The South Sydney Rabbitohs have long been the 'People's Team' - A Club that welcomed anyone into the Red ad Green family and were proud to say they did. A Club that unified 80,000 diverse Rugby League fans into their fight for survival in 2001. The inclusivity and pride that runs in the veins of the Rabbitohs aligned perfectly with the proud Indigenous communities of the district. A special relationship was born.
The relationship between the Rabbitohs and the Indigenous community of Redfern stretches back to the 1930s, when the Redfern All Blacks were formed. Legendary Rugby League journalist Ian Heads explains it beautifully:
“It has been a wonderful and mutually beneficial partnership through 87 seasons, and maybe longer. Over the years the Club has been, season by season, a provider of opportunity for young Aboriginal players and in turn the ranks of the countless talented indigenous players who have answered the call have been a continual boost to the Red and Green cause, adding verve and excitement to the playing style of the Rabbitohs. The stories of champion Aboriginal players are dotted through the history of the Club.
“The beginning of one of the great symbiotic relationships of Rugby League came, perhaps, in 1930 – the season when the Redfern All Blacks Club was formed. The records and stories of that club tell of enthusiastic and fruitful recruitment in a rural district in early years. The tradition of Aboriginal players donning the famous Red and Green jumper and heading into battle in the name of South Sydney can be traced back to that club. In seasons 1938-39 a fullback named Dick Johnson, who came from the small town of Currabubula was, very likely the first Aboriginal to play first grade with Souths – and genuine star of his time, good enough to play for NSW in both of his seasons with the club.
“Since the 1950s when men such as Charlie Donovan and then Eric Robinson played with distinction at Redfern, Souths have probably never been without Aboriginal players through the grades. Champions have emerged; the record breaking Eric Simms, the spectacular Kevin ‘Lummy’Longbottom to David Peachy, Dean Widders, Nathan Merritt, Joe Williams, Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Cody Walker, Kyle Turner… All the players mentioned here – and many, many others – added to the `character’ that has made South Sydney club so special down the years.
“Both groups – the Rugby League Club and the Aboriginal community of the district - look back with a deep sense of pride on the things achieved through more than 87 years of `working together’. It is a story of harmony and opportunity presented and taken… and of wonderful outcomes.
“I am delighted to say the partnership survives and thrives and will as long as men wear the cardinal and myrtle of the most famous Rugby League Club of them all.”