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Craig Wing Returns vs Robert 'Rocky' Laurie wins Dally M

It was a return close to ten years in the making, but one to celebrate when prodigal son Craig Wing returned to South Sydney in 2008. Did you know the first ever Dally M Medallist was a Rabbitoh?! Which will win this round of Rabbitohs Top Moments?! Only you can decide!

Craig Wing returns to South Sydney

Top Moments - Craig Wing Returns

Craig Wing. A Souths Junior, with the Coogee Wombats, Wing played all of his junior reps with the South Sydney Rabbitohs and was eventually blooded through to first grade as a teenager in 1998.

Having played two seasons with the Rabbitohs, Wing had no choice but to play for another Club in 2000 where he made his way up the road to rivals, Easts.

After forging a stellar career there (one that included a Premiership, multiple Origin series victories and Kangaroo Test Matches) only one thing was on every South Sydney supporters mind - We’ve gotta get him back!

It was a great homecoming for Wing when he found his way back to South Sydney in 2008, spending the final two years of his Rugby League career at the place where it all began.

Making the shift from Hooker, Wing play predominantly in the halves during this time - mentoring the likes of up-and-comers such as Chris Sandow, in the process. He finished his Rugby League career at Souths with 71 Club games before making the career change to Rugby Union in Japan.

Craig is still involved with Club functions and is a big fan-favourite at the the Rabbitohs.

Robert "Rocky" Laurie - 1980 Dally M Medallist

Top Moments - Rocky Laurie Becomes the First Dally M Winner

Robert Geoffrey Laurie, nicknamed ‘Rocky’ was born in 1956 from the timber town of Wauchope, where he played his junior football. Laurie grew up with eight siblings and his two younger brothers, Mark and Richard Laurie, also tasted first grade football in the NSWRL premiership. Mark played for Parramatta between 1982-92 (202 games) and Richard played with Cronulla in 1985 (3 games, but a neck injury ended his promising career).

‘Rocky’ was signed by Easts in 1975, along with Ian ‘The Shoe’ Schubert, but was relegated to their junior club Paddington Colts, owing to the 13-import rule being used at the time. He captained the Roosters’ Presidents Cup side before being finally graded by the club in 1976, and making his first grade debut that year against Canterbury at Belmore Sports Ground in Round 8, and over the next two years playing in 25 games for the Roosters.

In 1978 the Rabbitohs signed the super-coach Jack Gibson to a 3-year contract, and ‘Gibbo’ lured four players to the club from their arch-rivals Easts (‘Rocky’ Laurie, Trevor Barnes, Eric Ferguson and Arthur Kitinas) to help in rebuilding the club to former glory. But, despite the addition of these players their biggest problem proved to be scoring points, and accordingly, the super-coach had them structured to play a defensive-type game, which did not give much opportunity for Laurie to show his true talents.

Souths sacked ‘Gibbo’ at the end of 1979 season and replaced him with Bill Anderson, who was the Roosters’ Under-23s premiership-winning coach in 1976 (when Gibson coached their top side). He followed Gibson to Souths in 1978, coaching the Reserve Grade side in 1978-79.

Anderson coached the 1980 Rabbitohs side to play with more flair in attack, which better suited the talented five-eighth/centre/lock-forward. After 12 Rounds Souths had only 8 points on the ladder, and most judges gave them little chance of making the semis. But in an inspired run home, which has been typical of the traditional fighting spirit within the club, they won all but two of their games in their run home to the semis – winning eight games, losing one (18-27 against Canterbury), and drawing one (6-all against Cronulla).

Unfortunately, the fairytale did not last after being beaten by St. George in the semi-final by 16-5. An outstanding solo try by ‘Rocky’ Laurie in the 47th minute was the highlight, and two crunching tackles by big Charlie Frith that shook the ground.

Laurie was rewarded after a tremendous 1980 season with being named as the first 'Dally M' Player of the Year. In a surprising twist of fate Souths played the first game of the season against the Dragons on a Saturday and Laurie won the man of the match award in that game, and Channel Ten’s Ray Warren pulled him aside after the game and jokingly said: “By the way Rocky, you’re leading the Dally M’s”. Not many people knew what they were, so Laurie shrugged his shoulders and walked away – and can you believe what happened at the end of the season. He was also voted in the Team of the Year as best five-eighth, along with his teammate and captain Nathan Gibbs, who was voted the best second-rower of the year.

Later that year Easts signed Laurie to a two-year contract on a reported $50,000 a season, which was a huge amount of money in those days and no doubt the highest figure in Australian sport at the time. After his two years finished at the Roosters he went back to play with Wauchope Blues.

Laurie captained Country Firsts in 1983, staying in Group Three for three seasons and guiding Wauchope to three successive grand finals for two losses and finally a win. He then moved to Inverell and Maitland before returning to Wauchope to finish his playing days. In 2017 he was inducted into Group Three Rugby League’s Hall of Fame.

For years we all believed that Rocky Laurie was the first ever Dally M winner, until the 2018 Dally M Awards when Steve ‘Slippery’ Morris was presented with a Dally M medal for 1979. There was no explanation on the night as to how that eventuated, but it was revealed later that rugby league journalist Neil Cadigan was behind it all. In 1979 the Dally M’s were simply a Daily Mirror newspaper award and without much fanfare as other newspapers had their own versions of similar awards for years.

Then in 1980 Channel Ten jumped on board to sponsor the awards and asked the League to stage them with a presentation dinner to be broadcast live on their network for the first time, which gave the awards a lot more recognition. Cadigan later explained that he ran into Morris during a Dapto reunion around 2003 and ‘Slippery’ asked him why he’s award was never recognised as the first. He told Morris that he’ll look into it and the rest is now history.  

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