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1989 Minor Premiers vs Sam Burgess' Grand Final Heroics

We may not have reached the last dance in 1989, but it was still a momentous occasion as the Club claimed the Minor Premiership, winning every away game in the process. That goes up against a moment that would become a part of rugby league folklore. Sam Burgess breaking his cheek and playing on to inspire his side to a Grand Final win, putting an end to the Club's 43 year Premiership drought.

1989 Minor Premiers Winning Every Away Game

Top Moments - 1989 Minor Premiership

In what was a record-breaking year in many ways the Rabbitohs sadly missed out on the main prize, after winning the minor premiership by being five points ahead of second-placed Penrith. It was the clubs first minor premiership since 1970. They were also the first side to win all their away games in the era of ‘home and away’ system.

The 1989 side won 12 games straight (from Rounds 2 to 13) to equal the feats of our 1925 side who won all their 12 games that season in their unbeaten run, and is better than the 11-straight wins our 1955 side achieved on their way to win the premiership that season. But, the most consecutive wins belongs to our pioneers, because from 30 May 1908 to 17 July 1909 they won 16 games straight, which is still the club record.

The minor premiers were favoured to have the best chance to win a premiership since Souths’ last golden era of 1967-71, but after successive losses to Balmain (20-10 in the major semi-final) and Canberra (32-16 in the preliminary final) the dream was dashed. The game against Balmain was a tough see-sawing affair which could have gone either way and in the end the final score was a bit misleading. The following week Souths looked sluggish and leg-weary in the beginning against the Raiders, but after having a ‘no try’ ruled when the game was still in the balance, which video replays clearly showed Mark Lyons touched the ball first to score a fair try, followed by injuries to key players in the second half were just too much of a hurdle to overcome and their season ended.

They started the season poorly after losing 14-0 in the opening round to arch-rivals Easts. In their next game they thrashed Canberra 17-2 at Seiffert Oval, which included future greats of the game like Laurie Daley, Kevin Walters, Ricky Stuart, Brent Todd, Steve Walters, Glenn Lazarus, Dean Lance and Bradley Clyde, just to name a few.

Cronulla was their next opponent in the third round, and after being locked 6-all at the break, Souths won a close game by 12-10. Their next opponents were the Illawarra Steelers who were leading 14-10 with nine minutes to go, but converted tries to Mario Fenech and Phil Blake sealed another Rabbitoh win 22-14. In round five the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants hit the lead in the 50th minute (12-8), but two successive tries from Steve Mavin and one by Craig Coleman, who also slotted a field goal late in the match and give the side another easy victory 25-12.

In round six the Rabbitohs produced their best effort so far this season after thrashing St. George Dragons 32-0, to defy heavy torrential rain and a sodden ground, with Phil Blake bagging three superb tries.

The Rabbitohs produced one of their most stirring performances against premiers Canterbury in round seven, after they squandered five ‘certain’ tryscoring chances and still managed to win easily 10-2.

The Rabbitohs faced a physical Norths side in round eight who were leading 8-6 during middle of the second half, and after suffering injuries to Bronko Djura, David Boyle and Wayne Chisholm, Souths overcame all these odds to win their seventh game in-a-row after scoring three late tries. A charged up Wests Magpies side were the next opponents at Orana Park, where Souths had six players backing up from the previous day’s City-Country fixtures and Steve Mavin getting his marching orders in the 70th minute for a head-high tackle (he later received a caution). The 15-6 victory proved to be one of their most significant wins of the season and it also marked the debut of future Kangaroo and 17-year-old hooker, Jim Serdaris.  Souths stretched their unbeaten run to nine games after humiliating arch-rivals Manly 36-10. The Rabbitohs’ backs to the wall victory over Newcastle in round eleven would have to rank as one of their best in the modern era.

Souths had five players out on the injured list and with cyclonic rain and wind blowing, which covered the ground completely in water and mud, things looked bleak when the Knights led 10-0 after twenty minutes. The Rabbitohs had very little going for them, but the spirit and commitment of the 1989 side overcame all these odds to win 18-10.

Souths pipped Balmain 10-8 at Leichhardt Oval after Phil Blake scored a magnificent match-winning try which passed through 10 pairs of hands, and equal the winning run of the famous 1955 Souths side, with eleven wins-in-a-row. Another spirited comeback by the Rabbitohs to defeat Parramatta in round thirteen which gave them their twelfth successive victory and equalled the feats of their 1925 unbeaten side. They trailed the Eels 16-6 and then 16-10 at half-time, but coach George Piggins made some key replacements for the second half which proved effective to give them a 24-16 win.

Penrith ended the Rabbitohs’ twelve-game winning streak in round fourteen at Sydney Football Stadium with a 19-8 victory. Souths clearly missed the high workrates of injured players Michael Andrews and Mario Fenech.

The Rabbitohs bounced back to form with a great 20-8 win over Brisbane Broncos at Lang Park, who were missing ten regular players owing to the Australian tour of NZ. Magical Souths five-eighth Phil Blake starred with two splendid tries, one a sensational individual effort in which he beat five defenders, as well as setting up another two for his teammates to give them a 30-12 victory over Easts. Steve Mavin also scored two tries in the match.

Souths defeated a Canberra outfit 22-12 at the Football Stadium who were missing several stars on the day. Cronulla withstood intense pressure from the Rabbitohs, and a Mark McGaw try gave them a slim 6-4 victory. In round nineteen Souths defeated Illawarra comfortably 24-12 at Wollongong Showground, and then Gold Coast-Tweed by 17-6.

Souths clinched the minor premiership after they scored a late try through Mark Ellison which gave them an 8-4 victory over St. George at Kogarah Oval. Open football was out of the question when the ground was covered in a sea of mud and scoring opportunities were limited. In their last normal round premiership match Souths produced another late comeback to force an 18-all draw with last season’s premiers Canterbury. Teenage hooker Jim Serdaris played an outstanding game.  In the Dally M awards George Piggins was Coach of the year and Phil Blake won the five-eighth spot.

Sam Burgess Cheekbone, Rabbitohs win 21st. Premiership, breaking the 43-year drought.

The 2014 Premiership - 43 years in the making.

Top Moments - Sam Burgess' 2014 Grand Final Performance

A performance that requires little description...

What defined the whole game was the first run off the kick-off. That’s what made the night even more special.

An absolute warrior, much like John Sattler before him, Burgess put the team on his back despite his fractured cheekbone.

A deserved Clive Churchill Medal winner, it’s a performance that goes down in Rabbitohs folklore.

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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