Thursday nights’ local derby blockbuster between the Rabbitohs and Roosters marks the final installment of this year’s Ron Coote Cup – a trophy that celebrates not only the rivalry between the two clubs, but also Coote, a rugby league, Rabbitohs and Roosters legend.
After taking the 2013 series with a win and a loss, the Rabbitohs currently hold the advantage over the Roosters this season having won the first encounter in round one of 2014 by 28-8 at ANZ Stadium. A win, or a cumulatively superior points-differential across both encounters will ensure the Cup named in Coote’s honour returns to Redfern.
Ron Coote is revered by both the Rabbitohs and the Roosters, having played for, captained and won Premierships with both Clubs between 1964 and 1978. The Souths Junior was also an accomplished representative player, having represented NSW (15 caps) Australia on 23 occasions (including World Cup matches) as well as Captaining his country.
But perhaps the greatest vindication of Coote’s talent came in 2008, when he was named in the Australian Team of The Century alongside the game’s greatest names including his former Rabbitohs Coach, Clive Churchill. Coote was also named in both the Rabbitohs’ Dream Team and the Roosters’ Team of The Century.
Known during his career as the ‘Prince of Locks’ – thanks to playing in the same era as the great Johnny Raper – Coote was a devastating runner of the football and an even better defender. Known for his text-book cover defensive style, Coote fast became the bane of opposition attacks with his ability to hunt down fast opponents, cutting them down from behind in decisive fashion often denying tries.
Coote began his first grade career in 1964 in a building South Sydney side that bore the seeds for one of the Club’s greatest eras.
The following year, Coote played in one of rugby league’s greatest ever Grand Finals when on September 18, 1965, the young forward ran out onto a Sydney Cricket Ground filled beyond capacity – the official figure being a ground-record 78,056, although estimates have it at being closer to 90,000 thanks to the thousands that scaled the walls of the SCG, perching themselves on the roof and inside the perimeter of the pitch.
The Rabbitohs took on the might and experience of the great St George side that would eventually go on to win 11 Premierships in a row. The experience of Saints held out, taking the match and the pennant 12-8, but Coote had made an impression on one of the game’s biggest stages and continued to do so throughout his long career.
Although most players are blessed to even get one chance to play in a Grand Final, Coote managed to play in a whopping nine across eleven seasons in the top grade – coming away with four Premierships with the Rabbitohs (1967-68, 1970-71) and two with the Roosters (1974-75).
Coote was also named Harry Sunderland Medal winner on two occasions (best player in an Australian team in a home Ashes series) – the first in 1970 as Captain, and again in 1974 and holds the rare distinction of becoming the first player to play 100 first grade matches for two different Clubs.
In retirement, Coote has been a successful businessman and is the founder of Men of League Foundation.