The South Sydney Rabbitohs, led by Historian Michael Curin and agreed by the Members of the South Sydney Rabbitohs Historical Society, have corrected the Club’s official first grade player number list, finding six players to have played first grade for South Sydney since 1908 that missed recognition in the first iteration of the list which was developed in 2002.
NRL historian and statistician, David Middleton, compiled the original South Sydney Rabbitohs first grade premiership players register in 2002, but since then some meticulous work has been undertaken to identify 16 errors amongst the almost 1200 players that have played first grade for the ‘Pride of the League’.
Mr Curin led the project of establishing the latest list which found six players missing and ten players that were duplicated due to misreporting in newspapers, annual reports and other documentation over the years.
“I migrated to Sydney from Croatia in 1969, when I was only ten years old and my family settled in Mascot and I went to all the local schools,” Mr Curin said.
“By the early 1970s I fell in love with the greatest game of all and the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Ever since those early days I have been doing my own stats and keeping my own records.
“Then in 2009 I approached our Club Historian, Brad Ryder, and showed him what I do. He introduced me to so many other people in the NRL community who helped me get more information on all the players.
“In 2009, I showed David Middleton my then-list of corrections which had only seven errors, which he confirmed and since then I have found 16 errors in total. Ten players have been doubled-up and six were left out completely.
“These errors are unfortunate but understandable as records over the years were not kept as fastidiously as they are these days. It was easy for a newspaper to type the wrong initial for a player’s first name or not realise that people they had identified as two different players were in fact the one player.
“We discussed updating the list at our South Sydney Rabbitohs Historical Society meetings and a final list was agreed with the fellow Historians on the Society, those being Brad, Marco Sivis and Ross Mackay. I’m glad that the Club has approved the list and can now recognise these players as first grade players at our Club.”
The ten players who were duplicated in the list will see their second numbers deleted from the list and those numbers will not be replaced. This ensures that players who have already been given a first grade player number will maintain that number for perpetuity.
Mr Curin’s explanations regarding the duplicated players are:
- Jack Coxon (No. 18) and Max Coxon (No. 49) are the same player. His full name is Maxwell Wallace Coxon and some newspapers called him Jack. He was enticed to switch codes when the first Australian Kangaroos left our shores on their tour of Great Britain. Coxon was born in Cobargo (near Bega) in 1882 and died in 1948 from a massive heart attack while at work. He lived in Lithgow before coming to Sydney, where he played rugby union for Souths in 1906-08 (24 games scoring four tries), as a hooker. He was considered a great replacement for our club captain, Arthur Hennessy, who was part of the First Kangaroos. I spoke to his granddaughter in 2009 and his grandsons, who sent me many images of him and his gold medallion which he received after winning the 1908 premiership, confirming his identity.
Harry Thompson (No. 31) is the same player as No. 66 (which newspapers also referred to as H. R. Thompson). He always played in the forwards, starting with Wests’ rugby union side in 1907 (two games), then switched codes to play for Easts in 1908, and Souths in 1909. The following season he went back to Easts (playing lower grades), and in 1911 he moved to Wests. He came back to Souths to finish his career in 1912-14. Newspapers started using H. R. for his initials because Souths had another Harry Thompson playing at the time. Our 1912 City Cup photo included both H. Thompson’s on it and I’m surprised that nobody else saw the connection in the past. He played in 16 first grade premiership games for Souths (scoring two tries), five City Cup games (scoring three tries), and 16 second/reserve Grade premiership games (scoring two tries). He also represented The Rest against The Kangaroos in 1909 and The Probables in 1908. ‘Sydney Sportsman’ newspaper noted in 1911 that his full name was Harold Romeo Thompson.
J. Reynolds (No. 48) is the same player as G. Reynolds (No. 74). This is George Reynolds, who was probably the first indigenous player to have played first grade football in Sydney. The ‘Sydney Sportsman’ newspaper referred to him as ‘Darky’ Reynolds, reporting on the 1914 Metropolitan team when it referred to him as ‘the representative from La Perouse’. Laidley Burge (ex-Glebe player) said this of Reynolds in Max Solling’s book ‘An Act of Bastardry’ (History of the Glebe RLFC): “Reynolds was a five-eighth with great pace, who played 17 games for Glebe in 1918-19, as a player of Aboriginal descent.” Reynolds played for South Sydney Federals in 1909-12 (17 games in second grade and nine games in third grade), as well as for Souths when needed. He transferred to Annandale on loan in 1913 (13 games, two tries), and Glebe in 1918-19 (17 games, three tries). For Souths he played in 1911 and 1914-17 – nine first grade games (scoring one try), and 16 reserve/second grade games (scoring a try and a goal). He also represented Metropolis while at Souths in 1914. Reynolds was born in 1889 at Sydney and died in 1962. He made his debut in the same game in 1911 as Smith (see No. 5 below).
