The South Sydney Rabbitohs have secured the Club's future with major announcements made today regarding the football pathways for elite footballers, the strongest partnership with Souths Juniors in the Club's history, the financial stability of the Club linked to the Rabbitohs' and Souths Cares' Community and High Performance Centre (CHPC) at Heffron Park in Maroubra, as well as a number of key player contract extensions and signings headlined by the four-year extension of Sam Burgess' contract until the end of 2023.
All of these announcements highlight why the Rabbitohs are the Club of choice in the NRL for established players such as captain Greg Inglis, leaders Sam Burgess and games recorder holder John Sutton; the young, up-and-coming talent such as Cameron Murray, Campbell Graham, Adam Doueihi and Junior Tatola; through to the 3,155 junior players registered in the South Sydney district; the near 30,000 Members of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the family of corporate partners that support the Club.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs' pathways from junior football to the NRL have been solidified with the announcement of the Club's application to field teams in the NSWRL's elite competitions in 2019, with the Rabbitohs receiving positive feedback regarding a return to the Intrust Super Premiership (ISP) and Jersey Flegg under 20s competitions, as well as the Harvey Norman NSW Women's Premiership. Souths Juniors will continue to field teams in the SG Ball Cup under 18s and Harold Matthews Cup under 16s competitions, representing the South Sydney district.
The partnership between the Rabbitohs and Souths Juniors, from the under sixes competitions to the NRL, will see the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Juniors be the Club of choice for boys and girls playing Rugby League in the South Sydney district under the one banner of South Sydney. The partnership shows a clear pathway for talented players, boys and girls through to men and women, who dream of representing the Rabbitohs at the highest levels in Rugby League.
The proposed NSW ISP and Jersey Flegg teams will join the Women's, SG Ball and Harold Matthews teams in playing a majority of their home games at Redfern Oval, signalling a significant return to Redfern for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
The community-based game day events will see a modern-day take on the traditional Sydney derbies against teams such as the Newtown Jets, Western Suburbs Magpies, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Penrith Panthers and North Sydney Bears in the ISP competitions and will provide a family feel for those attending the games as well as new revenue streams for the Club through Membership, merchandise, ticket sales and Souths Cares fundraising.
"We feel it is important for us as a Club to build a full Rabbitohs football pathway in conjunction with Souths Juniors going into the 2019 season and beyond," Rabbitohs General Manager of Football Shane Richardson said.
"It helps us create vertical integration right through the grades in terms of coaching, high performance and player wellbeing.
"It means our players can stay in Red and Green through all stages of their development, and gives them the opportunity to grow in a professional environment.
"It helps our coaches and staff to develop as people and within their roles following The Rabbitoh Way, which is the way in which we play and conduct our business.
"It allows us to have total control over recruitment decisions across all grades, adding to the talent that comes from our own backyard through the continued great work of Souths Juniors.
"It also gives our Members and supporters the opportunity to get behind teams representing South Sydney, with the rabbit on their chest, each and every week.
"We're also excited to see the Rabbitohs playing out of Redfern Oval on a regular basis again, and we'll be creating a game day atmosphere that is truly a South Sydney Rabbitohs experience.
"We thank the North Sydney Bears for their contribution to our pathway over the past decade. but it's time for South Sydney to re-enter the senior NSWRL competitions.
"We've received positive feedback from the NSW Rugby League regarding our application to play in their competitions which will allow our young players to stay within the South Sydney Club from start to finish, representing our people as they take the field.
Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly said: "Aside from the benefits to our Football Program, the big winners out of this will be our Members and supporters. We've listened to their feedback and increasingly our Members wanted our pathway to represent the South Sydney Rabbitohs and not have to see our young players deviate through another Club to play for South Sydney at the NRL level.
"We will be creating game days that are community-minded and a fantastic day out for everyone, primarily at Redfern Oval, for the pathways teams. Whether you want to bring the family and kids down for a casual afternoon at the footy, or you want to get a group of friends together to watch the footy before a night out on the town, Redfern Oval will be a key venue for all Rabbitohs Members and supporters when planning their weekend.
"Our pathways teams will have the opportunity to train out of Redfern Oval, Members and supporters will be able to see the Rabbitohs play at Redfern on a regular basis once again, and Souths Cares will be able to activate at these games and continue to build our connections with our community.
"It also gives us opportunities to raise revenue through new sponsorship properties, hospitality, and merchandise offerings.
"It's very exciting, we're all looking forward to having our application accepted and to our first game at Redfern Oval in 2019."
