Rabbitohs Cult Heroes
Throughout a colourful history, South Sydney has been blessed with some equally colourful characters and cult heroes . We look back at just a handful.
Before he became known as ‘The Falcon’, Mario Fenech’s nickname was ‘Test Match’ – a name given to him by teammates who had become accustomed to the Souths Junior competing in all aspects of his game as though he were playing in an international Test. A ‘Falcon’ would later become the designated name for when a football hit a player in the head, following a particular incident involving Mario while playing for the South Queensland Crushers.
Ziggy was the man with the impossible name that was also impossible to catch. But whether it was his unusual name or his brilliant charges from the Rabbitohs flanks, Ziggy Niszczot fast-became a fan-favourite at Redfern, Captaining the Club from the wing and playing Origin football for NSW.
One of the hardest tacklers the game has seen, Charlie Frith is probably best remembered for his 1970s tackle on Wests prop Bill Cloughessy. So hard was the impact, that when Cloughessy was rolled over, his teeth reportedly all fell out.
"Mate, what if I've killed him?" Frith nervously asked fellow Rabbitoh Paul Sait as they stood over the injured Magpie. "Well," came the reply, "kill another one."
Les Davidson is as revered now as a Rabbitohs enforcer as he was feared in his day. His mentality was simple, and was inspired by former Souths Coach, Ron Willey: "Ron said the more blokes I got stretchered off, the better chance we had of winning."
The Rampling Brothers
Known as ‘The Bruise Brothers’, Tony and Dean Rampling enjoyed a reputation at the Rabbitohs built on a steady diet of equal parts toughness and madness. Fathers of the infamous ‘Henry’ call that would signal the beginning of a pre-meditated stink, the dreaded call would seek to change the momentum of a game – and often did.
One wouldn’t usually attribute a wild-looking, bearded, prop-forward with pantyhose, but Gary Hambly is perhaps the only exception. In an attempt to combat horrible chafing, Hambly wore pantyhose under his playing shorts, much to the interest of the Rugby League public.
“It was hard to run up the street unless I was wearing them,” recalled Hambly.
“I had to wear the largest size – the ones for pregnant women. I had to get my mother to buy them. You can’t imagine the looks you get when you ask for pregnant women’s pantyhose at the chemist!”
If you were practicing your ‘chip and regathers’ during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, chances are you were trying to emulate Phil Blake. Between 1987 and 1990, Blake had opposition teams clutching at thin air as he repeatedly showed up defences with his outrageous ability to chip over the top and score.
South Sydney’s own ‘Renaissance Man’. A triple international from the 1960s, who represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games for sprinting where he won a bronze medal, while also playing for the Kangaroos and the Wallabies. Was also a male model before going on to become a politician, and a wrestling commentator.
Famous for carrying a comb in his sock, the entertaining winger of Greek descent would often be seen combing his hair as he ran back for kick-off following a try. Metassa became a crowd favourite at Redfern despite only playing 13 games for the Club between 1960 and 1961. He would later inspire a young Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin at Lang Park in Queensland.
“Fonda was a character,” recalled Vautin.
“When he scored he would go in front of the grandstand combing his hair. This day he was knocked out in a tackle. They brought the ambulance onto the field and loaded him in and everyone was looking pretty solemn because we thought he was half-dead. The ambo was moving off and the ref was about to call time-on when the ambo doors flew open and Fonda strode back and took his place on the field!”