South Sydney Rabbitohs

South Sydney Rabbitohs


South Sydney Rabbitohs

The South Sydney Rabbitohs (commonly nicknamed "Souths", "the Bunnies" or "the Pride of the League") are a team in the National Rugby League (NRL), the premier rugby league competition in Australia.

The club was founded in 1908 and was one of the foundation members in the then New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) competition, predecessor of the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and the current NRL competition. They are one of only two foundation clubs still present in the league, the other being the Sydney Roosters.

The Rabbitohs were traditionally based in the south of Sydney, and have previously played out of Redfern Oval then Aussie Stadium, but their current home ground is Telstra Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park.

South Sydney are the most successful team in the history of Australian rugby league in terms of premierships, winning an unprecedented 20 first grade premierships. However, they have not won a premiership since 1971, and last made the finals in 1989.

Legend of the "Rabbitohs" name

The original Rabbitohs emblem introduced in 1959. One version of how the club got the "Rabbitohs" nickname comes from their rugby union days at the turn of the 20th century. In those hard times, players wearing their cardinal red and myrtle green football jumpers, earned some extra money on Saturday mornings by hawking rabbits around the district with the traditional cry of "Rabbitoh!" echoing through the narrow streets. As they made a sale, they would sling the bunny from their shoulder and skin it on the spot, inevitably accumulating some of the fur and blood on their jerseys as they did so. When they played in those blood stained jumpers that afternoon, opponents from wealthier rugby clubs did not always appreciate the aroma and would mockingly repeat the 'Rabbitoh!' cry.

Another version relates that the Rabbitoh name was a derogatory reference by opposing teams to South's home ground being littered with "rabbit 'oles". In those early days Redfern Oval was then known as Nathan's Cow Paddock.

Emblem and Jersey

South Sydney Rabbitohs 2007 jersey.The "Rabbitoh" emblem (a white running rabbit) first appeared on the team's jersey in 1959. The Rabbitoh emblem has in various forms been carried as the club's crest on all players jerseys ever since. The "Rabbitoh" emblem is one of the most recognised symbols in Australian sport and is regarded as an icon of rugby league in Australia.

The jersey itself comprised cardinal red and myrtle green hoops for the majority of Souths' history. Exceptions were during seasons 1945 and 1946 when the jersey was green with a red "V" and during the early 1980s when the so-called "minties" jersey of green with red and white bands was used for a number of seasons. Since re-admission (post 2002) Souths have also employed a predominantly white 'away' jersey on occasion. The 'away' jersey was changed to a predominantly black design for season 2006.

For the 2007 season the 'away' jersey would be the same design as the 'home' jersey (i.e. the traditional cardinal red and myrtle green hoops design with black shorts and red and green hooped socks) with the exception that the rabbit emblem and sponsorship decals will be black instead of the white decals used on the 'home' jersey. The 'away' jersey will also carry the name of a different major sponsor to that carried on the 'home' jersey.

For season 2007, on both the 'home' and 'away' jerseys the "Rabbitoh" emblem will revert to the original rabbit design that appeared on the team's jerseys throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Club History
For more details on this topic, see South Sydney Rabbitohs history.

Early years
South Sydney was the third rugby league football club founded in Australia after Glebe and Newtown. The Club was founded on Friday 17 January 1908 at Redfern Town Hall when J J Giltinan was joined on the podium by cricketer Victor Trumper and politician Henry Clement Hoyle before a large crowd of supporters.

Souths took part in the first game of the inaugural competition when it started on Easter Monday, 20th April, 1908. They defeated North Sydney 11-7 at Birchgrove Oval. Souths won the inaugural Sydney premiership beating Eastern Suburbs 14-12 in the final and backed it up the following year in extraordinary circumstances when opponents Balmain refused to show up in protest of the final being played as a prelude to a Kangaroos v Wallabies match. South Sydney kicked off to no one and were declared premiers.

After premierships in 1914 and 1918, Souths enjoyed the first of three golden premiership eras they would enjoy winning seven out of eight premierships from 1925-32, only missing out in 1930 where Wests broke through for their maiden premiership. Star players in Souths first golden era included five-eighth Alf "Smacker" Blair, Eddie Root, try scoring winger Benny Wearing (144 career tries), Alf O'Connor and second row forward George Treweek.

