At war with the 'Dogs of War'

At war with the 'Dogs of War'

 

Played

Won 

Lost 

 Draw

For 

Against 

W% 

All Time 

171

77

86

8

2693

2771

45%

Finals

4

2

2

0

52

64

50%

Last 10 Years

22

10

12

0

438

478

45%

Despite having entered the NSWRL competition in 1935, the real history of our rivalry with Canterbury Bankstown begins in 1967. It was the year mighty St George was knocked off the throne after 11 successive premierships, beaten 12-11 in the preliminary final by Canterbury.

This set up a grand final showdown between the Berries (as they were then known) and the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the classic encounter being played in front of more than 56,000 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Mind you, nearly everyone else in Sydney saw it too, as the match was shown live on all four TV stations!

Souths led 5-2 early after a dummy-half barge-over try from legendary prop John "Lurch" O'Neill, but the Berries hit back with three goals to lead 8-5 late in the first half. When Canterbury fullback Les Johns regathered a chip kick inside the Rabbitohs' "25" they looked likely to score, and increase the lead.

The ball found Canterbury hooker Col Brown, who lobbed a long, looping pass towards Johns. But it was plucked from the air by tearaway Souths second-rower Bobby McCarthy, who strode clear on his way to one of the most famous of all grand final tries. The conversion by Eric Simms put us in front 10-8 at halftime, but the drama was far from over.

Canterbury had drawn level at 10-all when, midway through the second half, Souths fullback Kevin Longbottom attempted a penalty goal from 55 metres. It hit the upright and bounced over the crossbar, but the touch judges flags were split (one up, one down) before referee Col Pearce disallowed the goal. Minutes later, a Simms field goal attempt was disallowed, the ball being ruled to have passed directly over the top of the upright.

After these two incidents the crowd could be forgiven for thinking it wasn't to be the Rabbitohs' day, but they weren't counting on the ice-cool nerves of Simms, who kicked a penalty goal from 45 metres with just four minutes to go. The score stayed at 12-10 and we won our first Premiership in 12 years. It was a bitter pill for Canterbury, and they never seemed to forgive us.

Although 1967 was the start of an incredible era of success which brought us four premierships in five years, by the time we were done, they had begun to exact their revenge. From 1973 until 1980 we lost 16 Premiership matches in a row against the ‘Dogs, the only respite being a 10-3 victory in torrential rain at Henson Park in the 1978 Craven Mild Cup (pre-season) Final.

The tribal battle between the two clubs became downright brutal in 1986. Souths won six of the first seven games that year before meeting the Premiers on Anzac Day at the Cricket Ground. The Bulldogs kicked off to Souths winger Ross Harrington, who was smashed to the ground by Canterbury prop Peter Kelly's stiff arm in the very first tackle. Kelly was sent straight off and the Souths pack rubbed their collective hands in anticipation. Somehow, though, the day just got worse and worse for the Rabbits and we conceded four tries in a crushing 26-2 loss. It was a football lesson from the champions.

Souths, however, remained near the top of the table right through 1986 and, by the time we met the Bulldogs again, the get-square was on. On a freezing July Monday night at Belmore, Souths skipper Mario Fenech seemed to simply lose the plot in a spiteful, brawling first half and ended up getting sent to the sin bin twice before halftime! The first of these stints followed a wild brawl in the very first set of six tackles, where Fenech ripped his jersey off because it was hampering his punching and fought opposite number Billy Johnstone bare-chested.

When the fisticuffs were finally halted, Fenech stood there under the lights, his rippling torso steaming, his face wracked with the emotion he always displayed when leading his Rabbitoh warriors. It was on this night that Phil Gould, in his only season at Souths, kept his cool in the midst of growing chaos and masterminded a superb 17-8 win which had the Rabbitoh faithful truly believing that a Premiership was possible. But once again the Bulldogs proved our nemesis, completely outclassing us 16-2 in the major preliminary semi-final.

In 1999, the most dramatic of all Rabbitoh years, we started our campaign against Canterbury. With the storm clouds of rationalisation forming we simply had to make a good start to the season. The Bulldogs appeared to have our measure when they led 14-6 just after halftime, but a converted try to Rabbitohs skipper Sean Garlick put us right back in the match. As the Bulldogs clung to a 14-12 lead with less than a minute left, Canterbury conceded a penalty and had a player sent to the sin bin. We found touch and mounted a final, desperate attack.

The ball was sent wide to the left, along a deeply set backline, and the Bulldogs defence just ran out of players. Craig Wing, the darling of the Rabbitoh fans, flew over in the corner and the crowd went completely nuts.

Since reinstatement we've copped a few more Bulldog thrashings, and until 2011 our record stood at three wins, one draw and thirteen losses. But post-2011, we’ve shaded the boys from Belmore eight wins to six. And in that time there have certainly been some memorable clashes, including perhaps the most memorable night for all Rabbitohs. We’ll get to that in a moment.

The 2012 season was a time of change for both clubs. Both sides brought in new coaches, and both were looking to come off disappointing seasons the previous year.

Our first meeting with them was the now-traditional Good Friday clash in Round 6. The Bulldogs got on the board early and, with our captain Roy Asotasi leaving the field with injury, it was fair to say we were on the back foot. But we struck next as rookie sensation Andrew Everingham took hold of a stray Adam Reynolds bomb, and swung it into the arms of Matt King, who crossed for a freakish try.

The Bulldogs bit back but the Reynolds-Everingham combination continued to reap rewards just before halftime, when Everingham leaped on a Reynolds bomb to give us a 12-10 advantage. The halfback and winger combined once again early on in the second half, this time with Everingham climbing over Bryson Goodwin to score a classic winger’s try. Another sideline conversion and a late penalty goal to Reynolds capped off a memorable 20-10 win.

After making the top 4 and posting a win against the Canberra Raiders in the Elimination Final we were set to take on the Bulldogs, who had claimed the Minor Premiership, for a spot in the Grand Final.

Things were looking promising as we managed to take the lead against our highly favoured opponents after the first quarter of the match, with Issac Luke crashing over and Reynolds kicking both a conversion and penalty goal. We were clearly on top, and in the stands the feeling of a possible Grand Final berth was palpable amongst the Rabbitoh faithful.

But it quickly turned sour when, in the 27th minute, Reynolds went down with a hamstring injury after kicking and chasing a perfect grubber. With our halfback out of the match, there was a collective groan among the crowd, as if everyone knew the jig was up. Despite the team putting in their best effort right to the end, we never recovered without the direction of the little general, and the Bulldogs managed a 32-8 victory to get into the big dance, while we were left to lick our wounds on a disappointing September evening.

But, we would get our revenge on them two years later. And this time everything was at stake, as the Club had finally made its first Grand Final in 43 years, after dismantling arch-rivals Manly and the Roosters in the Qualifying and Preliminary Finals respectively.

The Bulldogs, having finished the season in seventh place, had typically defied all odds, and reached their second decider in three years.

Controversy began even before a ball was kicked as Bulldogs hooker and captain Michael Ennis was ruled out with injury through the week, and Rabbitohs favourite Issac Luke was cruelly eliminated from the clash through suspension.

With the stadium filled by a sea of Red and Green, we received the kickoff with England hardman Sam Burgess taking the ball up in the very first tackle, careering into fellow countryman and Bulldogs forward James Graham. Coming out of the massive collision, Burgess pointed at his cheekbone, with an ugly purple bruise already adorning his face. Big Sam went straight to the trainer, his words clear: “I’ve broken my face”.

Not many in the crowd realised, but Burgess had indeed broken his cheekbone and eye socket. As the reality of the situation sunk in to the coach’s box, Michael Maguire sent a simple, two word message out to his star forward: “John Sattler”.  Sattler’s heroic performance to play 77 minutes with a broken jaw in the 1970 Grand Final was folklore to all at South Sydney, if not everyone who knew anything about Rugby League. 

Sam Burgess knew just what was at stake. And he knew just what his Coach meant. The Rabbitohs enforcer was not going anywhere. 

After the intense opening, wonderkid Alex Johnston crossed wide out giving us a 4-nil lead early on, which was extended to six when Adam Reynolds kicked a penalty goal soon after. Despite a dominant first half, we still only led by a converted try, and the Bulldogs struck early in the second stanza to even the scores up.

But the biggest moment of the match involved Sam’s younger brother George. Receiving the ball 20 metres from the try line, the hulking prop smashed through the defensive line, putting on a right foot step and bumping over multiple defenders to crash over under the sticks, scoring one of the best Grand Final tries in history.

There was still work to do though, and the Rabbitohs were up for it. With less than ten minutes to go, the score was 14-6. Inside the Stadium, the atmosphere was almost surreal. Souths fans could taste the Premiership that had been 43 years in the making. 

And then the floodgates opened, with Souths piling on three tries in the last ten minutes, including a long range special from Greg Inglis, complete with his famous goanna celebration, capping off an historic 30-6 victory.

It had been a long time between drinks, but we had finally gotten the monkey off our back. After playing the entire match with half of his face collapsed, Sam Burgess accepted the Clive Churchill Medal, appropriately presented by Churchill’s widow, Joyce, wearing his Red and Green pork-pie hat.

It was a night no Souths fan, or Bulldogs fan for that matter, will ever forget. And the Bulldogs certainly didn’t forget it in our next matchup.

With the traditional Good Friday clash doubling as the Grand Final rematch, this was bound to be a cracker, with over 40,000 packing into ANZ Stadium. The Bulldogs were clearly out to avenge their Grand Final loss, putting on two quick tries to give themselves an early 10-0 lead.

The first controversial moment occurred just before halftime as Issac Luke was knocked out, copping the knees of behemoth Sam Kasiano as Luke put the ball over the line. Referee Gerard Sutton awarded a rare eight-point try, giving us a slender deficit just before halftime.

Scores were locked at 16-all late in the second half, but the Bulldogs thought they had their vengeance when halfback Trent Hodkinson kicked a field goal for a one-point lead. But the Premiers weren’t quite done with yet.

As the clock wound down to the final two minutes, Adam Reynolds went for a long range field goal only for the villain of the hour, that man James Graham, to attempt a desperate, perhaps reckless, charge down. Graham illegally collided with Reynolds’ legs and referee Sutton awarded the Rabbitohs a penalty 10 metres out right in front. Former Bulldog Bryson Goodwin kicked the conversion, giving us an 18-17 lead.

Convinced they had been robbed of a victory, Graham and his troops hurled all their frustration at Sutton, abusing the referee. To make matters worse, the Bulldogs’ faithful then vented their anger by pelting the match officials with projectiles as they made their way up the tunnel.

While it was a famous victory for the Red and Green, it was a bleak day for Rugby League. The drama and controversy from that day is indicative of the ferocity that is always there - sometimes just below the surface, sometimes boiling up and over - whenever we play the Bulldogs.

Since the late 1960s, there's been no love lost at all between South Sydney and Canterbury. The insular attitude that Canterbury supremo Peter Moore developed from the 1970s bred a culture of arrogance that led to the Bulldogs being the first Sydney club to defect to Super League. A few years later they cheated the salary cap to such an extent that the fallout threatened to tear their entire club apart. 

Even over the past few years, they have seemed to thrive on a siege mentality that Des Hasler imported direct from Manly. That's how they operate. It's them against the world. James Graham might have gone, but Canterbury remain an arch enemy.

Make no mistake. The Bulldogs are a vicious tribe who take no prisoners. Throughout their years of dominance over us they showed no contrition, no mercy. Indeed, at times they seemed to thrive on brutality, almost as if they were forever taking revenge on us for Bobby McCarthy and the 1967 Grand Final. 

Well, now they’ve got two Grand Finals to reflect on. 1967 and Macca as well as 2014 and Sammy. How sweet it is. 

Good Friday?  It’ll be a bloody great Friday when we lower their colours again. 

Go on, let the Dogs out! We’ll be ready.