One would think most rugby league fans would be celebrating South Sydney being on top of the ARL ladder this year. However there is a pervading sense that most would like to see South Sydney knocked off their perch.
How could this be so? Aren’t South Sydney the battlers? Aren’t they everyone’s third team?
Forty odd years ago everyone had three teams. Your own, often acquired through geographical circumstances or family influence. Then there was your second team – they were the team playing Manly that week and then there were the Rabbitohs – the battlers’ team. Everyone loved the Rabbits. Bobby McCarthy, Clive Churchill, John Sattler, Eric Simms, Percy Williams – the list goes on. It didn’t matter that Souths hadn’t won the big one since 1971. We wanted them to win. Or did we? Or was it just a sense of wanting a team that was struggling to do well, but not too well.
There is an interesting phenomenon of a silver sliver of middle class men who have never had a golden throat charmer of Reschs in their lives or been to Redfern Oval but who gather under the Bunnies banner. These cooler club fans simply seem to be over-compensating for the guilt of their class crimes or feel as if by supporting something ‘working class” they are adding another button to their character coat.
I mention this because I think we can chart the demise of general support for Souths from the time of intervention of two from the silver sliver. When the cranky old curmudgeon Georgie Piggins – the saviour of Souths was replaced by two well-heeled chaps, Rusty Cowe & Peter Holmes a Court something changed forever. Now it’s not as if Georgie was scratching for pennies because when a lot of players were buying Tooheys George was buying trucks – lots of trucks. However there was a strong argument that suggested that Souths were in financial trouble and that the only way forward was to ‘corporatise it’ with Rusty and Pete in charge.
This reinvention of the ‘Rusties’ saw Crowe dress the boys in Armani suits (which really only proved you cannot bronze turds) and bore them witless with his endless readings from his rewrite of the Book of Feuds. Some say Rusty fancies himself as the new Banjo Patterson and anyone who has heard his band, ‘Thirty Seconds Too Long’ would soundly agree. However membership and sponsorship are both up so it has, on the balance sheet at least, been a most successful coup. On the field after having got rid of successive coaches they are now leading the competition and are favourites to win the Grand Final. So two ticks.
But there is something different about the Armani Bunnies. They play a different style of football to the old Rabbitohs. There is a cheap nastiness about the way South’s play these days. The niggle and a pack brutality mark their game. It is best characterised by the Bovver Beagle Boys – Sam and George Burgess. A game doesn’t go by without Sam Beagle using his forearm like a sculptor, in a creative manner or a night out doesn’t end with George Beagle having a bit of a ‘laff’ by throwing a street sign through a car window. Have a look at Roy Asotasi’s ‘cannonball’ tackle on the young St George forward, Jack De Belin on Monday night if you are in doubt about their new style of play.
So when we look back into Rusty’s Book of Feuds I wonder whether we will find reference to the 1909 Grand Final? This bit of deception was recently brought to my attention by Tiger fan, ‘Toby the Truncheon’. It was when the Rabbitohs ‘stole’ the premiership from Balmain after agreeing to jointly boycott the final and then turning up solo to take it on forfeit.
That was a century go. Times were different then but it now seems that the Armani Bunnies may have rediscovered their original ruthless roots under the leadership of Crowe Maximus. If that is the case then they will truly be the new Manly.