COMMUNITY AND HIGH PERFORMANCE CENTRE
The Rabbitohs are looking forward to work commencing in early 2019 on the Rabbitohs Community and High Performance Centre (CHPC) at Heffron Park in Maroubra now that all funding has been secured for the $25 million project.
For the Rabbitohs and Souths Cares, who are aiming to be in the new state-of-the-art facility by the end of 2020, the CHPC will be a game changer for the football operations, administration, community and charity arms of the Club, as well as the South Sydney community.
With the support of Randwick City Council, the NSW government, the Federal government and Souths Juniors, the CHPC will create seamless operations between the football and administration departments at the Rabbitohs with Souths Cares, and will provide long-term financial stability for the Club.
New revenue streams will be available to the Club through facility hire, fundraising and café operations, as well as cost savings and efficiencies such as the reduction of rental expenses currently incurred in the Redfern offices.
Souths Cares' will also be able to increase its social impact with over 15,000 participants in Souths Cares' programs each year from 2020.
The CHPC will further enhance the Club's ability to identify, support and develop elite junior player pathways in conjunction with Souths Juniors and will be a major retention and recruitment tool, helping elite players to make the Rabbitohs their club of choice in the NRL.
The CHPC will be the hub for everything connected to the South Sydney Rabbitohs; will reflect the storied history of the Foundation Club; and will be a facility of which the Club's Members, players, coaches and staff can be proud.
"From a football perspective, the Community and High Performance Centre will give us a facility which will see everyone under the one roof and will give us a modern operation from which our players can train and prepare, be they the established stars or the up-and-coming players of the next generation," Mr Richardson said.
"It will be a key factor for our recruitment and retention planning, and will be another way in which we can deliver The Rabbitoh Way, as well as making us the Club of choice for footballers across the country and from overseas.
"No other NRL operation will have two city-central locations to work from as we will with the Heffron Park facility and Redfern Oval. This is unprecedented in the NRL.
"To put it simply, it will help us deliver premiership success for our Members and our community while we develop the next generation of Rabbitohs from two centrally-located training facilities."
Mr Solly said: "The CHPC will give us financial stability as a Club and will enable us to explore and implement new revenue streams whilst also cutting costs from our current budgets.
"We're in line to make a $1.3 million profit this year alone. That money is being re-invested in our Club with the pathways teams and the CHPC being the focus of the investment as it has been in the past, and we intend it to be so in the future.
"It will mean Souths Cares has new facilities which will benefit not only the community in South Sydney, but also visitors from around the state, the country and from overseas.
"The CHPC will reflect our history as the oldest Club in the NRL - over 110-years of history - and our Members will enjoy the way we recognise the past whilst producing the players that represent them in the future, all out of the one facility.
"Our 2019 Membership packages go on sale this week and we are aiming to break through the 30,000 Member mark again next year, for the fourth time in the last five years. Initiatives such as the pathways teams and the CHPC show why we are a club that our Members want to support year after year.
"It's exciting times and we're all looking forward to the work beginning in early 2019, with a view to be operating out of Heffron Park by the end of 2020."
2019 Rabbitohs Memberships go on sale on Thursday 6 September by visiting membership.rabbitohs.com.au
PLAYER CONTRACT EXTENSIONS AND SIGNINGS
The Rabbitohs are excited to announce the contract extension of Sam Burgess for a further four years today, keeping Sam in the Cardinal Red and Myrtle Green until the end of 2023.
Burgess, 29, is widely regarded as one of the best Rugby League players in the world, having played a leading hand in the Rabbitohs' 21st premiership victory in 2014, having led his country of England as captain in recent years, and developing himself into an influential person within the sporting community both here and overseas.
Burgess, who is Rabbitohs first grade player #1073, has played 160 NRL games, all for South Sydney, since debuting in 2010 against the Sydney Roosters, and has played 26 Tests for England and Great Britain.
Sam started his career in the NRL with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, has played for no other NRL Club, and this four-year extension will see Sam finish his playing career in the Red and Green.
"In my opinion, Sam is the leading forward in our game," Rabbitohs Head Coach Anthony Seibold said.
"He is an inspirational leader through his actions both on and off the field.
"He's been a tremendous help in my first year as a Head Coach along with 'GI' (Greg Inglis) and 'Sutto' (John Sutton).
"Since he's been here at the Rabbitohs he's demonstrated how much Souths means to him and I'm very happy to know that he will finish his career here at South Sydney."
