While the forecast for Saturday’s round 13 blockbuster against the Warriors is for fine weather, a torrential downpour for the annual Perth clash in 2011 against the Brisbane Broncos, produced an all-time classic that had players resembling Olympic swimmers rather than footballers.
For some, like then-Rabbitohs coach John Lang, the childhood temptation to jump in puddles was too hard to resist, with the usually reserved mentor diving onto the water-logged nib Stadium surface post-match.
Former Souths fullback and current Souths Cares Indigenous Programs Co-ordinator, Rhys Wesser, remembers the match and the moment when the former Rabbitohs Head-Coach succumbed to the boyhood temptation to play in the rain.
“Out of the corner of my eye I saw John Lang running, and then I witnessed this dive!” remembers Wesser.
“I’ve never seen him do anything like that. I had John Lang as a coach for a good six to seven years of my career and I never saw him so overjoyed – even the boy in him was coming out.
“It kind of took us back to when we were young, playing in our backyards, playing with our friends, our cousins, our brothers, and getting amongst it when it was wet – it brought out the boy in all of us.”
The conditions managed to produce almost iconic modern-day gladiatorial images, reminiscent of black and white footage depicting past heroes playing in the mud, but they also played a role in Wesser bagging one of the best tries of his glittering career.
“It was fifth and last, and Chris Sandow booted the ball into the in-goal hard enough for it to go at least 40 metres, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘there’s no way that’s stopping’, but I kept chasing because I couldn’t slow down.
“But suddenly the ball just stopped and I planted my hand on it – it was one of the best tries I scored because it was just fun almost drowning!”
But the match wasn’t all fun and games, Wesser also recalling that the weather posed a number of difficulties to the 2011 Rabbitohs.
“It was a tough game and I definitely remember the monsoon that came in that whole weekend,” said Wesser.
“It was the kind of game where no matter how much effort you put in, there was going to be a lot of mistakes. But in saying that, the game was a high grade affair and we managed to get a win.
“I remember warming up inside the dressing sheds. I thought it was so unreal because I couldn’t believe how much water was coming down on the field.
“I think everybody was in the mind-frame where we thought the game was going to be cancelled. There was so much rain that you couldn’t even see the player in front of you.
“So we warmed up, and we just thought ‘this is going to be an experience we’re never going to have again’.
“We were definitely up for the game, I remember the energy in the dressing room amongst the team – we were ready for a good performance. The wet just gave us another thing to overcome.”
And despite the relentless rain, 15,371 Perth Members and supporters braved the conditions to witness a match that now holds a special place in the minds of South Sydney players and supporters, with Wesser humbled by the show of support.
“I couldn’t believe someone turned up, but the people of Perth were there because they love their rugby league. They turned up in droves and all witnessed a brilliant game of football and at the end of the day, they had fun.”
The Rabbitohs won the 2011 match 17-12 against the Broncos, with hostilities to be renewed in Perth this Saturday.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the New Zealand Warriors this Saturday 7 June in round 13 at Perth’s nib Stadium – the Rabbitohs’ Western Australian home. To purchase tickets, please click here.