In His Words: Ben Lowe
Former Rabbitohs player Ben Lowe told our Members last week about his playing career with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Members received this content last week in our Member Zone.
It all started for me back when I got a mid-season transfer from the North Queensland Cowboys to come down in 2007. For the remainder of that season I played for the mighty North Sydney Bears where we were actually lucky enough to get through to the grand final but lost it on the bell with about eight seconds remaining. I remember that being an introduction into a higher level of Rugby League. From coming down and being a part of a full time squad to experiencing obviously quite a lot of success with the North Sydney Bears which led me into 2008. I got to do a full pre-season with the South Sydney medical staff, trainers, coaches and so forth which really gave me a good understanding about what the Club was about which lasted over the whole summer until game time.
I got quite a few trials which I was very thankful for at the start of the season. I remember scoring a try actually in one of my first trials against the Sharks up at the Central Coast at Blue Tongue Stadium and I think that put me in really good stead for what was to come in regards to making my debut.
It gave me a lot of confidence that game, I remember it pretty clearly and thinking that I had worked so hard over the last few years. Obviously being at the North Queensland Cowboys for about four years then coming down to Sydney and putting in a big pre-season, I came to an understanding that getting a tap on the shoulder at the Cowboys and saying that you’re no longer needed really was a wakeup call for me to really take this next opportunity with South Sydney to sort of make it mine, make it my own and make the most of the opportunity that sat in front of me.
It came to round one and I remember Jason Taylor, who was the Head Coach at the time, was actually deciding whether to go with my brother Jaiman or myself for the final spot on the bench. Round one he went with Jaiman which was a bit of mixed emotions I suppose. I was very happy for my brother to be in the squad but then for me to be so close. It wasn’t until a week later where the reverse happened. My brother was dropped and I was put into the squad which again was very bittersweet. Obviously making my dream into reality was awesome for me and to be able to do it at a Club that is so historic was great. When you come to the Club you don’t realise until you’re involved with the Club what it actually means. It’s a big organisation in the sporting world within Australia and obviously in the world.
It was a bittersweet moment again taking my brother’s spot from him. I went out and it was against the Bulldogs and I remember it clearly. I still get the smell of that fresh cut grass at ANZ Stadium every time I walk into the place and it sort of takes me back to that night. I remember it as clear as day, being able to run out. I actually started the game and played the full 80 minutes which was pretty cool. I think we had a couple of injuries throughout the game which made me step up and I was lucky enough to score the first try. That week leading into the game, the Bulldogs were known for not shutting the gate and in Rugby League terms that means they don’t chase from the inside. So we were doing a lot of drop off plays and we had practiced this move throughout the whole week to the stage that we went out there and I saw it just open up in front of me. Just like a training session during that week, I got the opportunity to get over the try line and score a try.
To score in my first game I was pretty pumped at the time and it was a great introduction into the NRL football. Although that happened or sounded like it happened so smoothly there were a lot of, I suppose, tough times ahead with injury and so forth. It’s a contact game and unfortunately that’s just a part of it and there is a lot of hard work that goes into each week that I found out. That NRL grind actually does take quite a bit out of you the whole season. I was very thankful to be there but at the same time I knew there was still a lot of hard work to be done.
It was the week later in Round three that my brother and I got to play with each other which was a massive achievement for myself and my brother. Growing up in Toowoomba we used to play football in the backyard. He was quite competitive actually and he would always play by himself but on the odd occasion I would go out there but only if he would let me win. But then again, he never let me win.
But we got to play football together at the top level and it was pretty special for us. It was at Penrith, I can remember it all still now. It was just a massive achievement and having my own kids now, it is something that I think mum and dad would have been very proud of, seeing their boys run out together and play at such a great Club and at the elite level together. It would have been pretty special for them too. Without them I don’t think that we would be in that position. We never had a lot of money growing up but they made a lot of sacrifices for us and made sure we never missed out in regards to our football or carnivals and being able to help us to chase our dreams.
Quite a few years ticked by, it all happened pretty quickly. A lot of injuries and ups and downs. I remember 2010 in particular. I was lucky enough to get the 18th man spot for the mighty Maroons. As I’m a Queenslander born in Toowoomba I was really happy to get another opportunity there. I remember running out a week later and I broke my foot which was the start of a torrid couple of seasons. The foot actually re-broke round one in 2011 against the Roosters which put me out for pretty much the remainder of that season too. It is a horrible injury and takes a lot of time to heal.
It wasn’t until 2012 when I slowly started to get my foot back up to where it needed to be. I’m thankful for the medical staff at South Sydney at the time. Troy Thomson and Madge (Head Coach Michael Maguire) really guided that path for me and it was a really tricky injury. But I got back out there and I was fortunate enough to be a part of the 2014 competition. It was something that I was very proud of. Playing 18 games that year with the Club but to be 18th man again, it seems to be my lucky/unlucky number, was bittersweet. But to see the boys after all the hard work that goes into a season and be able to do what some people probably would have thought was impossible to do for this Club many, many years ago, with getting kicked out and being brought back in. We got it back to where this Club deserves to be which then led me into 2015 which was my final season with the Club.
I finished up and I can remember the last game and I was very thankful that it was actually parent’s weekend that weekend so mum and dad were both down for the game against Newcastle where I had been battling the majority of that season with a bad neck injury involving a bulging disc. It was very touch and go from week to week until the point where I sort of ruptured my bicep after it was a flow on affect from having a bad neck and overcompensating for that. When my bicep ruptured it then led me into a week of absolute sleepless nights, waking up in the middle of the night thinking ‘I’d be fine to keep playing’ and obviously waking up on the other end and thinking ‘nah I’m done’ and that football wasn’t going to happen for me anymore.
It was a pretty tough period in my life. I was very thankful to have my fiancé Kate and my family around me that were very supportive and a great medical staff that were always making sure that my health was a priority. It was a very tough day when I had to tell Michael Maguire that I was no longer going to play football and that I was, effective immediately, going to retire. I can remember the day pretty clearly. I had Kate with me and it was a very emotional time, that’s for sure. To sort of stand away from the game that had given me so much and to the Club that had given me so much. It was such a joy to be able to live out your childhood dream as it was something that I always wanted to do and when it eventually dawns on you that it’s not going to happen anymore, it’s scary. I was lucky enough to have a great network around me including Madge and the CEO at the time, John Lee and also Shane Richardson who I normally go to for a bit of important advice.
I have now gone into retirement pretty happily with a Community Engagement job at Transport for NSW and luckily enough to be still involved with the Club that had given me so much. I’m looking now to obviously repay that favour and give back to the young crew that are coming through now and help build them up for a healthy career with the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs.
It’s something that I definitely don’t take for granted and hopefully can help some of these young kids be able to achieve their long life goal of being an NRL footballer and being healthy and fit not just on the field but also off the field about being good people in general.