Scores To Settle

 

Played

Won 

Lost 

 Draw

For 

Against 

W% 

All Time 

55

22

31

2

953

1349

40%

Finals

4

2

2

0

89

98

50%

Last 10 Years

13

6

7

0

329 (Avg 25 ppg)

354 (Avg 27 ppg)

46%

The very first premiership match ever played by the Canberra Raiders was against South Sydney on February 27, 1982 at Redfern Oval. The Rabbitohs made comfortable work of it, winning 37-7, but the ease of that first victory gave absolutely no indication what an absolute pain Canberra would become for us. Within eight years, the Raiders would inflict two of the Rabbitohs' most painful defeats of the modern era. 

Perhaps the second time we played them in 1982 was an early warning. After 14 rounds that season the Rabbitohs were on fire, with 11 wins on the board, while Canberra had won just one match by a single point. Yet on an absolutely arctic Sunday afternoon at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan, the Raiders, captained by former Souths forward David Grant, jumped out to an early lead and were never headed, winning 23-18 amid scenes of unbridled joy amongst the local fans. It was a very long, quiet trip back to Sydney.

The Raiders quickly gained a foothold in the competition and in just their third season they qualified for a Tuesday night play-off with Souths for the last spot in the 1984 semifinals. The match was the Rabbitohs first chance to play in the finals since 1980, and we were on song. Tries to fullback Bronco Djura, half Craig Coleman, winger Ross Harrington and lock Mark Ellison (from a spectacular in-goal diving catch of a Neil Baker chip kick) carried us to a convincing 23-4 victory. It seemed that the Raiders were not yet ready for the big time. But, if Souths wounded Canberra's pride that night, we were to pay a very heavy price for our victory in the not too distant future.

During the first half of the 1980s the Rabbitohs gradually built a formidable side, with Mario Fenech, Craig Coleman, Les Davidson, David Boyle and Ian Roberts making names for themselves. It had the smell of another Rabbitoh golden era in the making.

In 1986, Souths led the competition right up until the final round but stumbled badly in the finals, a lack of experience cruelling us when it counted. But the following year, despite dropping our first three matches, the team grew in confidence as the season progressed, roaring up the table with 13 wins and a draw from the next 19 games. Souths decided to move their home games the following season to the brand new Sydney Football Stadium, and in the second last round of 1987, our final game at Redfern Oval was played - against Canberra. It was a hugely emotional occasion for the Club, and as the Under 23s and Reserves ran up easy victories, it seemed a day of celebration was unfolding. Although the Raiders were looking good for a place in the semi-finals as well, the Rabbitohs were in such great form that a victory seemed almost a formality.

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell Canberra. Led by the gargantuan Sam Backo, they steamrolled the Souths pack on our own turf, paving the way for a crushing 26-2 victory. It was a day when a sickly lime green dye was cast over our premiership hopes; a dye that was to fix into an ugly, persistent stain.

We lost the following week as well but still squeaked into the semi-finals in fifth place. When we dispatched Balmain in the first week of the finals, it was all on again. Canberra were hammered by the Roosters and had to line up against us the next weekend in the knockout semi. It seemed like the ideal opportunity to take revenge for spoiling our Redfern Oval farewell party. But again, it was not to be.

Nobody who was at the Sydney Cricket Ground that day will forget what happened, but one man will no doubt remember it clearer than most. On that dramatic Saturday afternoon, Souths young winger Steve Mavin was targeted from the opening whistle by an astute and ruthless Canberra kicking strategy. Three times in the first 15 minutes they kicked to him; three times the ball ricocheted from his body and three times it resulted in Canberra tries. By halftime the score was 28-6. The game, and the season, was gone. By the end of that horrendous afternoon the SCG scoreboard pronounced that we had lost our last semi-final on the hallowed ground by 46-12. 

The "golden era that wasn't" stuttered in 1988 when we missed the semis, but in 1989 the long, 18-year wait for a Premiership seemed, truly, to be reaching an end. We simply trampled over the competition that year, losing just three matches and winning the minor premiership by a clear five points.

The major semi-final was a dramatic slug fest against Balmain, which we lost 20-10. The next week we faced our destiny in the Preliminary Final against the Raiders, a club building a killer team of its own.

In the most awful deja vu imaginable, the Raiders scored twice in the first 10 minutes to lead

10-0. Despite a crippling injury toll that saw three players retire before halftime, we fought back to be level 12-all at the break. After halftime the Raiders kicked a penalty goal and then scored a try, yet still the gutsy Rabbitohs didn't give in. Skipper Mario Fenech scored to get us back to 20-16 down and the match hung in the balance, right up until the final minutes. Then the Raiders broke us with two converted tries and that was it. 32-16 at full time. Many Souths fans, so near to that elusive 21st premiership, yet so far, wept in their seats. The dream was over. The following weekend, Canberra would triumph in one of the greatest ever Grand Finals, but that meant nothing to us. 1989 was the Premiership that got away and the late '80s was the golden era that got away.

The pendulum had truly swung the way of the Raiders, as we would go on to lose nine of our next ten throughout the 1990s, with some big scores put on us in the process.

Since then though, it hasn't been all bad. In the second week of the fateful 1999 season, despite young gun Craig Wing being carried off after the very first tackle of the match, we beat them 21- 14 in a superb display that set the scene for our early season heroics that year.

Following our two years out of the competition in 2000 and 2001, we re-entered the NRL and in just our second week back we played Canberra in the national capital on a beautiful Saturday night. The match see-sawed for a while but we skipped away to lead 24-12 just after halftime. Canberra got back to 24-22 and the score remained that way until the last five minutes, when five-eighth Owen Craigie regathered his own grubber kick and passed to half Blaine Stanley for the match-sealing try.

