The Drought Breakers
It was 2006, a dire season for the South Sydney club on the field but a year of hope and celebration off it. Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes à Court had taken control of the organization in conjunction with the Club’s Members and there was a sense of optimism and excitement around Redfern.
The Rabbitohs had lost their first 13 games of that season, a deep hole for any team to climb out of.
And their next assignment…the Brisbane Broncos.
However there was a buzz around the Redfern Club. Earlier that week the Club had officially been handed over to the partnership with a cheque presentation at Sydney Town Hall and a lavish party held at The Blue Hotel in Woolloomooloo.
The Broncos were down on troops with State of Origin II to be played the following Wednesday, and despite every pundit still tipping the ‘Baby Broncos’ to win, there was an opportunity for the Rabbitohs kick start their season and the new era under the stewardship of the Club’s new investors.
Despite being down on numbers, the Brisbane side still had players such as Darius Boyd, Greg Eastwood, Shane Webcke, Brad Thorn, Dane Carlaw, Corey Parker Ben Hannant, Neville Costigan, and a debutant by the name of Dave Taylor in their side.
According to former Rabbitohs front-rower and NRL premiership winner, Jaiman Lowe, the game was a memorable one for a number of reasons.
“I scored a try in that game and I didn’t score many in my career so it was a pretty memorable night for me,” Lowe recalled.
“I got a ball off Adam MacDougall and nothing much was going on. ‘Doogs’ attracted a couple of players and left a bit of a hole. I got it from a standing start so I just took off from the line and the further I got the more momentum I got and I ended up crashing over.”
“It was an Origin week when we played them so a few of their players were out. Quite a few of their players were out actually.
“We weren’t travelling that well, in fact we hadn’t won a game. We’d played quite a few rounds and still hadn’t had a win but most people were still tipping them despite having half-a-dozen players out.
“That was a slap in the face for us and provided motivation, when you’re playing a depleted side and they’re still tipping that side to beat you.
“It was spoken about during training and we used it to our advantage.
“Dave Taylor actually debuted in that game. I think he was still in school at Rockhampton and they picked him on the bench to debut against us. That goes to show you how many players they had out at the time.
“We didn’t just beat them. We gave them quite a touch up so that was one of the good memories from a pretty ordinary year.”
It was a drought-breaking try, 20 matches since his last four-pointer, that helped the Rabbitohs to a drought-breaking 34-14 win over the Broncos, and the drought-breaking rain that had fallen in Sydney throughout the week played into the hands of the underdog Rabbitohs.
“It poured rain all day and it had been raining for a couple of days so it was pretty wet under foot,” Lowe said.
“It was pretty unusual to play in those conditions in Sydney. We used to get pretty heavy rain in my early days at the Cowboys around March when we were playing trials and I remember a couple of games in Cairns where it rained for days beforehand but as far as Sydney games go that was easily the wettest game I played in down there for Souths.”
Despite the win over the Broncos, their first over the former Super League club in 17 years, the celebrations were had earlier in the week in Woolloomooloo rather than after the match.
“After the game, when you’re in the middle of a tough year like that, you really enjoy the wins because they are few and far between, but at the end of the day we’d won one out of 14 games so there wasn’t too much to celebrate other than getting the monkey off the back,” Lowe said.
“It was not long after Russell and Peter had taken control of the Club so there was a bit of a buzz in the air around that and (Russell) was at the game. It was one of the first games we’d played after the takeover so it felt like the Club was on the up off the back of that.”
Lowe says he enjoys rivalries, be they personal or club-driven. The rivalry between Souths and the Broncos was not necessarily that strong in his eyes, but his time at the North Queensland Cowboys had brought the Brisbane-based team squarely into focus each time he came up against them.
“Every club has their rivalries and when you’re playing there you buy into that,” Lowe said.
“Up at the Cowboys there was a massive rivalry with Brisbane. That always stuck with me.
“When you’re at Souths it’s obviously the Roosters. You always got up for those games, you took them personally. You knew everyone in your team was up and you knew the opposition players would be hyped up for it too.
“I enjoyed playing the Cowboys after I left that club. That was always a bit of a buzz, especially when I was with Souths because that was the only other club I had played for at the time. And when I went to Melbourne I always enjoyed playing against Souths.
Lowe had the opportunity to play in 50 first grade games for South Sydney, but one game stands out for him during his second, yet short, stint with the Club.
“Probably my 100th NRL game,” Lowe responded when asked about his favourite memory from his time at the Rabbitohs.
“It was sort of bitter-sweet actually. I’d gone back to the Club after not being offered a contract and I’d gone back late after a heap of injuries.
“I’d gone back to the Queensland Cup and I thought my NRL career was over and I’d finished on 98 games, so my second week back there I played in a game against the Wests Tigers and it was Dylan Farrell’s debut.
“We had eight or nine regular first graders out – Dave Taylor was out, Sam Burgess was out, there were heaps of blokes out – and we ended up beating them in golden point.
“Dylan scored his third try for the night on debut as the siren was going for golden point in the corner.
