We went through the South Sydney archives to tell the tale of the first ever event played back in 1982...
Match Report and Statistics by Club Historian Michael Curin.
Early in the week both coaches confident of their chances for the game, and the upcoming season, with Souths coach Bill Anderson particularly confident in his side.
“We’ll finish in the first five. I’m sure we’ll have a good year,” he said.
“After winning the Tooth Cup last year our players have gained confidence. It’s a young side and I’m sure we’ll develop further.
If we don’t make the semis all I can say is the other sides that beat us there must have done a lot of work in the off-season.”
The following day the headline 'Souths Don't Scare Masters' was printed in the Daily Mirror, in reference to St. George coach Roy Masters' comments ahead of the season.
“We’ll beat Souths for sure,” he said despite watching his team go around against Eastern Suburbs on the Tuesday night trial, where the Saints went down 12-10 to Bob Fulton's Roosters in a fiery trial game at the Sports Ground.
It was then and there that the fierce rivalry and fireworks were born between the final trial match between Souths and Saints – traditional rivals who have won 35 Premierships between them – before the Premiership proper.
The two teams played for a cash prize of $2000, with the remainder of the gate receipts going to the South Sydney and St George hospitals.
Even though the game was for charity, it was not played in a charitable way, with both sides fielding their strongest available sides.
The game opened in hectic fashion with referee Denis Braybrook and his touch judges having great difficulty in controlling the players after a flurry of punches came from both sides early on in the contest.
Both clubs decided to sort each other out under the Redfern floodlights, with plenty of running brawls and bruising tackles.
Souths lost Tony Rampling and Ken Stewart to the sin bin for 10 minutes just before halftime, but St George simply could not crack the Rabbitohs defence while they were off, and led 2-0 at half-time after Tony Melrose kicked a penalty goal (from three attempts).
St George did not have any goal kicking opportunities in the first half, which was mostly played in the forwards as a dour tough game which resembled more of a Premiership opening match than trial game.
Dragons kicker George Grant made no mistake when he was given his first opportunity in the 46th minute, with the ball finishing over the fence and onto the street, tying the scores at 2-all, but Souths turned on a smart movement six minutes later.
Hooker Ken Stewart, Souths best player on the night, made a break down the middle, moving the ball to front row forward Gary Metcalfe with winger Mark Ross coming in smartly to take a pass and score the first try of the match. Melrose’s conversion attempt hit the upright, leaving the score at 5-2 in favour of Souths.
George Grant kicked another superb goal from near halfway to reduce the lead to 5-4, but Melrose took the Rabbitohs’ lead to 7-4 soon afterwards with another goal.
But they would hit back through a try from a well-placed kick by Grant, who played a starring role for his side. Saints ran after the ball, with Rod Reddy going through the South Sydney defence untouched to score. Grant missed the conversion and the scores were 7-all, with only 10 minutes left of play remaining.
With little time left on the clock, came the most exciting football played football of the match. St George received three penalties in the last two minutes and second-rower Grant kicked the winning goal for the Dragons with 30 seconds left on the clock after Steve Morris quickly took a tap hoping to catch Souths offside – and it worked.
Souths’ coach Bill Anderson tried to stop the Dragons hooker Jack Jeffries from going on as a replacement in the second half. Saints’ first-string hooker, John Dowling, was injured and Masters sent Jeffries on to replace him.
Anderson then protested to Souths’ secretary Terry Parker, claiming Jeffries was ineligible because he didn’t play a full Reserve Grade game. Jeffries went on the field and Parker then protested to his St George counterpart, John Fleming, who relayed the objection to Dragons coach Roy Masters.
Masters agreed that Jeffries had not played a full Reserve Grade game but he counter-claimed that Souths’ Michael Carberry, who replaced Tony Rampling at half-time, also did not play a full minor grade game.
Terry Parker checked this out and found that Masters was indeed correct.
St. George captain Craig Young was voted man of the match and he received a colour TV for his fine display. After the match, he was questioned by the press about two huge donnybrooks, including one with Souths’ prop Gary Hambly in the 58th minute, which left Hambly pouring blood from a facial cut. After cautions from the referee, Saints were awarded the penalty and went on to win 9-7.
In controversial circumstances, the Dragons took the win - and the two sides went on to establish one of the most famous pre-season games in Rugby League.
St. George Dragons 9 (Rod Reddy try; George Grant 3 goals)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 7 (Mark Ross try, Tony Melrose 2 goals)
Referee: Denis Braybrook.
Halftime: Souths 2-0.
Scrums: Souths 8-7.
Penalties: Souths 20-13.
Goalkickers: George Grant (St. George) 3/4, Tony Melrose (Souths) 2/10.
Sin Bin (10 min): Ken Stewart (Souths), Tony Rampling (Souths).
Man of the match: Craig Young (St. George), he won a colour TV.