Souths fans celebrated like we had won the Premiership. Our longest ever drought of 986 days between victories was over.

In 2006, having won just one game all season, we faced the Raiders at Telstra Stadium in Round 21 and came out firing on all cylinders. David Peachey opened our account, Paul Mellor followed it up, and with Nathan Merritt then scoring twice in 11 minutes all of a sudden it was 20-0. A Ben Rogers field goal was our only further contribution to the scoreboard, but it was enough to seal a terrific 21-8 win.

In the last decade we have finally seemed to avenge our losses from the 1980s.

Our first win against the Raiders in that period came on ANZAC Day in 2010 in Round 7 at Bruce Stadium. We had started our season with three wins and three losses, and needed a victory to keep within sight of the early season pace setters.

Despite scoring first through the mercurial John Sutton, the green machine sprung to life and laid on four tries to lead 24-6 at the break. Whatever was said in the dressing room at half time worked like a charm, and the red and green machine came out inspired for the second half. Tries to Nathan Merritt, Issac Luke, David Taylor and Rhys Wesser completed an amazing 26-24 comeback victory.

That match kicked off a five-game winning streak against the Canberrans.

A year later we returned to the ACT in Round 23 and this time it was one-way traffic from Souths as we piled on eight tries in a sensational 29-point win.

We got off to a strong start as Chris Sandow scooped up a Raiders attacking grubber and dashed 80 metres up field, sending Dylan Farrell over the line. By half time we had scored three more tries, including a long-range intercept to Greg Inglis, to give us a commanding 24-6 lead.

The Rabbitohs continued the rout after the break, Nathan Merritt finishing the match with a hat-trick, with Sandow booting a field goal for a final score of 47-18 and our biggest win against the Raiders since our first meeting with them in 1982.

In 2012 we chalked up a comprehensive 36-18 victory in Round 12, but our most important match against the Raiders since the 1989 Preliminary Final took place later that year in the Elimination Final at ANZ Stadium. Having made the Top 4 for the first time in 23 years, we had gone down to the Melbourne Storm in the previous week’s Qualifying Final and we faced the Raiders in a fight for a spot in the Preliminary Final.

The match began well and, with halfback Adam Reynolds and winger Andrew Everingham notching early tries, we held a commanding 14-nil lead after just twenty minutes. The Raiders returned serve with back to back tries, but Sam Burgess crossed just before halftime to give us a 20-10 lead at the break.

While the Raiders gave us a few scares during the second half, we continued the momentum with a penalty try to Greg Inglis sealing the result as we ran away with a 38-16 victory. The historic win landed Souths in their first Preliminary Final in over two decades, and marked the Club’s first finals victory since 1987. And as the Rabbitoh faithful headed home full of excitement and anticipation for the following week, it somehow felt as if the ghosts from those devastating losses to the Raiders during the late 80s may have finally been put to rest. Indeed, it seemed like that lime green stain was finally coming out. 

Our domination continued into 2013 as we stepped up another gear as a side, keeping the Raiders tryless against us for the first time since 1990 as we recorded a dominant 32-2 win on a soggy night in Sydney. 

Yet in Round 4 of the following year, on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium, the Raiders ran us off the park, with Souths Junior Reece Robinson bagging a double to set up a

22-0 halftime lead. Rabbitoh fans were so disgusted with the performance to that point that some even booed their side going into the sheds. We struck back through Dylan Walker and George Burgess in quick succession after half time, but the Raiders left with a convincing 30-18 win. We had lost three of our first four matches and the 2014 season was suddenly in trouble. 

However the next time we met the Raiders, in Round 20 on a freezing Monday night in the nation’s capital things had most definitely changed. And that match seemed to be one of the catalysts in our run to the premiership.  

Things looked dire early on as five-eighth and skipper John Sutton left the field with a leg problem, which forced young gun Luke Keary to take his place from the bench. Despite missing all three conversions in the first half, halfback Adam Reynolds would not be deterred as he conducted the side to a 12-2 lead at the break.

Souths went right on with it in the second half as Reynolds bagged a double and we powered to a 34-18 victory. The absence of Sutton for the next five games turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Keary cemented a spot in the no.6 jersey for the rest of the season. When our captain returned in would be in the back row. Sutton’s strength and skill in the forwards, along with the killer Reynolds-Keary combination in the halves, rounded off the side that would win our 21st premiership.  

We haven’t beaten the Raiders since 2014 though, and it seems they have enjoyed pulling our pants down in recent years, winning the last three encounters against us convincingly, including a demoralising 54-4 loss in 2016, our biggest ever defeat against them.

Our history against the men from the nation’s capital feels a bit like a pendulum in motion, with periods of dominance on either side. There have been several matches along the way where the stakes were sky high, and nearly 30 years ago a few of those games damaged the Rabbitohs significantly. The period between 1986 and 1989 saw a wonderful Souths team denied the Premiership victory that they probably could have had. Denied twice by the Canberra Raiders.

And although we may well have settled that score and the Raiders glory days are now long gone, they have never been, and must never be, an opponent to take lightly. 

To beat Canberra requires a keen understanding that they can get you when you least expect it; that they can play above themselves any week of the year, without warning. In order to triumph, we must be cool and calm, yet play with an intensity which ensures not a moment of relaxation, not a second of inattention. 

Then we can continue to drag that pendulum back our way. Continue to avenge what they did to us during the late 1980s.

During the golden era that never was.