He’s the Rabbitohs legend with the memorable moustache and the even more memorable name who boasted a cult following during a brief but glittering first grade career. We track down, Ziggy Niszczot.
An explosive winger/centre of the 1980s, at a time when the Rabbitohs wore their famous ‘minty-wrapper’ jersey, Niszczot was an instant hit in Sydney with fans as much for his difficult to pronounce – and spell – last name as for his hard-running and on-field enthusiasm.
Niszczot played a total of 114 games for the Rabbitohs, scoring 39 tries for a total of 129 points. The Maitland product also played State of Origin in 1982 – scoring two tries in Game I of the first ever three-game Series under the Origin format. He was also famed for captaining the Rabbitohs side from the wing.
The Rabbitohs legend is now an Operations Manager at a manufacturing firm in Tomago, Newcastle.
Rabbitohs.com.au tracked down the Rabbitohs living legend for an insight into his career at the Club.
How did you become a Rabbitoh in the first place?
ZN: It was in 1980 and I was about 23 I think. I was playing with Norths Newcastle, and my coach at the time played with Eastern Suburbs down there and he sort of steered me to go to Sydney. He recommended me to a couple of clubs – Canterbury, Newtown and South Sydney were the ones. At the time Souths offered to fly me down to have a talk about playing, so I went down there with my wife. They put us up for the night, had a talk. It turned out one of Souths’ centres, Johnny Byrne, was leaving so that opened up an opportunity and I decided that it was my best option.
Were you a Souths fan before you came to the Club and did club allegiance influence your decision to go to Souths?
ZN: I did actually go and watch them play when I was a kid. I was there at the SCG for the 1969 Grand Final against Balmain, but I wasn’t really following anyone at that age. The option to go to Souths came up and obviously I’m glad I made that decision.
What do you remember about your first game in the red and green?
ZN: I remember it was a lot different to playing in Newcastle. It was a lot faster, and I found out pretty quick why it seemed to be a lot easier playing in Newcastle than Sydney. I had a lot more work and training to do. I wasn’t really into weights training in Newcastle, but I got right into it when I joined Souths.
Newcastle has produced plenty of Rabbitohs legends – the likes of Clive Churchill and John Sattler come to mind. Was that fact ever an inspiration to you?
ZN: I was aware of Johnny Sattler and I think Bobby Moses also came from up this way. I suppose really all I wanted to do was prove to myself that I was good enough to play in Sydney. That was my major factor in going. But I guess it helped to know that there were other blokes that came from here.
You ended up being good enough for New South Wales in 1982. What was it like playing State of Origin in those early years?
ZN: It was probably the pinnacle of the career I suppose. I would have loved to have played for Australia, but I had a lot of injuries that year. Nowadays everybody thinks that Origin is the pinnacle of the game instead of playing for Australia – I don’t see it that way. But it was an honour to have represented New Souths Wales in the first of the three-game Series – ’82 was the first of the three game Series. We won the first game, but obviously we lost the second and third game, either way though it was great to be involved in that.
There was a lot of good players I played with – Steve Mortimer comes to mind. Playing outside Steve Rogers and Mick Cronin was pretty special too. They were probably the best two players playing for Australia at the time.
You ended up Captaining the Rabbitohs, but strangely enough from the wing. It’d be strange today, how rare was that occurrence then?
ZN: At the time I think me and Warren Boland were the only two captains who were on the wing – Warren played for Wests. It’s certainly different, having to run a fair way in to talk to the referee all the time. It was a bit of an ask but I was proud to be Rabbitohs Captain and I was fit because of it too. I’m glad to have my name involved with names like Johnny Sattler and the like.
You’re a proud Life Member of the Club now. How close to your heart are the Rabbitohs and what does it mean to you?
ZN: Unfortunately I only get to go down and watch the boys probably three or four times a year, but I never miss a game on the telly when I’m up here. When we won the Grand Final last year, it was very emotional because it’d been a long time coming. I spent it with the family and we all shed tears – that’s what it means.