The longest running rivalry in Rugby League boils down to these two foundation Clubs formed just one week apart, virtually within a stone’s throw of each other in Sydney 108 years ago.
As the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters prepare to open their 2016 campaigns this Sunday at Allianz Stadium against each other, a long and proud tradition stretches behind them, written in red and green, and red white and blue – a rivalry that has come to define rivalry itself.
In total, the two clubs have met on 212 occasions, with the Rabbitohs holding the balance of power with 111 wins, five draws, and 96 losses for a win percentage of 53.53%. But the numbers mean little when considering the passion and fervour held by Members and supporters of both teams.
The Rabbitohs and the Roosters (aka Eastern Suburbs or Sydney City) hold a unique place in Rugby League, being the only two foundation clubs left in a game that has seen over a century’s worth of changes. But the colours, the traditions, and the sentiments have endured, in many ways making the story of the Rabbitohs and their cross-town rivals, the story of Rugby Leagues history in Australia.
Souths first met Easts in round three of the 1908 Premiership on Saturday the 16th of May in front of 3000 people at the Agricultural Ground (now the oval at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park). Easts won the match by a single point, 13-12 despite Souths scoring four tries to the tricolours three plus two goals the only game the red and greens would lose in that first season.
But Souths would atone for the loss in the best possible way just three months later. On Saturday the 29th of August, Souths faced Easts in the game’s first ever Grand Final, scoring four tries to the Tricolours two (14-12) a victory that would forever cement the red and greens as the game’s first champions.
And that rivalry is very much alive and well today. In 2015, the ledger read one game apiece – the Rabbitohs coming away triumphant in Round 2 by 34-26 in a match that saw one of the tries of the season scored by Souths winger, Alex Johnston, courtesy of some brilliant lead-up work by Greg Inglis to get out of an impossible situation inside his own in-goal. The return match in Round 26 would see the Roosters take the points and the Ron Coote Cup by 30-0.
In 2014, the Rabbitohs booked their place in the 2014 Grand Final at the Roosters’ expense by 32-22 amid emotional scenes from the mass of support from the Rabbitohs Family at ANZ Stadium on September 26 – Inglis again playing a pivotal role for his team by scoring two tries to help his side to a famous victory.
But before that, in season 2012, the rivalry reached in heights when the Roosters pipped the Rabbitohs in the final seconds of the opening round. Anthony Minichiello crossed to deprive the Red and Greens of victory to break Souths fans hearts, but few could have imagined what was to follow in the return (round 19) clash of that same season.
With the Rabbitohs seemingly out of the match and staring down the barrel of two losses to the Roosters in a season, a quick try to Nathan Merritt, minutes before the bell made both commentators and fans alike sit on the edge of their seats, wondering in disbelief if an upset was possible. With victory now just a converted try away and with a minute left, the Rabbitohs managed the unthinkable, scoring a long-range try on the first tackle to sink the Roosters in unbelievable fashion, returning the favour for the round one loss.
The Rabbitohs and Roosters rivalry will be renewed this Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium.