The beginning of a feud
On a torrid Sunday afternoon at the SCG in 1967 the Rabbitohs overcame the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in a nervy grand final courtesy of an edge-of-your-seat, 45-metre goal from Eric Simms to seal the 12-10 win. It would prove to be the first major conflict we’d have with the Bulldogs and the beginning of our long, tough feud.
Canterbury-Bankstown fought hard to make it to the grand final; knocking off St George by a single point in the preliminary final and ending their 11 successive premierships. The showdown with Souths would be their first of only two grand finals to ever be played between our clubs.
The 1967 grand final win is also the start of a golden period in the Grand Old Club’s history, with Bob McCarthy, Ron Coote, Mike Cleary, John O’Neill, John Sattler and Eric Simms forming a formidable team that would win four premierships in the next five seasons.
Book of Feuds author Mark Courtney wrote vividly about the day when chronicling our brutal feud:
The following is an excerpt from Mark Courtney’s Book of Feuds with added quotes:
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.
“I went over the half-way line and I started looking for my wingers,” recalled McCarthy.
“Michael Cleary’s back in the corner playing hop-scotch and Brian James – I don’t know where he was, but I decided to go the full distance.
“I got over the 25 metre line and my hamstring went on me, but I struggled to the try line and I have to say it was a great moment for South Sydney.”
McCarthy’s try was recognised on the day as something for the history books. Rugby League journalist Peter Muszkat, writing in his 1967 match report in the Sunday Mirror, was astounded by the effort which put Souths on the front foot.
“McCarthy’s try will long live in the memories of the thousands who watches the game at the ground and on television,” wrote Muszkat.
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.