In our blockbuster Round 1 match, we take on arch-rivals the ‘Sydney’ Roosters on one of the most iconic grounds in Rugby League - the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Since the formative years of the NSWRL competition, with the exception of Redfern Oval, South Sydney has competed at the SCG more than any other venue, etching hundreds of famous moments in the history of the game.
Just think of Bob McCarthy’s intercept in the 1967 Grand Final, the famous comeback against Manly in the 1984 finals and in recent years, Nathan Merritt’s field goal.
There is a certain quality that the Sydney Cricket Ground has that brings out the best out of South Sydney teams - evident in the fact the teams has won six of the last seven matches at the venue.
You only have to look back on our last match at the ground to see the what kind of performances are produced - where the Rabbitohs scored two tries in the last five minutes to sink the Dragons in Round 22, 2017, with Adam Reynolds nailing a sideline conversion to win the match 26-24.
One of the heroes who has experienced the magic of the SCG was Michael Andrews, who was at the Club when the Red and Green and tricolours last clashed at the venue in 1993.
Although his first time on the ground wasn’t what he had initially expected, Andrews says he still enjoyed playing a number of memorable matches there throughout his career.
“It was awesome whenever you played there,” Andrews explained.
“My first experience at the SCG was back in the days where if there was a tie before the finals you had a play-off on the Tuesday night.
“We tied with Wests in third-grade for fifth spot, and in first-grade, the Roosters and Dragons tied as well. So we rocked up thinking we’d play first and then the first-grade would play afterwards - only problem was it was the other way around!
“There were about 15,000 people there, and then by the time we ran out, there were about 50 people there, including the cleaners. It was eerie at the SCG at night but it was a great experience.
“But there was also Monday night football which was fantastic back then, we played there a fair bit then and when you won it was a special experience.”
For another former Rabbitoh, Sean Garlick, getting the opportunity to play on the ground was something he had looked forward to since childhood.
“Growing up as a kid to watch the tests and the match of the round was huge, and then to finally have the opportunity to play there was phenomenal,” Garlick explained.
You never took advantage whenever you played there because you didn’t know if it would be your last time.
“It was quite weird in a way because it's an oval ground and you couldn’t really see where the sidelines were. It was a bit convex and the grass was cut very short so the ball would run even further than usual, so for our kickers to get it to stop in goal was difficult.
“But it was a huge thrill and there was a really special feeling to get to play there.”
For Garlick there was one particular game that stood out for him - Round 4, 1999 against the newly-formed St. George Illawarra Dragons.
That day the Cardinal and Myrtle toppled the saints 25-24 in a hotly-contested match, thanks to a Darrell Trindall field goal. It was a victory that remains in the memories of the Burrow faithful as a highlight in an otherwise dire time for the Club.
“That was a great memory that one,” Garlick reminisced.
“We came from behind to get a good win. The Dragons did well that year, it was a big crowd, a hot day and a great win.
“That year was special in particular, we didn’t know for sure if the team was going to be in the NRL so each game had more significance and each win was bigger than just the team, and it was my last at the SCG.
“You never took advantage whenever you played there because you didn’t know if it would be your last time."
He might not be a South Sydney junior, but after spending his whole career in the Cardinal and Myrtle, Andrews is fully aware of the biggest rivalry in the game between his Rabbitohs and the Roosters, who were known as Eastern Suburbs back in his playing days.
The former skipper shared his thoughts on the hostility between the two clubs, and explained how it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the playing group once they step foot onto the field.
“It’s certainly a big rivalry. In 1989 we lost Easts in the first round then went on to win thirteen in a row - but it certainly gives you a kick up the ringer whenever you lose to them and there’s plenty of celebration when you win,” he explained.
“I remember talking to Damien Cook and Sam Burgess who said they only got a grasp of what the rivalry was about once they got involved with the Club and ran out.
“We hate them, and they hate us. We classify them as the people who buy comps and buy players and we’re the ones who develop our juniors. You just have to look at all the South Sydney players they bought, and a lot of younger players they say are theirs who come through other ranks.
In 1989 we lost Easts in the first round then went on to win thirteen in a row - but it certainly gives you a kick up the ringer whenever you lose to them and there’s plenty of celebration when you win.
“It’s a rivalry born many years ago and it won’t go away any time soon.”
On the other side of the coin, Garlick is someone who featured for both clubs during his decade-long career and has experienced both sides to the rivalry. In his mind, he firmly believes that the Rabbitohs and Roosters will provide plenty of fireworks when they clash on Friday night.
“They are hugely anticipated and usually one of the biggest games of the year,” he explained.
“It’s the biggest rivalry because we occupy the same area geographically and it goes back to the days when the Roosters used to continually poach the Rabbitohs players.
“It started early on and still continues - Angus Crichton is a perfect example of that.
“In the last five or six years both teams have been right at the top of the competition - these are two of the juggernaut clubs in the game and everybody tunes in.
“I think the Rabbitohs have nothing to lose. The Roosters are the ones with the pressure to maintain. While it’s a long season and no-one wants to use all their energy too early, there’s no choice when you come up against the Roosters first-up.
"You want to win that one.”