Burgess said he was not interested in testing the market before signing his final contract.
"I'm a Rabbitohs man. It's as simple as that," Burgess said.
"The Club aligns with everything I'm about and my values, so it was an easy decision for me to extend my contract out to the end of my career.
"We spent a bit of time working out the contract as it is my last one, but Souths have always shown faith in me and I feel like I can repay that faith over the remaining years I have on the field.
"I wasn't interested in the player market or anything like that.
"I'm interested in leaving behind a legacy, being a small part of the fantastic history of this great Club.
"Players like Sattler, McCarthy, Coote and Churchill – they're all remembered at this Club for what they have done. I love the history and I want to leave my mark as well.
"No one is bigger than the Club and as a South Sydney player, you have a connection to those players of the past.
"My first-grade player number is 1073 and that means a lot to me. I can't tell you how much that number means to me.
"It's a special Club and I'm so proud to be part of it."
Mr Richardson added: "Sam is one of the best players in the game, hands down, and with this contract extension he will play his entire NRL career with the one club, the Rabbitohs.
"He is an inspirational player for his team mates and an inspirational person to the broader South Sydney community.
"He has made a home here at South Sydney; he is bringing up his young, expanding family here in South Sydney; and he is set to go down in the Club's history as one of its greats.
"He brings confidence to everyone around him and we could not be happier to have signed this contract extension with Sam which will see him play in the red and green for the next five seasons."
Junior Tatola, Mark Nicholls and Jacob Gagan extended for 2019
The Rabbitohs are pleased to announce the one-year contract extensions of Junior Tatola, Mark Nicholls and Jacob Gagan for the 2019 season.
Junior Tatola, who is Rabbitohs first grade player #1141, burst onto the NRL scene this season having joined the Rabbitohs from the Wests Tigers under 20s squad. Tatola, 21, played in 23 of the 24 regular season matches in his first season of NRL football and also represented Tonga in the mid-year Pacific Test match against Samoa.
Mark Nicholls, who is Rabbitohs first grade player #1140, joined the Rabbitohs in 2018 and has impressed in the front row, playing 12 games so far this season. Recruited from the Melbourne Storm, the Rabbitohs have extended Nicholls' contract for a further season in 2019.
Jacob Gagan has also extended his tenure with the Rabbitohs for a further 12 months, bolstering the Club's depth in the outside backs. Gagan has played eight NRL games so far in his career with the Sharks and the Knights.
"These three are key signings to help our depth in both the forwards and the backs, and to keep the pressure on spots in our top 17," Coach Seibold said.
"Junior has done a remarkable job, playing in 24 straight games in first year of NRL Football, stretching back to the Charity Shield in February.
"'Nico' (Mark Nicholls) adds experience and depth to our front row rotation and has proven this year that he can play consistent NRL-level football.
"Jacob has shown a great attitude towards his training and his preparation, and he will add to that competition for positions in our backline."
Kurt Dillon and Bayley Sironen signed for two seasons and one season respectively
The Rabbitohs have signed prop Kurt Dillon until the end of the 2020 season and utility Bayley Sironen for the 2019 season.
Dillon, 24, joins the Rabbitohs from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks where he made his NRL debut against the St George Illawarra Dragons in round six this year. Dillon represented NSW Residents this season and was named in the 2017 NSW ISP Team of the Year, has made four NRL appearances so far in 2018 and will add to the Rabbitohs' front row rotation in the coming seasons.
Sironen, 21, will join the Rabbitohs from the Wests Tigers where he has played two NRL games, making his NRL debut against the North Queensland Cowboys in round 25 of the 2017 season.
Sironen has played at the elite levels of age group representative football, playing alongside current Rabbitohs Robert Jennings, Tyrell Fuimaono and Connor Tracey for the Australian Schoolboys in 2014, as well as representing the NSW under 20s in 2016, NSW Residents in 2018 and was named in the NSW Emerging Blues squad this year.
Sironen follows in the footsteps of his father Paul and brother Curtis in playing first-grade football and will add valuable depth to the Rabbitohs across the forwards and in the halves in 2019.
"Both Kurt and Bayley played NSW Residents this year which shows they are consistent performers at that level below first grade," Coach Seibold said.
"They have both made their NRL debuts and have shown great potential and that is why we have given them an opportunity to join our Club and push for spots in our top 17.
"We know they can improve as footballers in our environment and we're looking forward to working with them during the pre-season ahead of 2019."