Let The Good Times Roll

Rugby League is a funny game.

Just about anything can change the momentum of a match, or even a season.

With only one win to their name in the first twelve rounds of the competition, the South Sydney Rabbitohs were struggling to gain any momentum in just their second year back in the NRL.

The Club had work from the ground up - which required a new coaching staff, facilities and office staff and of course, a new playing squad. 

But a team dinner, which included an off the cuff game of 'knee footy', led to their biggest ever win against the Melbourne Storm.

Former hooker and captain Jason Death, one of the inaugural players in the reinstated squad, explained how the cammaraderie night brought in such a dominant performance from his side a few days later.

"We had a dinner get-together organised by Russell Crowe with the whole team before the game," he said.

"Bryan Fletcher ended up playing 'knee footy' with Russell and busted one of the lights, and there was a bit of damage done, but it was all in good fun.

"We got to meet Merv Hughes and Shane Warne, and there was just a good feeling around the place."

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at a sun-drenched Allianz Stadium (known then as Aussie Stadium) and at half-time, the scores were level at 14-all.

But a determined squad filled with a mixture of young talent and seasoned journeymen clicked into gear, channelling the energy and enthusiasm they displayed just a few nights beforehand.

With tries to Luke Stuart and Nathan Merritt bringing up a ten-point lead, the Red and Green piled on a flurry of four-pointers with Brad Watts touching down and prop Andrew Hart barging over soon after.

Five-eighth Owen Craigie slotted a field goal, with Hart bagging his second just minutes from the siren.

Death explained that while the squad overall wasn't as developed as other teams, the Rabbitohs of the early part of the decade still had plenty of talent throughout.

"The squad at the time was still developing from our first year back in the competition the year before," he said.

"We were assembled quite late, around August back in 2001.

"We had some good players like Russell Richardson and Paul Stringer, who was a good front-row leader, as well as 'Fletch' who was captain."

Despite being in their formative years, the man they call 'The Doctor' insisted the Storm were still a heavyweight of the competition - making the victory all the more sweeter. 

"It was huge for us – especially with the score being 41-14. It wasn't like we had only just beat them, we played very well," he said.

"They've grown in stature over the last 10-15 years.

"Back then they were still a tough team to take on – they had Billy Slater, Matt Orford, and good front rowers so they were still a pretty competitive team.

"They also were in and around the top 8, so it was a big scalp for us.

"There was a good feeling obviously after that dinner we had with Russell and we just transferred it onto the field. We did the hard yards together and it was a really good win."

Finishing his career after reaching 200 first grade games in 2004, Death has moved into the personal training industry, and despite playing for three other Clubs, he says that Red and Green is what flows through his veins.

"Souths are my team," he said proudly.

"I played for four clubs, but with no hesitation when people ask me who I support, I say South Sydney.

"I was there through the good times and the bad, and it was pretty tough at times, but it has been great to see the Club rise up, and it was great to see us win the comp in 2014."

 

Match report supplied by Michael Curin 

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South Sydney Rabbitohs responded to a mid-week 'bonding session' with Australian cricket legend Shane Warne and actor Russell Crowe by demolishing Melbourne 41-14 in their most convincing win since their return to the competition in 2002.

During the week the Rabbitohs team were invited to a private function room at a plush Woolloomooloo hotel by Souths' number one supporter, Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe, and they let their hair down in an unrestricted night of bonding. Legendary leg-spinner Shane Warne and former Test fast bowler Merv Hughes were special guests and shared some of their favourite touring stories with Crowe, coach Paul Langmack, captain Bryan Fletcher and his Rabbitoh team-mates.

The media reported that Crowe took on the Rabbitohs in a game of 'knee football' and at one particularly willing stage of the contest, Fletcher sent Crowe crashing through a plaster wall. In the end, Crowe picked up the tab of around $15,000 for the meal and drinks and also paid for all the damage done to the room.

Melbourne played with great control early on to lead 14-6, and although the Rabbitohs did well to score twice and level the scores right on half-time, there was no hint of what was to come. Five minutes into the second half Russell Richardson put on a strong tackle on Scott Hill to shove him into the in-goal area. Two minutes later, after Matt Orford's drop-out, back-rower Luke Stuart scored, and the Rabbitohs hit the front for the first time as they put together probably their best half of football in the past five seasons.

Further tries to Nathan Merritt (54th min), Andrew Hart (63rd and 78th mins), Brad Watts (65th min), and a field goal by Craigie in the 73rd minute completed the demolition over the Storm, who failed to add any points in the second half. Souths five-eighth, Owen Craigie, led the charge with a superb attacking game in which he clearly out-pointed Test star Scott Hill. Craigie created the overlap repeatedly for the Rabbitohs and featured in the lead-up to nearly every Souths try.

Melbourne's ball control fell to pieces after their promising start and they finished a poor imitation of the team which had made such impressive strides under coach Craig Bellamy in 2003. The Rabbitohs were given a standing ovation by the small but vocal crowd at Aussie Stadium, and coach Paul Langmack sported a wide smile for a change, after his side won only their second game of the season.

Russell Richardson missed out on a try in the first half after dropping an Owen Craigie ball but made up for it in the second half with some very strong play. He arrived at Redfern as the club's key backline signing after the club's famous court victory but his only claim-to-fame this season has been spending the first half of the season as the most well-paid reserve-grader. 

David Fa'alogo also had a strong game. Souths have tied him up until the end of 2005, after just two matches with the embattled club. Fa'alogo arrived in Australia from New Zealand just a few months ago, playing only four games for Newtown (Souths' feeder club) before being drafted into the Rabbitohs' top team after Chris Walker walked out after Round 9. The 22-year-old former Mt. Albert player now looks set for a promising career with the Bunnies.

South Sydney 41 (W.Kativerata 3, A.Hart 2, L.Stuart, N.Merritt, B.Watts tries; O.Craigie 4 goals; Craigie field goal)

defeated

Melbourne 14 (M.Bai, M.Geyer, K.Reynoldson tries; M.Orford goal)

 

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