Golden Point Glory
Former Souths coach John Lang has plenty of time to reminiscence about his life in football as he floats on his surfboard in the Allure Beach surf, watching the swell come in. He's done a lot; won a World Cup playing for Australia in 1975, shared heartbreak and triumph with his teammates, became a successful coach to several teams and was awarded the Australian Sports Medal.
He has very fond memories of his time as head coach of the Rabbitohs. He beams with pride when he talks about the squad spending an hour and a half in the pouring rain in Brisbane to spend time with Club members. He laughs when he recalls the 2011 win over the Dragons in Wollongong - they were trailing 20-6 to the reigning Premiers at halftime but in the change room was a young Jason Clark and Nathan Peats firing up, saying "we're coming over them, we've got these guys beat!".
One memory won't escape the 67-year old's mind; his last win as a professional coach. It was round 23 of 2011. Lang's Rabbitohs, battered and under strength, took down the North Queensland Cowboys in a heroic golden point thriller at Stadium Australia 26 points to 24.
Roy Asotasi, Sam Burgess, Luke Stuart and Rhys Wesser were all sidelined with injury. Greg Inglis was ruled out ahead of the match as he recovered from a concussion suffered in the previous week's win over the Canberra Raiders. Nathan Merritt injured his quad in the warm-up and John Sutton left the field in the 52nd minute with a suspected broken hand.
Chris Sandow would shine that Friday night at Stadium Australia; kicking a sideline conversion to level things up, taking an intercept and racing almost the length of the field in extra time then kicking the winning penalty goal in the 83rd minute after a James Segeyaro high shot on Issac Luke (who was playing his 100th NRL match).
"He could come up with a big play in those days, young Chrissy [Chris Sandow]," laughs Lang.
"We had to win something like two of our last three to make the finals, so if we had of lost that one I'd say we'd definitely be up against it. They were a pretty good side; they were a bit the same as us in that they were trying to become a finals side.
"I remember from mid-season we looked like we were out of it, we had a lot of guys injured. I remember GI was out, Sam Burgess was out, Luke Stuart was out, Roy Asotasi was out and all those young guys just came in.
"Michael Crocker had been injured a lot but he came back and captained the side, really got the boys playing well together. Guys like Jame Roberts, Jason Clark, Nathan Peats - some of those players really stood up for us."
Ironically enough, Lang was an opponent of the golden point rule before it was brought in.
"I'll be honest - I was against golden point before they brought it in," admits Lang.
"But I personally think now golden point is a great part of the game. I now find myself watching a game and if it's a good, close game I'm watching and hoping it goes into golden point. Although, as a coach you feel if you win it's a just result and if you lose it should've been a draw!"
He didn't know it at the time but that win would be his last in charge of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. His replacement, Michael Maguire, had been named in April to take over in 2012 and Lang was ready to hang up the clipboard and ride off into the sunset.
That win kept the Rabbitohs finals hopes alive in 2011 and although it didn't matter in the end, losing our last two matches to Brisbane and Newcastle, Lang was really happy they stayed in the hunt.
When he joined the Rabbitohs in 2008 as a football consultant, becoming head coach after Jason Taylor's sacking in 2009, he rode a wave with the South Sydney supporters. The Rabbitohs were building as a team; he knew it, the staff knew it and, most importantly for Lang, the Members knew it.
The feeling that Lang enjoyed during his time at South Sydney has stayed with the veteran coach. The closeness between the community and club still affects him to this day - his grandson, living nearby him on the Gold Coast, remains a Rabbitohs fan.
"I could feel that when I first became associated with Souths," recalls Lang.
"Every club has their own special feel but, out of anything I've ever come across, Souths have the most passionate fans. I always compared it to the Sharks, where I came from; for their fans the team is a nice part of their life but for Souths fans it's a part of who they are.
"If you come from a Souths family, you're a Souths fan - it doesn't matter where you grew up or where you live. One of my grandsons is still a Souths fan from those days up on the Gold Coast."
Match report originally posted on Rabbitohs.com.au in 2011.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have shown unbelievable steel, determination and mateship to overcome the North Queensland Cowboys in golden point extra time tonight (Friday), defeating the men from Townsville 26 points to 24 in the 83rd minute of the match.
Chris Sandow, the diminutive halfback with a heart the size of the ANZ Stadium turf, set up the try that levelled the game, kicked the touchline conversion, then kicked the decisive penalty goal to give the Rabbitohs their fourth straight win and a share of eighth spot at the start of round 24.
