Ten Years A Rabbitoh

Being a member of such a prestigious football Club is part of who I am. It’s not just going to the games and watching Rugby League. It’s about being a part of a community with a common cause, a common goal.

It’s about that sense of entitlement you get when you win and the emotions that runs through your body every day. In the last ten years my life has changed quite a bit.

I’ve graduated from high school, began studying at university, people have come and gone in my life, but my love for the Rabbitohs hasn’t changed one bit.

No matter the result on the field, I’ll stick by the Club through thick and thin. If you can’t be there for the bad times, then you can’t really experience the good times.

On Christmas 2008 I was given Ticketed Membership for the 2009 season, and ever since then Membership has been my gift on the 25th of December. For the past 9 and a half seasons, I’ve been able to experience the rollercoaster ride that is supporting the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Since it is Member Appreciation Round, I thought I’d share my story.

My family have always been Souths fans having been born and bred in Redfern. Even though I had been playing League since age eight, my first proper introduction to the Rabbitohs was in 2007 when I was in my final year of primary school. Our sports coordinator was a huge Souths fan and for an assembly he invited a few of the players to talk to the school about not only the Club but to promote health and fitness awareness.

One that stood out immediately was Beau Champion, who I thought had one of, if not, the best names ever. He became an instant favourite. 

The way he spoke about his passion for the Club and their changing culture made me intrigued. I always liked an underdog story and this one called out to me. From then on I decided I’d start to follow the Club more closely.

I was lucky enough to return from an overseas trip in time to see the Round 25 clash with the Sydney Roosters where David Fa’alogo and Braith Anasta were involved in their infamous scuffle, which is when my hatred for the Eastern Suburbs club began, so much so that I refuse to call them the Sydney Roosters.

In 2008 came the return of the prodigal son in the form of Craig Wing, which I made sure to rub in the noses of my mates who supported the tri-colours.

While it was a dour season in terms of results, I started regularly attending games with my cousins, with whom still sit in the Burrow with me today.

Although I was regularly attending games, I still wanted to prove my commitment to the cause. I wanted to know every little detail I could find about the Club players and especially the rich history and working class values it stood for.

Even though the ticket only included home games, my cousins and I still managed to attend a majority of the games, which included road trips to the Central Coast, Manly, Cronulla, Penrith and Wollongong.

Some of the memorable moments in my first year of Membership included demolishing the Roosters in Round 1 by 40 points, witnessing Nathan Merritt’s field goal against the Tigers, Beau Champion’s hat trick against the Broncos and the debuts of Dave Tyrrell, Chris McQueen and Jason Clark.

Once again we missed the finals, but I was intent on being there the day the Club won its 21st Premiership.

With each year the Club began to field a more formidable team. The likes of Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis, and Ben Te’o joining the Club, alongside Michael Maguire, who was a promising young coach who had some success in the English Super League season at the time.

The 2012 season was one of my favourite seasons as there was so much anticipation and so many questions to be answered.

How will we go with this new coach?

How much will we miss Chris Sandow?

Can they finally make the 8 after falling short so many years?

Thankfully after 4 years without seeing my beloved Rabbitohs making the finals, they were able to break through under the guidance of ‘Madge’ and finish in the top 4 for the first time since our last Minor Premiership way back in 1989.

Madge brought an intense work ethic and discipline to the Club that it had been lacking for quite some time, and made the career defining masterstroke to move Greg Inglis into the fullback role.

Unfortunately, I was overseas while the boys took on the Bulldogs in their preliminary final loss, and while it did hurt, it felt great knowing we were a Club on the rise, especially with our young halfback Adam Reynolds (who is my favourite current player).

In 2013 we were an unstoppable force.

I fed off the determination and the commitment the players showed week in, week out. We were winning games with ease and breaking records left, right and centre. I was so sure that 2013 would be our year.

And then, tragedy struck.

We collapsed against a red-hot Sea Eagles in the preliminary after leading 14-0.  It was the second year in a row where we had fallen at the final hurdle. I was shattered. In disbelief. The pain was too much. I’d have to wait another year to even see if they could make it back to the preliminary finals, and that’s if they were able to.

Morale was low but I still had a flicker of belief.

The beginning of 2014 was bittersweet. Fan favourite Sam Burgess had announced that at the end of the year he would be leaving the Club to take up a contract in rugby union. I was shattered. But one of the perks of membership comes in the form of prizes.

I was lucky enough to win a game day experience with Michael Crocker and Scott Geddes at Belmore Oval when we took on the Bulldogs in one of the trial matches that pre-season.

The boys were great to be around and weren’t deterred by the fact they were having beers with a bunch of 18 year olds. They spoke as regular blokes and provided some great conversation and made the experience one of a kind.

Later that year I was lucky enough to be a part of John Sutton’s record breaking match, being allowed onto the hallowed SCG while holding up a banner to celebrate the occasion. Again, it was thanks to a Membership prize which my mate won and invited me to join him. Surely this was a good omen.

The 2014 season was the definition of a rollercoaster ride. We saw Lote Tuqiri join the Club, and after some on field struggles he was able to regain his mojo and lock down a spot in the backline.

Issac Luke suffered a long term injury which proved to be a blessing in disguise as Api Koroisau and Cam McInnes made their NRL debuts and showed their worth in the team.

We saw a crop of young guns like Alex Johnston, Kyle Turner, Luke Keary, Kirisome Auva’a and Dylan Walker rise through to knock off some of the older heads which spurred the team on and provided the spark they desperately needed.

The likes of Adam Reynolds, the Burgess brothers, John Sutton, Ben Te’o and Greg Inglis grew another leg. As the season went on the team grew not only on the field but off the field. There was a sense of real belief not only from fans but in the area.

The team came third in the regular season and demolished the Sea Eagles in the semi-final; sweet revenge from last year.

Then it was our old rivals, the Roosters, in the preliminary final. How appropriate to take on your enemy to overcome adversity. 

The boys fell to a 12-0 deficit in the first ten minutes. This surely could not happen again…

The boys fought hard and piled on 32 points thanks to a masterclass from the man GI.

There was still one more game to go, but knowing I had witnessed Souths make their first Grand Final in over four decades. The moment not only belonged to the boys but to me.

Grand Final week was absolutely surreal.

Being a Redfern local, the whole area was buzzing. Thousands of people came to Redfern Oval just to see the team train, and you could feel a great, positive energy in the community.

I wasn’t too sure what to think and how to feel. I was confident but weary.

The Bulldogs weren’t to be taken lightly and for most of the match they competed and did their fans proud, but there was no stopping the Red and Green tsunami that was about to hit them.

After what felt like an eternity, kick off was finally underway.

Sam Burgess took on his old mate James Graham and came away from the tackle second best. He was pointing at his face. Something was wrong and this wasn’t good.

But he kept pushing on. He showed the South Sydney spirit and pushed through the pain barrier. It was shades of John Sattler’s heroics from 1970.

When Greg Inglis streaked away for his last minute try and the siren sounded, the fat lady had finally sung.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs were the 2014 NRL Premiers. The job done. We were the Champions. Pure elation.

To see 20,000 faithful supporters come to Redfern Oval to celebrate with the players and staff was such an incredible experience. The Red and Green family had come together as one.

Since 2014 the journey has had a few bumps in the road, but I’ll still be a die-hard supporter.

We’ve seen Premiership winning players come and go, new faces we might not have expected and some varied results on and off the field.

But what goes around comes around, and we’ll be singing Glory Glory soon. I know it.

Glory Glory and Go The Mighty Rabbitohs.