In 1925 South's won 15 games straight to go through the first grade season undefeated. The 1925 team is still the only Souths team to go through the first grade season undefeated.

Such was Souths dominance in the early years of the rugby league competition that the Rabbitohs were labelled "The Pride of the League".

The 1950s golden era

"The Little Master" - Clive Churchill.Souths 12th premiership came in 1950 where they won five of the next six titles, missing out in 1952 in a very controversial final against Western Suburbs where Souths had a fair try disallowed. It was Wests 4th and final premiership. Leading the charge for Souths was captain Jack Rayner whose side included Chicka Cowie, Johnny Graves, Ian Moir, Greg Hawick, Ernie Hammerton, goal-kicking forward Bernie Purcell and the great Clive Churchill.

In the 1951 grand final Souths thrashed Manly in a devastating display 42-14. The 42 points remains the highest score by a team in a grand final.

The story of what Souths achieved in the season of 1955 is among the most famous in Australian sport. "The miracle of '55" was an epic fight in which the Rabbitohs won 11 virtual sudden-death matches in a row to steal the premiership. After the first match of the second round they had been equal second last on the ladder. In their incredible run home they came from behind in no less than five matches to win and earn themselves fourth spot and a place in the semi-finals. They beat Manly 14-12 in a desperate semi-final. They were down 14-11 in the final against St. George when in the dying minutes a try by winger Ian Moir and a pressure goal kicked by Bernie Purcell got them home. The grand final against Newtown was a fitting finale after such a season. Newtown led 11-7 with six minutes to go. But the never-say-die Souths scrambled a try to halfback Col Donohoe and converted it through Purcell to complete the fairytale with a 12-11 last gasp victory.

"The Little Master"
The heart and soul of the Rabbitohs in the 1950s was undoubtedly Clive Churchill. Universially Churchill is regarded as the greatest ever Australian Rugby League player.

"The Little Master" as he was nicknamed by admirers was a courageous and genius fullback originally hailing from Newcastle. Souths signed him up as a youngster and he would be a central figure in two of Souths golden eras. Churchill also captained Australia in a record 24 Test matches but strangely didn't captain Souths to a premiership. After being the main player in Souths golden run between 1950-55, Churchill was back as coach in 1967 to help end the dominance of St. George and steer the Rabbitohs to their final four premierships.

The 1960s and 1970s glory years
Souths second golden era ended in 1955 and their final golden era started in 1967 with the remarkable St. George era of 11 consecutive premierships in between two special periods in the history of South Sydney. Churchill came back to coach the Rabbitohs and built a premiership team around a tough pack of forwards including Ron Coote (who was Australia's second best ever lock after John Raper), Bob McCarthy (who scored over 100 first grade tries), Gary Stevens, Bob Moses, John O'Neill, Jim Morgan, Elwyn Walters and inspirational captain John Sattler.

South Sydney goal kicking legend Eric SimmsSigns that a great Souths side was in the making emerged in 1965 when a then record crowd of 78,056 supporters packed the SCG to see a young Souths team coached by Bernie Purcell take on the mighty St. George in the grand final. Souths had already beaten Saints twice during the 1965 season and the huge crowd showed up expecting to see an end to the Dragons' decade of dominance. Souths showed great heart in going down 12-8 in one of the most memorable grand finals of all time.

Souths would win four of the next five premierships between 1967 and 1971. In the 1967 grand final Souths beat Canterbury 12-10 following a spectacular intercept try by second row forward Bob McCarthy. In 1968 Souths defeated Manly 13-9 featuring a solo length of the field try by winger Mike Cleary. Souths lost the 1969 grand final 11-2 to Balmain who devised a controversial plan of "go slow" tactics in order to successfully disrupt Souths play. Souths convincingly beat Manly in the 1970 grand final with halfback Bob Grant starring with 2 tries. Souths last grand final victory in 1971 saw them beat back a determined comeback by St. George in the second half to take out the game 16-10.

