As South Sydney’s SG Ball (under 18s) team prepare to take on Cronulla in Saturday’s Grand Final, we honour the South Sydney legend for whom the competition is named – Samuel George Ball.
Samuel George Ball was not a footballer. He was a Rugby League administrator who was there the day that South Sydney was born as one of a small group of Rugby Union rebels that risked much to not only start a ‘Northern Union’ (Rugby League) Club, but to help the new competition establish itself during almost 60 years of service between 1907 and 1966.
In late October of 1907, then-South Sydney Rugby Union player and Rabbitohs patriarch, Arthur ‘Ash’ Hennessy, threw a party at his Chapman St home in Surry Hills that saw only three people show up. But those who did show – one of them being Ball – would lay the foundations for the Rabbitohs there that day, ultimately becoming the Pioneers of the Club. They were; Bill Cann, Johnny McGrath, Hennessy, Ed ‘Son’ Fry, and Ball.
The small but determined group got their way on January 17, 1908 when the Club was unanimously voted into existence at Redfern Town Hall. Speaking in an interview regarding the historic meeting in 1931 – where he was voted the Club’s first treasurer – Ball recalled the circumstances of the meeting vividly, speaking of the difficulties that faced Northern Union rebels.
“The attendance was excellent, quite a number of those present, no doubt, being attracted to the meeting out of curiosity, as much had been written in the press concerning the new code and the likelihood of disqualification from the Rugby Union of anyone who had the temerity to join up with the New Movement.”
Ball had previously been secretary of Waterloo Albion Rugby Union club and was set to use those skills in administration to maximum effect for the new venture. By the time the 1908 Kangaroos sailed to England, Ball was elected Souths delegate to the NSWRL, and by 1910, he was Club Secretary.
His time in the game saw him hold a number of distinguished positions that took in nearly 60 years and two World Wars. His roles (among others) included; member of the NSWRL General Committee, member of the ARL Board of Control and Manager of two overseas touring teams. He also co-managed the Third Kangaroos In 1921.
Ball would be a calming presence at the Rabbitohs throughout his long and distinguished tenure with the Club, and by his retirement in 1965, had established himself as a living legend of the Club. That same year, his name was immortalised by having the SG Ball competition named after him.
Ball died on the 26th August 1969, in the middle of another Rabbitohs golden era.
Then-League President, Bill Buckley, paid the grand Rabbitohs patriarch the ultimate tribute when he was quoted for the Rugby League News.
“I don’t think there has been a finer administrator in the game than George Ball,” said Buckley.
“Both the League and League’ Club owed much to his diligence and his sound common-sense.”
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the St George Illawarra Dragons in Monday Night Football. Purchase your tickets now by clicking here.