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An Easter Rivalry: The Battle of Belmore

The South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have developed a tradition on Good Friday; an occasion now circled in all Rugby League calendars.

With the footy still suspended, we turn the clock back to 1986 at the 'Battle of Belmore', recounting that momentous game and getting a Club Historian's personal take on it.

Now Souths and Bulldogs games have always been filled with passion. Who could forget Sam Burgess' charge at Michael Ennis or even the 2014 Grand Final? But no game in our history had more feeling than this.

Classic Match: 1986, First Half

On a freezing July Monday night the 1986 'Battle of Belmore' was one of the most vicious matches the Rabbitohs had ever played against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

After suffering defeat to the reigning Premiers earlier that year, the return fixture at Belmore Sports Ground between a high-flying South Sydney side and the Bulldogs spilled over into a spiteful contest filled with brawling, sin-binning and arguments.

Souths prevailed on enemy territory, winning the match 17-8 in front of a fired up sea of blue and white supporters. 

Club Historian, Brad Ryder recounts the game. Ryder's words from his book, 'They Wear the Red and Green'

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"The return clash, 'The Battle of Belmore', was won almost single-handedly by the clever Phil 'Gus' Gould, who scored a great solo try and set up play beautifully all game."

"Refereed this time by a young Bill Harrigan, fireworks erupted on the field, which led to Mario Fenech and Canterbury prop Paul Dunn being sent to the sin bin.

Where's George?!

Mario Fenech Rabbitohs Captain

"While in the sin bin Fenech was itching to get back on, so he could get square with hooker Billy Johnstone, who had earlier shaped up with him during a scuffle with Dunn.

"After Fenech came back on, he punched Johnstone in the scrum and was sent back to the sin bin."

Classic Match: 1986, Second Half

Probably the most iconic moment of the match however was when Coach George Piggins, replaced Fenech after showing noticeable signs of an ankle injury to which Mario was filthy; screaming "Where's George?!" as he hobbled off.

South Sydney boss, Terry Parker accompanied Fenech to the dressing room to calm him down but Fenech was desperate to get back on the field to finish off a great win. Fenech knew that at the time he was replaced, the Rabbitohs were on top of the Bulldogs.

Fenech later confessed he was not proud of what happened saying that he was a victim of his own enthusiasm and desire to win.

Regardless, this passion to win and 'sticking up for your mate' mentality saw Fenech's heart was always in the right place.

In the game's history, South Sydney and Canterbury-Bankstown have squared-off 176 times with the Dogs having the slight edge over Souths, winning 88 games to 80.

Acknowledgement of Country

South Sydney Rabbitohs respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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