“That was my 100th NRL game but the night before my brother (Ben Lowe) broke his foot at training and couldn’t play. That would have made it even sweeter if he had have been able to play.
“Out of all my Souths games that was probably the highlight. I never thought that I would get back to playing in the NRL and playing a game like that when Wests Tigers were going pretty good was a good gutsy win.
“But in saying that, it was always good beating the Broncos.”
Match report supplied by Michael Curin.
The Rabbitohs broke a 17-year drought against the Brisbane Broncos, beating the top-of-the-table Queenslanders 34 points to 14 in front of 6,537 fans in wet conditions at Telstra Stadium. The Rabbitohs scored six tries to the Broncos' three to record an historic victory in a week of celebrations for the mighty Club.
The Rabbitohs opened the scoring in the seventh minute of play when flying winger Nathan Merritt notched up his tenth try of the season. Fullback David Peachey took control of the play, grubber kicking for the open right-hand-corner for Merritt to pounce and score. The Rabbitohs extended their lead to ten when Luke MacDougall scored two minutes later and Ben Walker kicked the conversion. Kiwi second-rower David Fa'alogo set up the try making the metres to put the Rabbitohs on the attack. The ball went left to Luke MacDougall who scored.
The Broncos struck back through tries to debutant Fraser Anderson and then Brett Seymour, but the red and greens went to the break with a six-point advantage when Jaiman Lowe scored his maiden try for South Sydney. The Rabbitohs hadn't defeated the Broncos since 1989 and Lowe's try resembled a try from the 1989 Grand Final which was scored by Canberra's Steve Jackson. Lowe hit the defensive line and carried three defenders over the line from long range to record the four-pointer. Ben Walker converted the try to give the Rabbitohs a 16-10 lead at the half time break.
The Rabbitohs were completing their sets and creating plenty of chances. They could have led 28-10 except for a couple of errors which cost them tries. They were dominating the more fancied Brisbane side and needed to continue to do so in the second half to record their first win for the season. And that they did.
Broncos' winger Leon Bott brought the visitors within two points when he scored a try early in the second half, but Nathan Merritt put a stop to any thought of a comeback when he crossed for his second try in the 48th minute of the game. John Sutton set up the try by calling the ball right, with the ball finding itself in the hands of Ben Rogers. Rogers then flicked a pass out the back to Todd Polglase who put Merritt away. Ben Walker's conversion extended the lead to 22-14 in favour of the Rabbitohs.
Luke MacDougall then crossed for his second try against his former Club in the 61st minute. It was Sutton again who set up the try, throwing a beautiful cut-out pass to MacDougall on the left wing to score. Walker's conversion gave the Rabbitohs an unassailable 14-point lead. To put the icing on the cake, hard-working Todd Polglase scored a try four minutes from time, pouncing on a loose ball from Fraser Anderson to score. Walker's fifth conversion gave the Rabbitohs a memorable 34-14 victory.
South Sydney 34 (N.Merritt 2, L.MacDougall 2, J.Lowe, T.Polglase tries; B.Walker 5 goals)
Brisbane 14 (F.Anderson, B.Seymour, L.Bott tries; C.Parker goal)
Saturday night, June 10, 2006 (7.30pm) at Telstra Stadium, Homebush,
Referee: Ben Cummins
Halftime: Souths 16‐10
Scrums: Brisbane 6‐3
Penalties: Souths 5‐4
SOUTHS: David Peachey; Luke MacDougall, Todd Polglase, Adam MacDougall, Nathan Merritt; John Sutton, Ben Walker; Peter Cusack (c), Shane Walker, Manase Manuokafoa, David Fa'alogo, Mark Minichiello, Shane Rigon. Interchange: Jaiman Lowe, Paul Mellor, Ben Rogers, Shannan McPherson. Coach: Shaun McRae.
BRISBANE: Darius Boyd; Fraser Anderson†, Greg Eastwood, Casey McGuire, Leon Bott; Brett Seymour, Shane Perry; Shane Webcke (c), Ian Lacey, Brad Thorn, Dane Carlaw, Corey Parker, David Stagg. Interchange: David Taylor†, Ben Hannant, Neville Costigan, Joel Moon†. Coach: Wayne Bennett.
Cited: A.MacDougall (Souths). Charge: Striking (Grade 5). Plea: Guilty. Sentence: Four match suspension (72 demerit points).
Dally M points: 3 ‐ Rigon (Souths), 2 ‐ B.Walker (Souths), 1 ‐ Lowe (Souths).
7 min: South Sydney 4‐0 (Merritt try)
9 min: South Sydney 10‐0 (L.MacDougall try; B.Walker goal)
16 min: South Sydney 10‐6 (Anderson try; Parker goal)
25 min: 10‐all (Seymour try)
36 min: South Sydney 16‐10 (Lowe try; B.Walker goal)
45 min: South Sydney 16‐14 (Bott try)
48 min: South Sydney 22‐14 (Merritt try; B.Walker goal)
61 min: South Sydney 28‐14 (L.MacDougall try; B.Walker goal)
76 min: South Sydney 34‐14 (Polglase try; B.Walker goal)
† Indicates player making his first grade debut.