H. Groves (No. 50) and Bill Groves (No. 59) are the same player. This is Billy ‘Corey’ Groves and our 1911 Annual Report and my lower grade match reports confirm they are the same player. He first appeared in Souths’ first ever Presidents Cup side in 1910, and in the same season represented NSW Juniors in three games (scoring a try). The following season he was graded by Souths and in his ten seasons with the Rabbitohs he played in 67 first grade premiership games (scoring eight tries), six City Cup games, 56 second/reserve grade premiership games (scoring five tries) and one League Cup game. In 1921 he moved to Newtown, where he played in another four first grade premiership games (scoring a try). Groves was a Souths junior, born in 1890 at Glebe (Sydney) and died in 1964.
J. Smith (No. 51) and A. Smith (No. 65) is also the same player. His name was Alfred Smith and the newspapers published his initial incorrectly when he made his debut. Our Annual Report confirms we only had A. Smith play for us, while ‘The Sun’ newspaper published this about Smith and George Reynolds in 1912: “G. Reynolds and A. Smith also represented South Sydney First Grade team when the Australasian team went away, and acquitted themselves well.” Smith played lower grades for South Sydney Federals in 1910-14, and filled in for Souths when they needed him, including two first grade premiership games and three City Cup games (scoring a try). He was born in 1891 at Redfern (Sydney) and died in 1952. His name also appears on our 2019 ANZAC jersey.
A. Sheehan (No. 98) and Bill Sheehan (no. 110) are the same player. This is all Bill Sheehan and our 1917 Annual Report confirms it’s the same person. Newspapers published his initials incorrectly. He started his playing career with South Sydney Kinkora in third grade in 1915, where he played in eight games (one as captain), scoring three tries and a goal. The following season he was graded by Souths and in the next eight seasons with the Rabbitohs he played in five first grade premiership games, three City Cup games, 57 second/reserve grade premiership games (scoring five tries and 20 goals), nine League Cup games (scoring two tries and seven goals), and nine third grade games (scoring two tries and five goals). Sheehan was a Souths junior, who was born in 1895 at Redfern (Sydney) and died in 1946. Bill was the older brother of Charlie and Vincent Sheehan, who also played for the Rabbitohs.
Harold Holmes (No. 101) is the same player as E. Holmes (No. 110). This is all Harry Holmes as confirmed by our 1918 Annual Report and newspaper reports. He made his Souths debut in 1918 (Round 2), but originally came from Wests where he made one first grade appearance in 1917, and later played for Easts. Holmes was born in 1894 at St. Peters (Sydney) and died in 1955.
Murphy (No. 120) is the same player as Pat Murphy (No. 130). Our 1920 Annual Report confirms this is all the same player. He first played for Alexandria in Third Grade in 1916 and 1919 (six games, scoring three tries). His Souths career started after WWI in 1919-26, where he played in 40 first grade games (scoring four tries), and 42 games second grade games (scoring eight tries). He also represented NSW four times in 1925 (scoring a try), Metropolis in 1923 and the Probables in 1924 (scoring a try). Murphy was a Souths junior, born in 1899 at Paddington (Sydney) and died in 1959.
G. Funnell (No. 121) is the same player as Fred Funnell (No. 126). Our 1921 Annual Report confirms this is all Fred Funnell. He played in 30 first grade premiership games for Souths (scoring four tries), 12 City Cup games (scoring three tries), 25 second/reserve grade premiership games (scoring three tries) and five League Cup games (scoring a try). He also represented NSW in two minor games in 1921 (scoring a try). Funnell was a Souths junior, born in 1897 at Waterloo (Sydney) and died in 1945. His name also appears on our 2019 ANZAC jersey.
G. Potter (No. 207) and A. Potter (No. 238) are the same player (Arthur ‘Gus’ Potter). His full name was Arthur Augustus Potter and our club Annual Reports and other publications printed his name with one A and AA, as well as G (which was short for his middle name – Gus). Potter was born in 1910 at Mangaweka (NZ) and died in 1984. He was living in Coogee while playing for Souths. Potter played in five first grade premiership games for Souths, three City Cup games, 34 reserve grade premiership games (scoring four tries) and 11 third grade premiership games (scoring a try). He first played rugby union in the Kentwell Cup before coming to the Rabbitohs.