During this golden era Souths backline also had plenty of class including goal kicking legend Eric Simms, dual rugby internationals Michael Cleary and Jimmy Lisle, Paul Sait, Bob Honan, Brian James, brothers Ray and Arthur Branighan, Dennis Pittard and Bob Grant. Only Arthur Branighan didn't achieve International status of the 1970 grand final side that beat Manly 23-12. Souths was a team of plenty of courage and that was highlighted by captain John Sattler in the 1970 grand final when in the early minutes he was "king-hit" late and unexpectedly by Manly prop John Bucknall. The hit broke Sattler's jaw but he continued to play on for the full match and to inspirationally lead by example.

Hard times and an 1980s revival
Financial problems started to hit Souths and key players from from their grand final sides of the early '70s headed to either Manly (John O'Neill, Ray Branighan, Bob Moses) or Easts (Ron Coote, Michael Cleary, Elwyn Walters) where both those clubs achieved premiership success after buying the champions Souths produced. Souths Leagues Club's doors were closed in 1973 but a 'Save Our Souths' campaign ensured the Rabbitohs survived. They went through tough times but always found a way to get by through tremendous spirit and hard workers.

Things began to turn around in 1978 when under new coach Jack Gibson, Souths won the pre-season competition (10-3 over Canterbury) and finished the season second in the club championship.

Souths only trophies in the 1980s were the win over Cronulla in the final of the mid-week Tooth Cup competition in 1981 and victory in the pre-season 'Sevens' competition in 1988. In the premiership Souths made the semi-finals in 1980, 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1989, a year in which they were runaway minor premiers and also took out the Club Championship.

In 1984 Souths came from 0-14 behind to beat Manly 22-18 in a memorable first semi final but were knocked out the following week by St. George, but their best two years were 1986 and 1989 under the leadership of Mario Fenech. The Rabbitohs just missed out on the minor premiership in 1986 and sadly lost both semi finals to Canterbury and Balmain to be bundled out.

Souths led from basically start to finish in 1989 remarkably not losing a single match away from the Sydney Football Stadium. However, come finals time, they lost a classic semi-final to Balmain and Canberra a week later powered home to end Souths best chance of getting back to the glory years.

Apart from hooker and captain Fenech, Souths stars during this period included forwards Les Davidson and Ian Roberts, halfback Craig Coleman and mercurial five-eighth Phil Blake.

The troubled 1990s and exclusion
More troubles hit Souths in the 1990s where they went from minor premiers in 1989 to wooden spooners in 1990. It was tough times but led from the front by George Piggins, Souths again just did enough to survive in the competition but much of the time made up the bottom of the ladder. They played some enterprising footy at times and in 1994 took out the pre-season competition defeating two-time premiers Brisbane 27-26 in the final.

However, lack of funds saw Souths unable to keep their top players (including captain Mario Fenech, Les Davidson, Mark Carroll and Craig Field) and a lot of talented young juniors were lost and went on to represent Australia from other clubs (these included Jim Dymock, Ian Roberts, Jim Serdaris, Terry Hill and later Craig Wing and Braith Anasta when the club was excluded from the competition).

The outbreak of Super League was going to affect the future of Souths with the vision to cut Sydney sides with Souths in the firing line. Refusing to merge or drop out, the NRL (a merger of Super League and ARL) cut South Sydney from the premiership for the 2000 season. The NRL set a bar of 14-teams and with 15 applicants, Souths were the team to miss out. Souths were finally starting to show some promise and strong management in 1999 when the cut came.

Souths fought their way back through the court rooms and public rallies generating a swell of support throughout Sydney and Australia as they took on the heavies at the NRL and News Limited. Souths won re-admission on appeal during the 2001 season and were brought back into the NRL competition for the 2002 season.

Recent history
For more details on this topic, see South Sydney Rabbitohs history.

2002-04 Seasons

Bryan Fletcher playing for the RabbitohsAfter being ousted from the NRL league competition in 1999, the Rabbitohs were granted re-admission in 2002 after court action. Not surprisingly, after having to create an entirely new team for the season, the Rabbitohs were not at their former best and performed disappointingly during their return season. Be that as it may, they did manage to notch up wins over various clubs, including two over Canberra. 2003 saw the team finish as wooden spooners, but they did acquire various new players including Bryan Fletcher, Ashley Harrison, Justin Smith, Luke MacDougall and Mark Minichello. Sadly, 2004 was another less-than-successful campaign on the field. Off the field, however, it was announced that Penrith CEO Shane Richardson would be quitting his post there to head up the Rabbitohs.

