An American Rabbitoh in Britain
Just when I thought the Rabbitohs couldn’t have been more amazing, they went and outdid themselves in a small stadium of 17,980 just 11 miles outside Liverpool, England.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs, winners of the NRL Premiership in Australia met up with the winners of the English Super League, the St. Helens Saints at Langtree Park in St. Helens, England for the World Club Challenge. Rabbitohs fans from the land down under flew more than halfway around the world to witness the Club’s first time in the contest. One particular fan, however, came a mere 3,000 miles from New York City to join in the footy festivities. That fan, was me!
When I found out that the Rabbitohs would be headed to England for this bout, I took advantage of the fact that they would be playing a game much closer to New York, by way of 3,000 miles instead of 10,000 miles. I bought a ticket, booked a flight to Manchester, booked a hotel room in Liverpool, and brought with me my South Sydney swagger that only five months ago, made me a welcome Family member in The Burrow.
In the lead-up to game day, I spent two days drinking with and befriending the native Liverpudlians in the city made famous by The Beatles. Being with the pub locals taught me something that Australia had already taught me – Rugby League brings people together!
By mentioning that I was a Yank who came from New York to see a Rugby League match in support of an Australian club made me something of an oddity among the British. Nonetheless, they raised a pint with me, helped me get to St. Helens, and became my new friends in the short time I was there! Except for the clammy weather, it made me feel like I was back in Redfern having a beer with my Rabbitohs Family.
Come game day, I met up with Rabbitohs Members in St. Helens. It was so refreshing to see them all in such high spirits – and why wouldn’t they be? After a couple of pints in a crowded pub, we began our march towards Langtree Park. It felt just like the first time I nervously shuffled my feet from Olympic Park Station to ANZ Stadium back in 2013. In the midst of it all, I spotted a camerawoman from the BBC filming excited fans entering Langtree Park. A friend of mine flagged her down and encouraged her to film me.
“Hey! This American came all the way from New York! All the way from Manhattan just for this! And he supports the Rabbitohs!”
With a rousing rendition of “Rule Britannia” sung by the members of an all-male choir, the starting line-ups announced, and a fiery entrance by both teams, the match was underway.
I was in the standing room section behind the try-line in the east terrace of the stadium. I was a lone Souths Member in a sea of rabid Saints fans who sang with a crushing force.
Who knew around 200 fans behind me could sound like 20,000? But their singing subsided with the Rabbitohs’ first try, through newcomer Glenn Stewart. Follow that up by a beautiful converted kick by Adam Reynolds, and it would only be the start of a long night for the Saints.
Iron clad defence, Greg Inglis’ try in the first half, Adam Reynolds’ kicks, and the unstoppable Burgess Brothers were just a few factors that gave South Sydney an astonishing 39-0 victory over St. Helens, resulting in the Rabbitohs’ first ever WCC victory.
If our 2015 pre-season playing schedule has taught me anything, it’s this; I think we’re gonna be alright! We have plenty to look forward to.
All in all, my trip to Liverpool and St. Helens was worth every second! Within the ocean of screams from St. Helens’ fans, a lone Rabbitohs from New York City cried happily as his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs completed an a well-earned pre-season trifecta.
Miss any of the action? You can re-live all of the World Club Challenges key moments by following these links:
Video – World Club Challenge Highlights
Video – Rabbitohs Celebrate Victory
Gallery – WCC Champions Gallery