The Wests Tigers may be less than 20 years old, but the intense rivalry between the Rabbitohs and the joint-venture stretches right back to the dawn of Rugby League in Australia in 1908 – a time when the Wests Tigers were in fact two Foundation Clubs in the form of Wests and Balmain.
But whether united as the Wests Tigers, or standing alone as Western Suburbs Magpies and the Balmain Tigers, the shared history between the Clubs has produced some famous and infamous moments that have been etched deep into Rugby League folklore.
The Balmain No-Show (1909)
After securing the competitions first Premiership in 1908, defeating Eastern Suburbs in the Grand Final, Souths looked to make it two in a row the following year, only this time, against Balmain. Little did the NSWRL know at the time, their decision to schedule the 1909 decider as a curtain-raiser to a Kangaroos vs Wallabies fixture would etch that years Premiership result into Rugby League folklore forever.
In protest of the scheduling, Balmain forfeited the match, leaving the Rabbitohs in the bizarre position of having to take the field with no opposition with which to play. At 2pm, in front of 4000 people, Souths kicked off to nobody and were declared the 1909 Premiers.
The Record Score (1910)
It’s a record that stands to this day, some 105 years after being set. On the 23 July 1910, Souths would smash the other half of the Wests Tigers partnership, Western Suburbs, by a Club record 67-0, with 12 players scoring points. By today’s scoring system, the final score would have read 84-0.
Arthur Conlin top-scored with 10 points to his name (two tries and two goals), but Arthur McCabe and ‘Son’ Fry would grab a hat-trick of tries. The great Howard Hallet would also bag himself a double in the 17 try romp.
The One That Got Away (1969)
The Rabbitohs went into the 1969 Grand Final as hot-favourites, but when the final whistle blew after 80 minutes of play, South Sydney were on the wrong end of an 11-2 score-line with only an Eric Simms penalty goal to console them.
Much was made of the Tigers’ tactics in the game’s aftermath, with many accusing the Balmain side of feigning injury during the match to slow down a Rabbitohs side that relished quick play.
Balmain half and British import, Dave Bolton, was a member of the victorious Balmain side that day. When asked years later about the laying down tactics for the documentary That’s Rugby League, Bolton came clean, laying the blame on then-Balmain Coach, Leo Nosworthy.
“Yes we did we laid down and it was a pre-conceived plan,” remembered Bolton.
“We had to slow them down – stop-start, stop-start and that is exactly what South Sydney didn’t want and we put it on.”
But for Souths winger, Brian James, who was playing his final game that afternoon in 69, the story was very different.
“The real story was that South Sydney had a disjointed preparation for that game,” said James.
“It was wet during the week – we in fact trained in the park out there among the palm trees (at Redfern).
“I felt that if we had played Balmain 10 times we would have beaten them nine times, but this time it was their day.
“Our game-plan wasn’t varied, we went on with the one idea and we maintained it the whole game, weren’t flexible and they just beat us.”
The Field Goal (2009)
The setting couldn’t have been more perfect at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday 17 May 2009 for what would be a defining moment in the career of Club legend, Nathan Merritt.
Better-known for his ability to find the try-line – with a Club record 146 tries – it would be Merritt’s boot that would prove the vital difference against the Tigers on that day by kicking the winning field-goal – the only one of his career.
After a torrid 79 minutes of play that saw both the Wests Tigers and the Rabbitohs locked at 22 apiece, Souths went on the attack deep in the Tigers’ half. With the clock reading less than a minute to go, the Rabbitohs took their chance by snapping a field-goal that was deflected, earning themselves a repeat-set with 20 seconds left. The ball would swing wide to Merritt as the gold, black and white’s edged ever closer.
But Merritt would calmly slot the goal from wide out in front of the heaving crowd of just under 30,000 to etch his name into Rabbitohs folklore.
While Friday night’s clash is a Tigers home game, as part of a joint agreement, Rabbitohs Ticketed Members have access to Friday nights clash and have access to the following areas:
Reserved Diamond/Gold/Silver Members will access via Gate C/D with General Admission Seating available on Level 4 East.
General Admission/Burrow/3Game/Regional Members will access via Gate B with General Admission Seating available on Level 1 in Aisles 101 to 103. The Burrow will be located in the Rabbitohs Fans GA area.