2005 Season
The season was just two rounds old and already the Rabbitohs had a thunderous 49-26 win on the board over the Parramatta Eels. Luke MacDougall scored a hat-trick of tries with half back Joe Williams kicking eight conversions and a field goal.

The Rabbitohs would be winless again until Round 5, when they defeated the Newcastle Knights 37-12 at Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, before a crowd of 16,162.

For the next eight rounds, the Rabbitohs suffered loss after loss with the only relief being the bye in Round 8. After a promising start, Season 2005 was shaping up much like the last few years for the Rabbitohs, but it was not to be.

Many cite the turning point as Round 13, against the Bulldogs. Souths held the reigning premiers to a shock 21-all draw, and thereafter, momentum suddenly seemed to be swinging back the Bunnies' way. A week later they hammered Manly 44-6, and though they went on to lose three more consecutively after that (including a second to arch-rivals St George Illawarra Dragons), they bounced back to win 5 of their last 6, beginning with a 24-14 win over Cronulla at the Sydney Football Stadium, and highlighted with a hard-fought 16-14 downing of the North Queensland Cowboys at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville. Finally overcoming the Bulldogs in Round 21, the Rabbitohs also defeated the Sydney Roosters in Sydney 17-16 in a hard fought and spiteful encounter.

All in all, Season 2005 was the most promising since re-admission; under coach Shaun McRae the team were beginning to look like a renewed force. Luke MacDougall and Ashley Harrison both had solid seasons, though Harrison left the club at the end of the season to play for the Sydney Roosters.

Their form in the latter part of 2005 was excellent and augured well for 2006. Their reasonably strong finish handed the bottom place on the NRL ladder to the Newcastle Knights, therefore avoiding the horrible fate of receiving three wooden-spoons in a row. Their last match was against the Sharks at Toyota Stadium (the Sharks home ground). Souths won this in convincing fashion, with young five-eighth John Sutton making a significant impression.

South Sydney finished the 2005 season level on 23 premiership points with 2004 premiers the Canterbury Bulldogs.

2006 Season
Souths acquired many sound players for 2006 including Joe Galuvao, Stuart Webb, Jaiman Lowe and Ben Rogers. They also re-signed key five-eighth/lock John Sutton for several years.

Despite coming close, Souths were yet to score a win after round ten but had showed significant progress. One area of weakness nominated by fans included the half back position. An injury to regular half-back Ben Walker took a heavy toll in the team's performances. Players who have made a big impact in a losing side included David Fa'alogo (a New Zealand International), Todd Polglase and Nathan Merritt.

David Peachey came to the club after being sacked by his English club Widnes. After coming to Souths, Peachey helped steer the Rabbitohs to an unlucky 2 point loss to Canberra in round 13. On 11 June 2006, in his second match for the Rabbitohs, Peachey steered the bottom of the table Souths to their first win of the 2006 season with a commanding 34-16 win over the second placed Brisbane Broncos. This was Souths first win over the Broncos since 1989.

On 25 June Souths suffered their worst defeat ever, going down 66-0 to the New Zealand Warriors at Telstra Stadium. The performance was so poor that the team was booed off the field by its own fans at full-time which was extraordinary given the loyal attitude of their followers.

New 2007 South Sydney recruit Dean Widders playing for ParramattaSouths second win of the season was against the Canberra Raiders on 29th July 2006 where they won 21-8. On the 6th of August, the Rabbitohs then beat the top-eight placed Penrith Panthers 32-26, all but ending Penrith's challenge for a finals berth. The win included three tries for winger Merritt to take his season total to 20 - the highest season try tally for a Souths player since the 1950s (Merritt finished the season as the NRL's leading try scorer with 22 tries).

