stadium in two when they played the Eels a few years previous, and they did the same thing when we played there. The atmosphere was amazing from the Red and Green side of the crowd, it was phenomenal.

"We got out to an early lead and everyone thought "This is going to happen". And then 'Reyno' did his hammy and we started going backwards and lost direction.

"We lost a fair chunk of our kicking game, which was keeping them and a whole lot of teams through the season under pressure, and then they got away with a big win.

"We thought as a Club we deserved better than that. The next year we had another shot and we played Manly in the prelim. We took a lead in halftime and then got run down again, but that one wasn't through an injury – the first time we felt ripped off but the year after it was our own doing."

Fast forward to season 2014 and the Rugby League gods seemed to be conjuring up something special.

The Rabbitohs got the perfect revenge against the Sea Eagles in the first round of the finals, easily disposing of them 40-24, at one point leading 40-nil.

One week later they came back from a 12-nil deficit to crush arch-rivals the Sydney Roosters 32-22 in the preliminary final.

That booked a Grand Final match with, you guessed it, the Bulldogs.

That opportunity, Monahan says, was never going to slip through the hands of the Club.

"Everyone was so upset that we let it go the previous two years, and you could tell that they weren't going to let that happen again," he said.

"When we took down the Roosters in the preliminary final in 2014, you just knew we were going to beat them. No one was going to take us down when we came up against the Dogs.

"That week I was at the captain's run at Redfern Oval and watched the players go through it, and I just knew we were going to win. 

"I've had mates of mine, who are Bulldogs supporters, say they saw Bob McCarthy ringing the bell and they told me that it wasn't an NRL Grand Final, it was a Rabbitohs Grand Final. Everything was there for us to take it out.

"It was six-all, tight in that second half but I just personally never felt anxious because our second halves had been so good in 2014. We had gone into so many games just ahead, all square, or just behind at halftime, and then gone on to record big wins and swamp teams. We had the confidence in the boys that they could get it done.

"It wasn't the overriding thing as revenge for 2012 but I'm sure it was in the back of their heads that the Dogs had knocked us out through a bit of fortune and that wasn't going to happen again."

With both Clubs developing into superpowers of the NRL from 2012-2015, it was no surprise to see that the rivalry between the Red and Green and blue and whites reached fever pitch - bringing in an average crowd of 42,077 to games throughout that period.

And it was that kind of rivalry, filled with so many feuds and big occasions that helped Souths create their own modern-day successes, including the Good Friday clash in April each season.

"It was very much so a peak of the rivalry between the two clubs," said Monahan.

"One of the themes of making the finals from 2012 was writing our own history.

"Greg Inglis and Michael Maguire were both saying that when you looked around at the walls in the Club, there's so much pride, tradition and history, but it's all in black and white, and it needed some colour.

"There was definitely a rivalry between the clubs since the 1967 Grand Final, but also being Sydney teams, and having shared players like McCarthy and Gary Stevens, and a numerous amount of players over the years. That, and playing outside of ANZ Stadium and having massive crowds.

"There's also Good Friday which has become a spectacle, but when you play someone in a Grand Final it sticks.

"I'm sure the Dogs fans want to get one over us in a big game now that we've played them in two Grand Finals and beaten them in both," he chuckled.



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