A Career Long Feud

In a career spanning 169 matches, a decade in the Red and Green of South Sydney, former Rabbitohs forward David Boyle was a part of one of the fiercest and most aggressive defences in rugby league. He was only sent off once in his career and it came after a long-running feud with Cronulla Sharks hard man Gavin Miller.

It was a match in late April, 1983, at Redfern Oval on a Sunday afternoon that ignited the career-long feud of Miller and Boyle. A match that the Rabbitohs would comfortably win 46-10 but would leave Boyle with a bloody nose, Miller with a broken jaw and bad blood between the two forwards for years to come.

Miller was captain of the Sharks in that first encounter and was playing himself into a NSW jumper with his tough, unrelenting style-of-play. Boyle was starting life under the tutelage of the Rampling Brothers and George Piggins in the early 80s - he learnt pretty quickly how to play hard and stand up for himself and his teammates.

"I was lucky to come up in a good era with the Ramplings and we used to look after each other. We were playing Cronulla and they said "watch out for this Gavin Miller, he's a bit of a grub"," recalls Boyle.

"I went to play the ball and after I played it he hit me so then I punched him in the mouth and broke his jaw; just cracked it. It started on to a feud."

After that encounter, Boyle and Miller spent a good part of the next decade terrorising each other on the playing field.

"We played again and he came past me and broke my nose. The next time, we played over in England and he broke my nose again. Normally players from Australia looked after each other. He was playing for Hull KR and I was playing for Hull FC," said Boyle.

"Then we came back, he was playing for Cronulla and I was playing for Souths. It was in the Panasonic Cup, midweek game, he was coming at me and was going to hit me and I just got my elbow up in time and I broke his palate. It was just a running feud.

"In my last year in '91 we were playing Cronulla and he actually got me sent off. I'd never been sent off before.

"He came past me and just clipped me with his elbow and I grabbed his shoulder pad, two guys had him, and I jumped between those two guys and cleaned him up and broke his nose. Then then referee sent me off."

Later that week the judiciary ruled that his punch on Miller didn't warrant a suspension.

Their last encounter came on a cool Sunday afternoon in August at the Sydney Football Stadium. Cronulla would pip the Rabbitohs 30-23 in the round 21 fixture although both teams would miss the finals.

It was a relatively tame ending to the bloody feud between the two tough veterans, a swansong match in which they could put the bad blood to bed. The broken bones, bloody jerseys and brutal conflicts - that's just how footy was played back then.

"That's just the way the game was played back then. I remember one time we were playing and down by 30 points and Les Davidson said; "Hook, let's take someone with us". That's just how everyone was when you were playing," says Boyle.

"We trained hard, we partied hard and played the best we possibly could. They'd always know they were in for a game when they played against the South Sydney pack.

"I wasn't very skillful but I was fit and I could take a hiding."