A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for Rabbitohs Head Coach Michael Maguire, the story was no different as he recounts the journey to the Club’s historic 21st Premiership in 2014 in his book, A YEAR TO REMEMBER.

Re-trace the 2014 season through the mind of the man behind the clipboard at Redfern, from the day the journey began to the lifting of the Provan-Summons trophy on Grand Final Day.

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This is an excerpt from A YEAR TO REMEMBER by Michael Maguire, Published by Allen and Unwin, available soon. Stay tuned to Rabbitohs.com.au for more information!

For me, the story began in late 2011, when I joined the Rabbitohs; or maybe it began in 2009, when I started my head-coaching career at the Wigan Warriors. Perhaps it began when I became an assistant coach at the Melbourne Storm in 2004. Or it could have been when I first played for the Canberra Raiders back in 1992.

There are always beginnings and a number of different endings. For each and every one of our players, for all of our staff in the football department and the club, for our owners, directors and supporters, the story started at a different point.

But I guess it ends in the one place—the Rabbitohs winning the grand final in 2014—and it has to start somewhere. To tell that story I will begin where our 2014 campaign started: Friday, 27 September 2013, when we lost the preliminary final to Manly and gave away the opportunity to be in that grand final a week later.

I have strong emotional memories of that night: the tears, most of all. There were tears from our players, tears from our staff, plenty of tears from our supporters, and a few quiet ones from me as well.

Part of it was due to shock. Early that night, there would have been Rabbitohs supporters already making their plans for grand final day. We had got into the preliminary final with a solid 20–10 win over the Melbourne Storm. A week off and a good build-up had us primed for Manly, and in the first eleven minutes we went ahead 14–0. You should probably never lose a game from there, but it was still so early, we couldn’t afford to start thinking about the finish line yet, particularly against Manly, such a persistent, week-in, week-out team who had been in the finals every year since 2005 and won two premierships in that time.

It’s hard to admit—and it’s hard to avoid—but maybe some people were getting a bit ahead of themselves. I don’t know. But that dizzy feeling of everything going so well for us would soon turn around. Manly scored in the eighteenth minute and hammered our line just before half-time. They scored again four minutes after the break, and all the momentum we’d had in the first stanza of the game had evaporated. In the middle hour of the game, they put on 30 points to our nil, and, just like that, all the hope and expectation were reduced to nothing.

Up in the coaches’ box at ANZ Stadium, I sat for a long time after the game. It was completely silent. We realised what an opportunity we had let slip. Although some of the coaching staff were still in there, I felt quite alone, in my own little world of disappointment. I was thinking how chances like that—having a really good team, minimal injuries, effective plans working well, a fourteen-point start—don’t come around often. Maybe only once in a lifetime. And we’d blown it.

I also felt the pain of the team down on the field. I watched John Sutton—our longest-serving player, truly Souths born and bred, a one-club player since his NRL debut in 2004— down on one knee near halfway with his face in his hands.

A voice in my head said, This will strengthen us next time. I tried not to listen to that other voice saying, If there is a next time. I had to go down and speak to them.

We gathered in the change room. I went from player to player, consoling each of them, just thanking them for doing their best. There wasn’t much I could say. The owners and board directors were all there, as well as staff and some family members, and I took a deep breath and made a short speech to the entire group.

‘We’re all going to look back on this as a big moment in our lives. We’re all going to change, and we’re all going to change this feeling. It’s up to us how we do it.’

I can’t remember saying much more, and there wasn’t a need for it. Everyone was being pretty respectful and gentle around me, as they knew that my mother had passed, down in Canberra, at 6 a.m. that very day. I didn’t want to think too much about that just yet. I was the players’ leader, and while I was emotional I wanted to stay strong for them.

But it hadn’t been easy. During the week, I’d been running backwards and forwards to Canberra, trying not to let it impact on our preparation. I could ask if it affected us. But how can you answer that question? My brain was going crazy, trying to understand what had happened that night and also dealing with my mother’s passing. How can you process all that at once? You can’t.

So it was a blur. There were players’ parents crying in the change room. You could feel how badly everyone at Souths wanted success. It oozed from the walls at the club in Redfern—I’d felt it the day I joined the organisation in late 2011. But it’s a fickle beast. How do you control so much wanting? How do you use it for motivation without letting it overwhelm your players and staff?

This is an excerpt from A YEAR TO REMEMBER by Michael Maguire, Published by Allen and Unwin, available soon. Stay tuned to Rabbitohs.com.au for more information!