The Rabbitohs then announced a series of shock big-name player signings for season 2007 including Roy Asotasi (prop from the Bulldogs), Daniel Irvine (hooker from the Bulldogs), David Kidwell (back row forward from Melbourne), Nigel Vagana (centre from Cronulla), Dean Widders (utility forward from Parramatta), Reece Simmonds (utility from St George Illawarra) and Jeremy Smith (second choice half-back from Parramatta). Of these, Roy Asotasi, was extremely popular with fans as he is currently considered by many as the top prop forwards in the game.

Off-field the club had secured Jason Taylor (current Parramatta coach to be assistant coach at Souths), Mark Hughes (former Head of Recruitment at the Bulldogs), Errol Alcott (formerly Australian cricket team's head physiotherapist), Anthony Mundine (appointed as Indigenous Liaison Officer), former NZ cricket captain Martin Crowe (as a board member) and former Kiwi international Tawera Nikau (appointed as Kiwi and Islander Liasion Officer) as well as others.

On 30 August, 2006 Jason Taylor was appointed head coach in place of Shaun McRae for seasons 2007 and 2008.

In a members meeting on 6th December 2006, Taylor nominated Reece Simmonds and Peter Cusack as the leading trainers although he refused to confirm who would be captaining the side in 2007. Taylor also noted that defence will be a key aspect of the clubs training regime and that the players would spend 1.5 hours after a match winding down as opposed to the more recent maximum of 30 minutes.

Privatisation of the Football Club
Russell Crowe, the hollywood actor, has been a fervent "Rabbitohs" supporter for years, helping the club during their exile from the NRL. He has been criticised at various times for being too much of a supporter due to incidents such as his attempts to speak to the team during half-time and for his speeches. After prominent Sydney Rugby League reporter Danny Wiedler asked him why he did not buy the club, he initially answered that there would be too many issues. However he and Peter Holmes à Court eventually tabled a bid worth $3 million. This was bitterly resisted by former football club chairman George Piggins who thought the bid was not enough. During an extraordinary general meeting of members on 19 March 2006, the pair won the necessary 75% of the vote needed.

The club was officially handed over to Peter Holmes à Court and Russell Crowe on 7 June 2006. Holmes à Court and Crowe own 75% of the shares of the football club through Blackcourt League Investments. The football club members own the remaining 25% of shares through the South Sydney Members Rugby League Football Club.

The privatisation is partial only and the broad membership still retains full rights and effective control over such items as:

club name ("South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club") and nickname ("Rabbitohs");
rabbit logos;
team colours;
home ground being a venue within the South Sydney District (excluding Telstra Stadium);
team song;
entry into a merger, joint venture, amalgamation or any similar form of arrangement with any other rugby league club;
any decision to publicly list the share capital of the South Sydney Rabbitohs on the stock exchange.
None of the above items can be changed or implemented without the approval of at least 75% of the club membership.

As a result of the above arrangements, Peter Holmes à Court and Russell Crowe have effectively gained management control over the club whilst members in turn have been vested with true protection and control over the club's key heritage elements.

The Football Club is now united and confidently moving forward under this unique ownership arrangement.

Revitalisation of the Leagues Club
On 29 November 2006 the South Sydney Football Club was successful in its proposal for the South Sydney Leagues Club (which had previously been in voluntary administration), with Leagues Club members approving the Football Club's $13.1 million plans for the Leagues Club's redevelopment by winning an overwhelming 67% of the primary vote.

This ensures that the Leagues Club would remain at its current location in Redfern, be totally redeveloped with new Football Club offices, a Hall of Fame, state-of-the-art gymnasium and with new retail and commercial businesses operating from its premises. The successful proposal further ensures that the Leagues Club would be left debt free and with substantial cash reserves.

This would turn the financial fortunes of the Leagues Club around so as to put it in a position were it can meet its charter of providing ongoing annual funding to the Football Club (something the Leagues Club has not provided for the last 20 years).


Alliance with North Sydney Bears
On the 28th July, 2006 it was announced that the Rabbitohs had formed an alliance with former first grade foundation club the North Sydney Bears. Under the agreement the North Sydney Bears will act as the Rabbitohs’ feeder Club in the NSW Rugby League Premier League competition, allowing the Bears access to players contracted to the Rabbitohs who haven’t been selected in the NRL side.

