There I am at the bus stop in Mount Keira Road again. Many of you will be aware that South Sydney (the Rabbitohs) are in the Grand Final against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs next Sunday. This is the climax of many a turbulent year since the last time the Bunnies made it – 1971. Roy Masters tells an interesting story. (I took the photo below in Cleveland Street’s “Little Lebanon” just up from The Prophet in July 2010.)
The saviour of the Rabbitohs sat down in a restaurant named “The Prophet” and ended up doing a deal with the devil.
When George Piggins led the march of 50,000 supporters to Sydney Town Hall in 2000, protesting the axing of his club from the NRL, News Corporation, then half owners of the league, were perceived to be the devil.
On September 8 this year, Piggins met 2GB broadcaster Alan Jones, South Sydney’s former media manager Norm Lipson and others at the Surry Hills Lebanese restaurant, setting off on a plan which would allow him to watch the Rabbitohs in the grand final, should they make it, without losing face.
Only three days earlier, George had done a partial backflip on his vow to have nothing to do with Souths while Russell Crowe owned the club, having attended, at South Sydney Juniors, a reunion of the 1989 minor premiership-winning team he coached.
Maybe he warmed to the adulation, although he did not speak to Rabbitohs officials and there was the problem of that vow he would never attend a Souths game while Crowe was boss.
But there were some clever fixers at “The Prophet” dinner, including player managers Sam Ayoub and Wayne Beavis and former player, John Elias, out on bail on cocaine possession charges and whose racing tips are valued.
If The Daily Telegraph could ask what it would take to win him back and the answer was do-able, such as $100,000 for charity then….
So last week The Daily Telegraph asked and the answer was $100,000 and then followed up with a request to 2GB owner John Singleton for $50,000. The TAB put in $50,000 and another Sydney businessman added $20,000.
And the Telegraph had a front page story which says, “How the Tele helped heal sport’s most bitter feud.”
No mention of the fact the Tele helped create the feud by kicking the Rabbitohs from the competition; forcing Piggins to mortgage his properties to raise money to mount a successful Federal Court campaign for reinstatement; rendering the club uncompetitive when it did return to the NRL and making it vulnerable to a takeover by Crowe and partner, Peter Holmes a Court.
In any case, the feud is not over until Piggins settles his differences with Crowe, although he told a Sydney radio station he would shake the hand of the Hollywood star at the grand final…
Proximity to a mosque doesn’t seem to have fazed any of them that day, no more than it did me in the 18 years I lived just around the corner.
BTW, “The Prophet” is careful to note it takes its name from the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran.
Second, it is worth looking at a rather light-hearted story by Michael Page in the August South Sydney Herald: Rabbitohs in wacky race to finals. It is true that the momentum really showed itself only in the last four weeks.
With this year’s NRL competition looking more and more like an episode of Wacky Races, the red-and-green jalopy, despite its wheels wobbling for most of the season, has somehow managed to put itself near the lead as the finish line approaches. In their typical smug way, perennial “Dick Dastardly” baddies Manly are out in front, fuelled by even higher levels of infighting than usual. Behind them is a group of rickety challengers dealing with a mixture of mid-season stutters, injuries, and coach/backroom skulduggery.
For most of the season Souths have looked anything but premiers. Woeful displays against North Queensland and the Titans in the last few weeks have reinforced a view that Souths does not have what it takes to win the premiership. But unlike last year 2014 is a strange wide-open contest where the team who takes control of their season in August could well emerge from the pack and charge into September.
A trademark of previous years, Souths have struggled with ball security for most of the season. Predictable and lacking spontaneity, they have struggled to convert possession to tries close to the opposition line. Sam Burgess aside, high-profile players such as Inglis and Luke have been quiet in important games. Half-back Adam Reynolds has had to endure consternation from fans and media regarding his place in the team with ongoing rumours that he is unwanted by coach Maguire.
But somehow they have finished July with their wheels back on track….