The six players who have been discovered to play first grade and not included in the original list will be added to the end of the list after the final player to debut in the 2022 season.
Mr Curin has detailed those players as:
- Alf Hanna – Player no. 1183 – First Grade Debut: 1908 vs Cumberland (round three)
Alf Hanna played in only one first grade game for Souths, against Central Cumberland in 1908. Unfortunately, this is the only first grade game which is missing official teams because it was played as a curtain raiser to the First Test between Australia vs New Zealand and all the media coverage was given to the Test match. Newspapers only published scorers (with Hanna scoring a try) in the first half and the final score. Hanna was born in 1888 at Paddington (Sydney) and played rugby union for Alexandria before coming to Souths in the inaugural rugby league season. He also played in two second grade games for the Rabbitohs in the same year.
- Harry ‘Hack’ Thompson – Player no. 1184 – First Grade Debut: 1911 vs Eastern Suburbs (play-off for second place)
Harry ‘Hack’ Thompson mainly played as a centre/winger, making his first grade debut at Souths as a 17-year-old, which was noted in many newspapers. He was a local Redfern boy who also played first grade rugby union with Souths in 1910, as a 16-year-old (six games, scoring two tries). He was born in 1894 in Redfern (Sydney) and died at Gladesville Hospital (Sydney) in 1968. Thompson was fast and tricky, though small of stature, and in 1912 had the distinction of touring New Zealand with the New South Wales team – at only 18 years of age. He played another two matches on the wing for NSW in 1915 before finishing his career on the flank in Souths' 5-3 loss to Balmain in the 1916 final. He also represented City in 1913-14 and Metropolis in 1913 and 1915.
3. Dick Burke – Player no. 1185 – First Grade Debut: 1923 vs Western Suburbs (round 16)
Dick Burke played in only one first grade premiership game for Souths when he came on as an early replacement for Hector Courtenay in 1923, and in the same year played twice in Souths’ City Cup side (scoring a try). He was a Souths junior who was born in 1901 at Redfern (Sydney) and died at Hornsby (Sydney) in 1939. He lived at Maroubra while playing for the Rabbitohs. In 1925 Burke moved to St. George, where he played another 8 games in the top grade. He also represented the Combined Sydney-Newcastle side in 1925 against Queensland.
4. Jim Breen – Player no. 1186 – First Grade Debut: 1924 vs Sydney University (round eight)
Jim Breen is the younger brother of Joe Breen, who played for Souths in 1915-18 and Mascot in 1919-22 (as club captain). Jim was born in 1899 at Waterloo (Sydney) and died in 1957 at Sydney. He played in one first grade game in 1924 and a further ten games in the top grade in 1928 (all as captain). His Souths career started in 1920 with their Presidents Cup side, which lost the Final that year to Easts by 7-0. He also played for Mascot third grade in 1920-22, winning the premiership with the Mascot Two Blues in 1921-22, with his brother Joe. Jim lived at Alexandria and later at Kensington, working as a tram employee. In the 1930s he coached his junior club Alexandria, and in 1944 he coached Souths’ Presidents Cup side.
5. Bob McWilliams – Player no. 1187 – First Grade Debut: 1958 vs Canterbury-Bankstown (round 12)
Bob McWilliams is the younger brother of Bruce McWilliams, who also played for Souths. Bob was born in 1937 in Sydney and played his junior football with Alexandria Rovers. He played two first grade games for Souths in 1958 and then joined Canterbury in 1961. Bob was a regular in Canterbury’s reserve grade side and received his opportunity in first grade against Newtown in 1961, when Ray Gartner was injured (round three). After a late start to the season in 1962, Bob only played two further games in third grade for the Berries before retiring.
6. Darren Kay – Player no. 1188 – First Grade debut: 1990 vs Canberra (round 22)
Darren Kay came on as a blood bin replacement against Canberra in the last round of 1990 season, which is confirmed in our 1990 Annual Report and by him. He was on the field for only 2-3 minutes and that’s why none of the newspapers or magazines noted him in their match reports or line-ups. Kay is the second cousin of Johnny Kay, who also played for Souths. He was born in 1969 at Crown Street Women’s Hospital (Sydney), playing his junior football with Mascot Jets and Carrington Cougars. Kay quit Souths at the end of 1991 season because he wanted to play alongside his mates in the junior league. He's been employed by the local council as a landscape gardener for over 30 years.