With Greg Inglis ruled out before the match, still feeling the effects of a head knock sustained against the Raiders last week, and Nathan Merritt going down in the warm up with a quadriceps strain, the Rabbitohs were behind the eight ball before a ball had been kicked.
But it was the Rabbitohs that struck first, in the tenth minute of play, when five-eighth John Sutton registered a four-pointer. James Roberts, the last minute replacement for Merritt, put up a cross field bomb from the right hand touchline. The ball came down on the other side of the posts, with Sutton cleaning up the ball and scoring the try. Sandow converted to give the Rabbitohs a six-nil lead.
The Cowboys struck straight back through co-captain Johnathan Thurston who stepped through the defence to score. He converted to level the scores.
The Rabbitohs did not hold themselves back, with bustling back-rower Eddy Pettybourne crossing for a try in the 19th minute. Another crossfield bomb found the hands of Dylan Farrell who deliberately tapped the ball back to Pettybourne who powered over the line to score. Sandow converted to restore the six-point advantage.
Just four minutes passed and rookie Tariq Sims scored for the visitors, after the video referee ruled there was obstruction of the South Sydney defence. Thurston added the extras to level the scores at 12-all.
The game turned from attack into defence, with Luke Burgess dishing out some heavy defence in the final 15 minutes of the first half. The Rabbitohs were under attack with the Cowboys getting away too many offloads, but the Rabbitohs were able to hold them out and go into the break at 12-all.
The first part of the second half was an arm wrestle with neither side able to gain the ascendancy.
The Rabbitohs were dealt a blow when John Sutton left the field with a suspected broken hand in the 52nd minute.
The Rabbitohs stopped a certain try to Ray Thompson when Fetuli Talanoa stripped the ball as he was in the motion of scoring. But two minutes later the Cowboys scored through Matt Bowen and four minutes after that they took a commanding lead when Willie Tonga scored. Thurston converted and added two more points from a penalty goal to give his side a seemingly unassailable 12-point lead with ten minutes left on the clock.
Sutton bravely came back on the field in the 69th minute with his hand heavily strapped, and three minutes later the Rabbitohs reduced the deficit to six when rookie James Roberts scored. South Sydney capitalised on a Cowboys mistake near their own goal line, and on the second play of the set the ball was thrown wide to Roberts to score. Sandow converted and the game was ON!
The Rabbitohs and Cowboys threw everything they could at each other, with the Rabbitohs trying some trick plays on fifth tackles, but they were not paying off.
Finally, in the 78th minute of play, it was Sandow who read the play perfectly and snapped up an intercept, racing almost the length of the field for the second week in a row, only to be dragged down about eight metres short of the line on the right touch line. The ball was swung left and two play later the ball was in the hands of giant back rower Dave Taylor. Taylor drew the defence and one-handedly off loaded to Chris McQueen who scored in the corner.
The crowd went deathly quiet as Sandow lined up the kick from the touch line, and his right boot guided the ball between the posts, sending Sandow into leaps of joy and the 11,208 members of the crowd into raptures.
Neither side created any scoring chances in the final minute and the game went into golden point extra time.
The Rabbitohs received and made their way to the half way line, only to have the play shut down and give the Cowboys good field position. The Cowboys worked their way down field and all eyes were on Thurston for the field goal attempt.
But the Cowboys played a trick play, sending the ball to Bowen for the field goal shot. It was always going over, only to swing away late and crash into the right hand upright and bounce away.
The Rabbitohs had renewed life in their game and powered their way up field. It was Issac Luke who made the decisive run up the middle, something he had done countless times during the match earning his side valuable metres. But this time, he was met with a high shot from rookie rake and former South Sydney under 20s player James Segeyaro, with the referee subsequently awarding the Rabbitohs a penalty in front of the posts and only 25 metres out.
The Rabbitohs crowd went nuts, but Sandow still had an assignment to complete. He did so with aplomb, and the Rabbitohs had secured another golden point victory and kept their season alive.
The Rabbitohs showed amazing guts, determination and faith in each other to secure the two points tonight. It was another amazing performance in a wonderful month of football for the men in cardinal and myrtle.
Rabbitohs 26 (Chris McQueen, Eddy Pettybourne, James Roberts, John Sutton tries; 5 Chris Sandow goals)
Cowboys 24 (Matthew Bowen, Tariq Sims, Johnathan Thurston, Willie Tonga tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals)