Semi Final Redemption

It was the night that was historic on so many levels.

Season 2012 saw a new-look South Sydney Rabbitohs make the top four for the first time since 1989, sending a warning shot to the rest of the competition.

Things didn't go to plan in the first week of the finals however, as they had succumbed 24-6 to a powerful Melbourne Storm side in the Victorian capital. 

And so they travelled back up to Sydney to host the Canberra Raiders in the elimination final at ANZ Stadium to keep their season alive. The winner would live to fight another day, and the loser would start planning their end of season trip to Bali.

Although the rivalry between the two clubs isn't as storied as some others in the National Rugby League, there is an intriguing history between the Cardinal and Myrtle of South Sydney and the lime green of Canberra, according to Club historian Mark Courtney.

"In 1982 when they entered the competition with Illawarra, they were the first new teams in the since 1967. We were actually the first team to play the Raiders and we won 37-7," he explained.

"That season we were going very well, in fact, we were coming first at the halfway mark. Then we went down to Canberra to face the Raiders again, who at that point had won only one match.

"We were expecting to beat them by 30 or 40 points, and they upset us on that day on a freezing Seiffert Oval, and it ended up being a very long drive home.

"Canberra quickly became a competitive side. We got them back in 1984 when we played them in the play-off for a finals spot on a Tuesday night and won, then qualified for the semis.

"In 1987 they blew us off the park in the finals, and in 1989 Souths were the Minor Premiers by a long way, but they beat us in the preliminary final which was a devastating loss. They ended up winning the premiership."

For the next two decades, the Rabbitohs struggled to compete in the finals and even struggled to stay alive in the competition, while the Raiders thrived throughout the 1990s, taking out the premiership in 1990 and 1994.

Fast forward to 2012 and an eerily similar situation was unfolding through the finals, with the Raiders looking to upset the Rabbitohs just like they did in 1989.

But South Sydney did what they do best – and capitalised on a 20-10 halftime lead to take out the match 38-16, undoing all the damage that the Raiders had dealt nearly three decades earlier. 

Having been there for those dark days, Courtney reminisces back on that fateful night at ANZ Stadium. 

"Souths had been such a strong side in 2012. They had made it into the top four, they played Melbourne in the first week of the finals and were pretty soundly defeated in Melbourne," he said.

"They ended up having to take on the Raiders in the elimination final a week later. It was similar to 1989 as Canberra went into the game having won their last match while Souths had come off a deflating loss.

"There was a bit of trepidation because they had spoilt so many parties and ruined the late 80s for us, which was the last time we were a strong team and a contender before 2012.

"I remember thinking on the day that it was a strong Souths team and I knew unless something went very bad during the game that they'd get the win. At halftime, they were up and ended up winning convincingly."

Seemingly as one of the forgotten finals triumphs for the Club, the victory still remains as important as some of the more recent successes.

For a start, it marked the Club's first finals victory since 1987, breaking a 25-year drought.

Secondly, it broke the finals hoodoo against the Raiders, claiming their first win in an end-of-season match since the 1984 playoff final.

And finally - it gave the Souths faithful the belief that their team could become champions once again in the coming years.

"That day Souths fans started to believe. It catapulted us from feeling we had over-achieved to the supporters entering the next few years with a top-four mentality."

Mark Courtney, Club Historian

"It wasn't as monumental a win as the 2014 preliminary final against the Roosters or the semi-final win against the Storm in 2013, because in those years we genuinely believed we were going to win the competition," Courtney said.

"But I think in 2012 Members and fans weren't expecting it, and when they lost to Melbourne we didn't think we were at that level to take out the trophy just yet.

"That day against Canberra was such a dominant win, and we ended up in the preliminary final. We were just 80 minutes away from being in the Grand Final.

"That day Souths fans started to believe. It catapulted us from feeling we had over-achieved to the supporters entering the next few years with a top-four mentality.

"The only thing that would compare to it was the playoff win in 1984 that put us in the finals for the first time in four years, which felt like an eternity back in those days.

"That 2012 semi final was a game that made us feel differently about the side afterwards than we had beforehand. It was an important win."

 

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