North Sydney Bears General Manager Greg Florimo was quoted saying “We’re very excited to be involved with the Rabbitohs, particularly looking at the moves Souths have made recently, the move to privatisation and the strong recruitment drive that has taken place are very positive moves and we’re looking forward to being a part of the future.”

Alliance with Brisbane Eastern Suburbs Tigers
On the same date a further alliance was also announced withn Queensland Cup Club Brisbane Eastern Suburbs Tigers. Rabbitohs CEO Shane Richardson stated in relation to this alliance: "There is a wealth of talent in Queensland and we are looking forward to working with Easts in Brisbane in identifying the players we want to come through the ranks and play with our South Sydney junior players at the Rabbitohs in future years... these alliances we have formed will allow us to compete with other NRL Clubs that have established ties in the Queensland market."

On 19 December 2006, Members Equity Bank was announced as the club's major membership sponsor for the next 3 years. This is the first ever dedicated membership sponsorship in the NRL.

On 8 February 2007, it was announced that Virgin Blue has signed a two year sponsorship deal with the Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs are the first rugby league team Virgin Blue has sponsored.

Home Grounds and Stadiums

The Sydney Football Stadium as it appears whilst hosting a New South Wales Waratahs match.Royal Agricultural Society Showground (1908 - 1947)
Sydney Cricket Ground (1913 onwards)
Sydney Sports Ground (1928 - 1947)
Redfern Oval (1948 - 1987; some first grade matches played up to 1996)
Sydney Football Stadium (1988 - 2005)
Telstra Stadium (2006 - present)
During the club's early years home games were played either at the RAS Showground, SCG and later the Sports Ground.

The SCG was the base for Souths home games during various seasons (e.g. 1925) though many home games (generally 'match of the day' games) continued to be played there when Redfern Oval and the SFS where used as the team's home base.

Currently $19.5 million is being spent by the City of Sydney Council to completely upgrade and renovate Redfern Oval which will allow the Rabbitohs to return to Redfern in 2008 with state-of-the-art training facilities for players and coaches. The upgrade offers the Rabbitohs a professional standard playing surface and facilities to allow the oval to be used as their preferred training ground and for a limited number of pre-season and exhibition matches. Until the completion of the Redfern Park renovation, Souths will continue to use Erskinville Oval as their training base (this training facility has also been recently signficantly upgraded).

The Sydney Cricket Ground and Sports Ground Trust has voted to support the Rabbitohs returning to play at Aussie Stadium (formerly the Sydney Football Stadium). As a result it is likely that the Rabbitohs will return to playing in the Moore Park area in season 2009 once the current Telstra Stadium contract expires.

Club Song
Sung to the tune of the Battle Hymn Of The Republic:

South Sydney Marches On....
Glory, Glory to South Sydney
Glory, Glory to South Sydney
Glory, Glory to South Sydney
South Sydney Marches On
When speaking of the champions
One stands above the rest
Of glories old and records proud
When often put to test
Of fine traditions, history
That others cannot best
They wear the RED & GREEN
They mauled the Balmain Tigers
Slew the Dragons from St. George
The Seagulls and the Mounties next
Were crushed with mighty force
They humbled Parramatta
And the Berries in due course
They wear the RED & GREEN
They plucked the Western Magpies
Slashed the Newtown bag of blue
The Eastern Suburbs rooster crowed
And then was conquered too
The greatest name in any game
Within South Sydney grew
They wear the RED & GREEN


Mick Cutajar, Russell Crowe and Keith McCraw (Telstra Stadium)

South Sydney Rabbitohs (Souths and Russell Crowe surprise Mick Cutajar)


South Sydney Rabbitohs

Different Kind Of Rabbit

Leauge HQ (Fairfax) - Rabbitohs

South Side Story



Souths Juniors

Craig Wing

Dean Widders


Russell Crowe

Peter Holmes a Court

Greg Tingle, Mediaman director, before a Channel 31 TV taping at Souths (circa 2002)

Media Man publicly congratulates and thanks Virgin Blue on their sponsorship of Souths