South Sydney supporters waited 43 long years for their premiership drought to be broken in 2014 and to think the Rabbitohs have another shot at lifting the Provan-Summons Trophy emphasises the importance of the decision to reinstate them into the competition.
I watched my late father sob when the Bunnies were kicked out of the league in 1999 and excluded from the NRL in 2000. If it wasn’t for the tireless efforts of people like George Piggins and Nick Pappas, the Rabbitohs would still be somewhere down a warren.
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We marched down Chalmers Street to the Town Hall where thousands of footy fans, not just South Sydney supporters, rallied against the decision. The Bunnies were relying on the powerbrokers to overturn it and they weren’t going to give up.
They fought tooth and nail, just like the players who had come before them to force their way back into the comp and I still remember the day in 2001, watching on TV, when ‘the Godfather’ himself George Piggins walked out of the Federal Court to declare, “we were going to fight until we got justice and we got justice here today.”
The NRL was backed into a corner in a David vs Goliath battle and it was the league’s CEO David Moffett who was forced to back down and reinstate the Rabbitohs in their rightful place as the ‘pride of the league.’
The celebrations lasted for days and I can still see my dad walking through the front door at home that night wearing a Rabbitohs jumper, hat and scarf telling me, “son, we’re back.”
David Levy was there with thousands of other supporters in 2014 when the Bunnies lifted the trophy at Stadium Australia and I just wish he was around to lap-up another week of anticipation as the Rabbitohs attempt to claim their 22nd premiership.
We scattered his ashes on Redfern Oval last year and played ‘Glory Glory to South Sydney’ at the end of his funeral in 2018. Whether it was a family function, a day at work, a school fete or just kicking the footy at the park; my dad would always be wearing red-and-green.
Apologies for being a little self-indulgent, but I know there are probably tens of thousands of other stories like mine and I hope those people are also reflecting on the heartbreak of 1999 and the joy that’s stemmed since the appeal in 2001.
I’m a strong believer of fairytales in sport and the premiership victory in 2014 was special, but there are a few more memories to be made on Sunday night for the likes of Wayne Bennett, Adam Reynolds and Benji Marshall.
Bennett is the first coach to take four separate teams to a Grand Final and who’s prepared to doubt the 71-year-old’s chances of winning an eighth premiership?
Reynolds is their inspirational captain who bleeds red-and-green and grew-up across the road from Redfern Oval in a housing commission unit.
‘Reyno’ realised a childhood dream by making his debut for the Bunnies, then winning the comp in 2014; imagine the emotions if the little halfback can lift the trophy in his final game for the club.
Then there’s Benji. The Kiwi International is playing alongside young blokes who attempted to emulate his fancy footwork and flick pass when they were kids watching him play for the Wests Tigers. Marshall last featured in a Grand Final 16 years ago and while he’s weighing up his future; I wonder if another premiership will bring down the curtain?
I think we’re in for something special on Sunday night and I’ll be tipping the South Sydney Rabbitohs to beat the Penrith Panthers by a converted try. Not only will Adam Reynolds finish his time at Redfern with a premiership, I think he’ll also add the Clive Churchill Medal.
It’ll be another great Grand Final and I’ll be on-air with 2GB’s Continuous Call Team from 1pm AEDT Sunday for the build-up to the biggest game of the season, before Ray Hadley broadcasts the 2021 decider between South Sydney and Penrith. May the best team win and up the Rabbitohs!
Let me know who you’re tipping to win the Grand Final and what are your memories of South Sydney’s fight for reinstatement.
Email me via the Wide World of Sports Radio show by clicking on this link: https://form.jotform.co/70601482897867
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