The South Sydney Rabbitohs face off with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in the NRL Grand Final this Sunday evening. The last time these two teams played against one another in a grand final, it was 1967.
ANZ Stadium has all but sold out of tickets to this event, one that has been a very long time coming. May the best team win!
My family and I have been staunch South Sydney Rabbitohs (Rugby League) supporters for as long as I can remember. I grew up in the heart of Rabbitoh territory where people were (and still are) incredibly passionate about their team. I sat on ‘the hill’ at their home ground Redfern Oval and waved my flag and chased players for autographs. It was a part of my upbringing and I remember it fondly.
Why are they called the Rabbitohs I hear you ask? The story that I have heard is that in times dating back even before the Great Depression, rabbits (which were cheap because of their abundance) were skinned and sold on the streets to be eaten. The seller would cry out “Rabbitoh” to let people know he was selling rabbits.
A foundation club (established in 1908) they are the club who has won the most First Grade premierships of any other. They have been known as The Pride of the League but they have seen many tough years since their 1989 season. I was at the game with my brother in 1989 when they won the minor premiership. It was the last year they would really have success until more recently.
In the darker years, they struck financial difficulties and achieved very little success on the field. With the mess that followed the Super League War and with the foundation of the National Rugby League, it was decided that only 14 teams would make up the competition in 2000. Some teams merged and many survived. Souths were not one of those teams and they were kicked out of the league. This broke many Rabbitoh fan’s hearts, my brother’s especially.
A long legal battle proceeded. Fans, not just from Souths Sydney but other teams who supported their fight, rallied in Sydney’s streets. Upon appeal to the Federal Court in 2001, South Sydney won readmission into the league for the 2002 season.
“We’re Back” stickers donned many a car bumper in South Eastern Sydney. Rabbitoh supporters were loud and proud again but fielding a successful football side would not be immediate. We finished near the bottom of the table for some years to come. Fans faced years of ridicule but so many stayed loyal. Red and green (the team’s colours) ran through their veins.
The club was taken over by actor Russell Crowe and businessman Peter Holmes a Court in 2006. This gave the club greater financial stability and they were able to attract higher profile players to the club. 2007 saw ‘the Bunnies’ make the finals. A feat that had not been achieved by the club since the game I attended in 1989.
They have had strong seasons since but none as successful as this year. Their current club membership is the most of any club in the league and growing. Dora is a Baby Bunny Member!
So, why do I love them? Firstly because they remind me of my youth and family. They remind me of where I came from, a small working class suburb in the south-east of Sydney. They remind me that big things are possible if you are prepared to fight for them and they remind me the importance of never giving up.
Bring on the game and go the mighty Rabbitohs! Are you passionate about a sports team? I’d love to hear about it!
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