The story of South Sydney is unlike any other.
Since January 17, 1908, the South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club has been at the apex of the Australian sporting landscape. In 115 years filled with trophies, trials and tribulations, we have become one of the most recognisable and beloved brands across the globe.
With a record 21 Premiership titles – the most of any professional sporting team in Australia – we have set the standard since the very beginning, claiming the inaugural NSWRFL title in 1908 with a 14-12 victory over Eastern Suburbs.
A further three titles came in 1909, 1914 and 1918, as we established ourselves throughout the code’s fledgling years as both competition heavyweights and a beacon in the local community.
Through the roaring 1920s and the early years of The Great Depression, the marvellous South Sydney sides proved to be a shining light for supporters struggling to make ends meet, claiming an incredible seven Premierships in eight years before famously being dubbed ‘The Pride of the League’.
The threat of war saw results wane as many young stars were dispatched and thrown into the front line, however, that soon changed when a towering forward by the name of Jack Rayner was scouted as World War II came to an end.
Rayner, alongside star fullback Clive Churchill, propelled the Cardinal and Myrtle through our second Golden Era, adding five Premierships in six seasons to usher another wave of South Sydney dominance, highlighted by The Miracle of 1955.
We halted St George’s stranglehold with a resounding title victory in 1967 with Churchill as Head Coach, who oversaw four more Premierships over the course of five consecutive Grand Final appearances.
Featuring a generation of talent including John Sattler, Eric Simms, Mike Cleary, John O’Neill, Elwyn Walters, Bob McCarthy, Ron Coote and George Piggins, it proved to be one of the most influential periods in our grand history as other clubs struggle to keep up with our record 20 titles.
Although the departing and retiring group of champions led to a brief downturn, the 1980s saw a new crop of passionate locals stamp their legacy in Red and Green, this time as Piggins guided his team of firebrands back to the finals, culminating in the 1989 Minor Premiership.
As the shifting dynamics of professionalism in Australian sport continued to influence Rugby League, the 1990s became the most challenging decade for our Club and the code.
Financial struggles, the competition’s vast expansion and Rugby League’s own civil war saw us consigned to the bottom of the table for a majority of the decade, with no finals appearances and seemingly, no hope for the future.
Talent in the form of Darrell Trindall, Craig Wing, Sean Garlick and Mark Carroll gave passionate supporters reason to hope, however at the end of 1999, in one of the most unceremonious moments in Rugby League’s history, we were banished from the competition for the year 2000.
But while other clubs fell by the wayside, we refused to give up.
We didn’t merge. We didn’t change our name. We didn’t fold.
We continued to stay loyal to our identity and traditions. And we continued to stay loyal as South Sydney.
Led by a determined faction with George Piggins at the forefront, an estimated 100,000 Members and supporters marched to Sydney’s Town Hall in protest.
In our time of need, the people of South Sydney stood up and fought.
Following two arduous years filled with tears and tenacity, the pain was finally alleviated on July 6, 2001 in arguably our greatest victory as a Club as we won our appeal for reinstatement.
We were finally back to where we belonged.
Following three last-place finishes in the following four seasons, the elation was short-lived, and while the emergence of talented youngsters in John Sutton and Nathan Merritt showed promise, vast change was needed if we were to return to the heights of our former glory days.
As the game approached its centenary, another new chapter in the South Sydney story was written at an historic General Meeting on March 19, 2006 when long-time supporter Russell Crowe and businessman Peter Holmes à Court looked to take the Club into a new direction.
With 75.8% of Member votes in their favour, the partnership’s success in converting the Club to a company limited by shares proved to be a pivotal turning point.
With a new attitude, a new look and a new professional edge, as well as a new squad highlighted by star acquisition Roy Asotasi, the 2007 Rabbitohs emphatically broke an 18-year finals drought in a promising start to a new century of Red and Green. The revolution had begun.
Momentum gathered as we re-established ourselves as a powerhouse of the competition once more, and under the guidance of Michael Maguire and colossal figures Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess, the 2012 season finished just one game short of a Grand Final berth.
Then came that fateful day on October 5, 2014.
In a thrilling Grand Final victory, 43 years of hardship came undone as we lifted the trophy for the 21st time, with Sam Burgess bravely playing with a broken cheekbone in a performance that earned him the Clive Churchill Medal in the midst of a sea of Red and Green.
That unforgettable night saw South Sydney become the Pride of the League once more.
Our hunger for success failed to waver as we claimed the Auckland Nines pre-season title in a thrilling extra-time finish, before a record 39-nil drubbing of English champions St Helens saw us hoist the World Club Challenge trophy just months later.
Since then, we have continued to strive for Premiership 22.
Under the guidance of super coach Wayne Bennett, we overcame the adversity of relocating to Queensland through the 2021 season to reach the decider off the back of a crop of young and exciting stars.
In one of the most thrilling finishes to a season in recent memory, the brave Rabbitohs were just two points shy of bringing the trophy back to Redfern.
The heartbreak of that loss is fuelling the fire for another shot at glory.
Now with Jason Demetriou and Cameron Murray at the helm, star trio Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook re-signed, as well as our state-of-the-art headquarters at The Heffron Centre nearing completion, Premiership 22 is on its way.