Rabbitohs.com.au walks you through our pantheon of Club legends in our Hall of Fame series. Today, we bring you Club Pioneer, Arthur Hennessy.
Arthur ‘Ash’ Hennessy was a Pioneer in so many ways – a pioneer Rugby League player, a pioneer of a unique style of play, and a pioneer of the South Sydney Football Club. He was and is widely regarded as the father of South Sydney, for it was in the Surry Hills home of Hennessy that the seeds of the Club first sprouted in 1907.
With the idea of a breakaway Rugby code gaining momentum following the turn of the century, Hennessy began drumming up support for the breakaway movement by sending out a circular to all Rugby Union clubs in the South Sydney area for the meeting at his Chapman Street home. George Ball, Billy Cann and Johnny McGrath were the only ones present in response, with Ed ‘Son’ Fry sending his apologies having had a previous engagement.
But despite those humble beginnings, the small band of believers managed to garner support, culminating in an historic meeting at Redfern Town Hall on January 17, 1908 where South Sydney was officially formed.
Not only did Hennessy play a big part off the field though, he also managed some rare distinctions on it.
Among his achievements were; being part of the first ever South Sydney team as hooker, being one of the Club’s first four representative players when he was selected to play for NSW against New Zealand, and was one of the first two Souths players to become Test players when he and Johnny Rosewell played for Australia against New Zealand in front of 20,000 people at the Agricultural Ground in 1908.
Ash would play an even bigger role in the development of Rugby League as a sport in Australia, as the pioneer of his unique ‘no kicking’ policy. While the notion of the concept is incompatible with today’s game, in the early years of unlimited tackle Rugby League, Hennessy’s philosophy would come to characterise a uniquely South Sydney style of play, widely emulated and widely credited for landing Souths the first Premiership in Australian Rugby League history. In Ash’s opinion, if you could hold onto the ball, eventually you would score.
He was also viciously committed to the idea of support play on either side of the ball-carrier with an emphasis on handling and speed.
For all that he accomplished, rugby league and South Sydney are connected to the story of Arthur Hennessy – a player, official and international who laid the platform for players of today.