Did you know that the South Sydney Rabbitohs will be celebrating 108 years of history in 2016, with January 17th marking the Club’s entry into the NSWRFL in 1908?
The game of Rugby League was born on August 29, 1895, at the George Hotel in Huddersfield, England, with the breakaway from the ultra-conservative English Rugby Union occurring as a result of a lack of compensation being provided to working-class players. Unlike their wealthy counterparts, these individuals could not afford to miss work and lose wages in order to play Rugby. Twenty-one clubs joined the newly established Northern Rugby Football Union, that provided loss-of-time compensation to players, triggering the start of the rebel code.
By the time the new code had spread to Australia, there were significant and fundamental differences between ‘Northern Rugby’ and ‘Southern Rugby’, with the recently developed code removing line-outs, rucks and two players, as well as introducing the ‘play the ball’ after the completion of a tackle. Upon its arrival in the lucky nation, the term Rugby League was coined for the new game.
In 1907, a professional organisation, the New South Wales Rugby Football League was formed, providing Rugby League with legitimacy amongst the Rugby community. Sydney’s most famous Rugby player, Herbert ‘Dally’ Messenger, was recruited to promote the game, and it wasn’t long before clubs were developed and players were approached to play in the newly formed competition.
The South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club was formed on January 17th 1908, becoming the third Rugby League club in Australia, following the lead of Newtown and Glebe. This marked the start of the Rabbitohs’ rich history and the beginning of Rugby League in Australia.
The success of the Rabbitohs would be instantaneous, with the Club not only securing victory in their first game against North Sydney at Birchgrove Oval, but winning the inaugural NSWRFL competition in 1908. This sensational start for the South Sydney Club would set the tone for the years to come, as the Rabbitohs became ‘The Pride of the League’, winning 21 premierships to date.