The South Sydney Rabbitohs are mourning the passing of former first grade player and Life Member, Jeff Withers, who passed away overnight, aged 74.

Jeffrey Mervyn Withers was born in Redfern in 1949, not far from the South Sydney headquarters at Chalmers Street. He received his schooling at the well-known Cleveland High School, which was a rugby union stronghold in the heart of Rugby League territory. When he left Cleveland High School he joined Moore Park, one of Souths' junior teams, but in 1967 he switched codes to play with the South Sydney rugby union team in the second division. He returned to Rugby League in 1969 and made South Sydney's President’s Cup side, who won the premiership that year by defeating St George in the final by 14-5. Mr Withers played as a centre in the final and kicked a goal.

The following year Mr Withers was graded with Souths and had to be content playing in the lower grades because of the galaxy of established stars at Souths at the time, making the odd appearance in first grade when he was needed to fill in because of injury. He made his first grade debut in 1971 against North Sydney in round 20 at North Sydney Oval, scoring a try on debut.

In 1973, he came into his own as a speedy centre or pivot and deservedly won representative selection in 1975, when he represented City Seconds in the annual City-Country clash, which City Seconds won by 28-8. He then came on as a replacement for Tom Raudonikis in the City Firsts, who were defeated in a major upset by Country Firsts by 19-9. That was the last time Country Firsts inflicted defeat on their City cousins and one of the reasons why the format was changed to an Origin fixture from 1987 onwards.

In his eight-year grade career with the Rabbitohs, Mr Withers played in 157 grade games, including 54 in first grade, scoring 14 tries. He also played first grade in the Wills Cup pre-season tournament playing 15 games and scoring two tries, as well as the Amco Cup mid-week competition where he played three games, scoring two tries.

After hanging up his boots, Mr Withers developed a strong reputation as a first-class tiler, often sought after by leading builders for his great work.

He was also inducted as a Life Member of the South Sydney Football Club at the 95th Annual General Meeting held at the South Sydney Leagues Club in Redfern on 30 March 2003.

On behalf of everyone connected with the Rabbitohs, we offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Jeff Withers.


A celebration of Mr Withers' life will be held on Friday 6 October at 12pm at Gymea Bowling Club. All are welcome to attend to celebrate the life of the former Rabbitoh.

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