Long after the full-time siren had gone at Pizzey Park on Saturday night following South Sydney’s victory over the Titans, Rabbitohs player’s rubbed shoulders with the faithful, signing autographs and posing for photos.
Unperturbed by having just played a full game in humid Gold Coast conditions, for almost an hour, Rabbitohs players – still in full playing kit – traded their game faces for massive smiles, and footballs for permanent markers as they relished the chance to meet with Members and supporters.
Long-time Rabbitohs Queensland Member and serial Tweeter, Rob Treloar – aka @robrabbitohDJB – was on hand to witness the scenes, with the proud Souths man taking the opportunity to snap pictures of his son Jordan with as many Rabbitohs as possible.
“It was amazing to see that the players took out so much time to stay out there for the fans,” said Rob.
“It gives us a sense of belonging – we’re part of something that’s like a big family. I’ve been a Rabbitoh my whole life being originally from Sydney and even though I’m up here (in Queensland), things like this, and the Member open training session really do make me feel like I’m a part of it.
“Look at how much Red and Green there was in the stands! The Rabbitohs are everywhere and I’m proud of that.
“It’s always good to see the lads in our area because we don’t get the chance to see them a lot up here in Queensland, and it just makes me very proud to think that our Club does that sort of thing – I’ve got goose bumps just thinking about it I’m that proud.
“As soon we see our team, I think we all become big kids, so it was good that everyone was allowed to get on the field and meet the players and even more importantly, the fact that the players wanted to be there.”
Rabbitohs Football Manager and former first grader, Mark Ellison, was proud of the commitment of the Club’s players post-game to spend quality time with those present.
“Spending time with our Members and supporters is important for us and the future of the game, and the players are passionate about that,” said Ellison.
“Anything that players can do that can inspire kids is fantastic, right from signing that autograph, to even just having a chat – it can make someone’s day, or inspire them to become a player themselves. It’s a huge thing, and as a Club we try to do as much good as possible.”
But it’s far from just signing autographs, with players actively working in schools during the season in an attempt to improve attendance among a host of other initiatives.
The Teacher’s Aide Program – or Rabbitoh Aide – sees all members of the South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL Squad complete accredited Teacher Aide training as part of their commitments to the Club and Community.
Each Player is allocated a School within the South Sydney catchment area to partner with each calendar year. As part of this commitment, players have an active role within their allocated classroom every three weeks. The Program is aimed at improving school attendance and student behaviour.
“Things like the Teacher’s Aide Program that we do with Souths Cares sees kids come to school more on that day because they know that the Rabbitohs will be there,” said Ellison.
“It’s obvious that there is an impact that these guys can have and they want to use that in a positive way.”