While the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles traditionally haven’t agreed on much on the field, one thing they have always agreed on is playing talent, with a host of high quality players donning both the red and green as well as maroon and white during their careers.
Look no further than Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles legend, Mark ‘Spudd’ Carroll – a fearless and feared front-row forward who stoked the engine room of many a forward pack across both club and representative spectres between 1987 and 1999. Carroll played 68 games for the Rabbitohs in two stints at the Club and 88 games for the Sea Eagles (among others) during a first grade career that spanned some 12 years and two countries.
After starting his career at Penrith, Mark Carroll made a home for himself at Souths from the 1990 season, filling the gap left by Ian Roberts. But Carroll was far from a stop-gap solution in the Rabbitohs front-row. The damaging prop made short work of metres for the red and greens and backed it up with his pulverising defence.
‘Spudd’ moved to Manly in 1995, ironically to again take the place of Roberts, and it was here that Carroll tasted Premiership success in 1996, beating St George in the decider 20-8.
After concluding his commitments to the Sea Eagles in 1997, Carroll spent 1998 in England with the London Broncos before heading home to South Sydney to become part of what was a formidable forward pack. Playing alongside the likes of Matt Parsons and Ian Rubin, Carroll played in what some thought at the time could have been the last ever Rabbitohs team in the 1999 season.
The big prop lent his support during the Rabbitohs fightback into the NRL by playing in a number of exhibition matches during 2000 and 2001, braving a debilitating injury that forced his retirement.
Unsurprisingly though, both the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles hold a special place in the former Test and Origin prop’s heart, having gained his first Test selection during his time in the red and green (1990) and Premiership success at Manly (1996).
Ask Carroll what makes the Souths and Manly rivalry, and the answer is simple – players. From John O’Neill and Phil Blake, to Ray Branighan and Luke Burgess, talent has never been in short supply at either team, often prompting passionate responses from both sets of fans.
“Over the years, so many good players have moved between Souths and Manly – Ian Roberts and ‘Lurch’ (John O’Neill) went over there as well as a lot of others,” Carroll told Rabbitohs.com.au
“The supporters are so die-hard, that’s why it was cool for me to go back to Souths in 1999 – I ended up having five years at Souths in total.”
Carroll admits that some of his best memories playing Rugby League were playing in the red and green, with one in particular standing above the rest.
The moment came against the Sea Eagles and would prove to be the catalyst for his Test selection – ironically with the paths of both he and Roberts crossing again.
“It was 1990, we were getting ready to play Manly and I remember my dad rang up and he used to pin-point a couple of players for me to bash,” recalls Carroll.
“Back then, Ian Roberts had actually moved from Souths to Manly the year before, so everyone was a little bit dirty.
“I used to watch a lot of videos of teams back then and Manly had this particular play they used to do where the dummy half would throw the ball to a receiver and he’d turn the ball back inside to a runner. The bloke running on the inside was Ian Roberts.
“Dead set, I hit this bloke so hard, he actually spun around in the air.
“That next morning, they picked the (Australian) side to play a one off Test against France in Parkes. I used to be a roof plumber so I was working that day and the lady whose house we were working on came out and asked “which one’s Mark Carroll?”
“She said that there was a phone call for me from the ARL saying that I’d made the Australian side. Ian Roberts had gotten selected but he failed the medical so Bob Fulton (then-Australian coach and Manly legend) had said, that he wanted the bloke who smashed Ian. That’s how I got my start.”
That connection and rivalry between the Rabbitohs and Manly is set to continue this Friday night when Rabbitohs twins, George and Thomas Burgess, line up against former Rabbitohs forward and older brother Luke in this Friday night’s clash against the Sea Eagles at ANZ Stadium.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs will take on the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles on Friday night (26 June) in Round 16 of the NRL. Click here to purchase your tickets now!