When it comes to Grand Final experience, few men can boast the kind of nous that Rabbitohs legend Ron Coote has – in fact, in 106 years, only two players have appeared in more deciders in the form of Dragons legends, Norm Provan and Brian ‘Poppa’ Clay.
In a career spanning 15 seasons at two Clubs (Souths and Easts) between 1964 and 1978, Coote played in an astonishing nine Grand Finals – just one less than his St George counterparts – managing to come away with the Premiership on six occasions.
When South Sydney last week qualified for their first Grand Final since Coote himself helped lift the trophy in 1971, the pride was evident when he spoke to Rabbitohs.com.au, giving his thoughts and insights into what makes a successful Grand Final week.
“Nothing much changes,” said Coote, who first appeared on the game’s biggest stage in the 1965 decider against the Dragons.
“It should all still be the same when it comes to preparation. You don’t change the routine that you’ve had during the season.
“Of course this week is always bigger, there’s a lot more press and all that. But you just have to accept that as part of the experience, and it’s a great one.”
The man known as ‘The Prince of Locks’ during an outstanding footballing career that also saw him Captain Australia to a World Cup win in 1970, couldn’t help but be sentimental about seeing the red and green’s in this year’s decider, even if it did come at the expense of the Roosters – a club he helped to two Premierships
“It’s obviously been a long time for this Club,” said Coote of the Rabbitohs.
“I’ve been supporting them all these years and I’d love to see them go one better and put Souths’ name up there as Premiers.
“They’re a great team, a great group of blokes and their heads seem to be in the right spot. Everything seems to be lining up for them to do good.”
Surprisingly, despite playing his career in the forwards, it is the Rabbitohs’ backs that have caught the attention of the rugby league legend in recent weeks – a group that includes Souths Juniors products.
“I really like our outside backs,” said Coote.
“Guys like Lote Luqiri, (Kirisome) Auva’a really seem to be enjoying their football and it’s exciting for me as a Souths fan to see them playing that well.
“And then you have Souths Juniors like Alex Johnston who’s playing terrific, Dylan Walker who’s a tough ‘drag em out’ kid – I think they’re going places.
“Souths Juniors have always been a great nursery for first-grade and you can see that they’re all coming through again with players like them, so it’s very exciting times.”
Asked if he will be at the game come Sunday, Coote's response is as pleasing as it unsurprising.
"I'll be there," he says pointing upwards to the ANZ Stadium grandstands with a smile. "I'll even wear a bit of red and green!"
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