On this day, 28 March, back in 1908, the South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club played its first ever trial game against another Club, that being arch-nemesis, Eastern Suburbs.

Arthur Hennessy, who is also known as ‘The Father of South Sydney’ issued a circular to all rugby union clubs inside the South Sydney district convening a meeting at his house in Chapman Street, Surry Hills, in October 1907 with the object of forming a League club. The South Sydney Rugby League Football Club was eventually formed after a meeting was held at Redfern Town Hall on 17 January 1908.

The Club held training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday nights at Alf Pick’s Hotel, and on Saturday, 21 March 1908, they organised their first ever practice match to be played between Souths Possibles Souths Probables. This was the first ever game of Rugby League played in Australia. Billy Cann captained the Possibles and Arthur Hennessy was captain of the Probables team. The Probables led 6-5 at half-time, but were pipped in the end to lose 9-8. The game was played with only 12 players on each side, probably because they only had 24 players registered with the Club at the time.

The following Saturday, 28 March, two trial games were organised by the NSWRL to be played at Rosebery Park, with Glebe defeating Newtown by 3-0 in the early game, and Souths were up against their arch-rivals in Eastern Suburbs, in the main game which was played afterwards. These two games were the first ever games played between proper first grade sides in Australia under Rugby League rules. Only two newspapers published a story on these matches. The Sunday Times noted that Tom McCabe refereed the match, who incidentally scored Glebe’s try in the early game. It also said this match was much more interesting than the former match.

The Sunday Sun noted that Stone, Billy Cann, Arthur Butler, Moss, Arthur Hennessy and Tom McCann were the pick of South Sydney, while William Smith, Percy McNamara, Horrie Miller, Bob Mable and George Green played best for Eastern Suburbs. Butler and Frank Storey scored tries for Souths, while Smith and McNamara scored tries for Easts.

Souths and Easts met again the following week in another trial, played at the Agricultural Ground, which Souths won by 11-6. They were by far the two strongest clubs in the League in 1908 and in the four games they played against each other Souths lost only one game in round four against them, which was by a point 13-12, when Souths scored four tries to three and couldn’t convert any goals on the day. This also proved to be Souths’ only loss all year as the Rabbitohs went on a rampage afterwards to claim their first every premiership after defeating Eastern Suburbs in the Final by 14-12.

The Rabbitohs had six players included in the First Kangaroos squad which toured England and Wales in 1908-09. They were Arthur Hennessy, John Rosewell, Tom Anderson, Arthur Butler, Billy Cann and Jim Davis. They all left aboard the Macedonia when the semi-finals were played on 15 August. A telegram was later sent to Hennessy in England telling him that Souths were premiers.


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