Russell Crowe talks with Wayne Bennett and former Souths player Luke Burgess. Photo: Brett Costello
Russell Crowe talks with Wayne Bennett and former Souths player Luke Burgess. Photo: Brett Costello

Kent: Gladiator’s short history of a long feud

Nobody has written the Counter Book of Feuds but it would be equally as compelling as the alternate version the Gladiator is pedalling at full throttle around South Sydney.

Russell Crowe, by all reports, was at his theatrical best when he turned up at Redfern on Tuesday.

Crowe dialled the voice down an octave, cleared his throat, and read the Book of Feuds to the South Sydney players like they are the only ones who have been sinned against.

 

Russell Crowe talks with Wayne Bennett and former Souths player Luke Burgess. Photo: Brett Costello
Russell Crowe talks with Wayne Bennett and former Souths player Luke Burgess. Photo: Brett Costello

 

"It pumps you up," George Burgess said later. "It feels like you've got the Gladiator in front of you."

The feud between the Roosters and Rabbitohs has swung from pantomime to savage over the years.

Sam Burgess won't play this weekend after pulling Billy Smith's hair when the two teams played last Thursday.

It was the latest chapter in a storyline that got particularly nasty last year when the two clubs qualified for the preliminary final and a video leaked of a person revealing himself on FaceTime using a Souths player's phone.

 

Sam Burgess fronts the media during the phone incident. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Sam Burgess fronts the media during the phone incident. Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

The investigation centred around Burgess. While the Rabbitohs ran the investigation the Roosters spent the week claiming they wanted Burgess to be cleared because they wanted to beat the Rabbitohs at full strength. Secretly, the Rabbitohs fumed.

Burgess was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. Ultimately, both sides blamed each other for the drama.

The Roosters, who for the past several decades believe the Rabbitohs have never been consistently good enough to remain a relevance to them, claim they would never bother with such a thing. They laugh at the absurdity of their claims.

Regardless, the incident has added a new level of venom between the two clubs that goes back a long way.

 

Crowe welcomes Craig Wing back to South Sydney in 2007. Photo: Gregg Porteous
Crowe welcomes Craig Wing back to South Sydney in 2007. Photo: Gregg Porteous

 

Tit-for-tat signings, parading new signing Craig Wing in a Souths jumper while he was still playing for the Roosters, all the subtle sledges, the Rabbitohs fans wearing "Always In Our Shadow" T-shirts, the slights come small and large.

The Rabbitohs look to their 21 premierships against the Roosters' 14 as a symbol of their superiority.

The Roosters chuckle and argue that, well, at least all their premierships were hard fought for, pointing out that Souths' second premiership in 1909 came after it was scheduled to be played before an international between the Kangaroos and Wallabies.

Insulted at being reduced to a curtain-raiser both teams agreed not to turn up, only for the Rabbitohs to turn up secretly, kick off into a Balmain-less field, score a try, and win by forfeit.

The Rabbitohs call that a premiership. The Roosters call it an asterisk.

 

 

The Roosters once owned much of what is now South Sydney territory.

Everything east of Anzac Parade, all the way to La Perouse, once belonged to Eastern Suburbs Roosters.

In 1937 the boundaries were moved at what was believed to be the urging of a Souths diehard on the NSW Rugby League board. The Rabbitohs had lost a lot of junior territory to factories and warehouses, it was argued, reducing their population.

Coogee and Randwick suddenly belonged to South Sydney juniors.

"The alterations affect our club, as a portion of our territory has been given to South Sydney …" Roosters secretary John Quinlan wrote in the 1938 annual report.

 

Hair pulling is just another chapter in the book.
Hair pulling is just another chapter in the book.

 

The move, a flick of the pen, had the effect of switching Jack Coote's home from Roosters territory to Rabbitohs territory. This meant something to Coote, who won the 1936 premiership with the Roosters.

The shifting boundaries were significant also because the import rule was in place. Clubs could not recruit from outside their junior territories.

This later had an enormous impact when Jack Coote's young boy Ron graduated for the Rabbitohs on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats, winning four premierships in the red and green before the import rule was relaxed.

Five premierships in 1950-51, 1953-55, which included a fair sprinkling of what once would have been considered Roosters juniors, also went Souths' way.

The Roosters' juniors were eaten away so much that only some years back the Roosters junior clubs were forced to play in the strong South Sydney junior league to have competition.

Then Trent Robinson signed Nat Butcher from South Eastern Seagulls and Paul Momirovski from Alexandria Rovers, both Souths juniors, and the Rabbitohs kicked them out.

Slights small and large.

The Roosters have inflicted their own pain over the years.

A month after the Roosters broke their 27-year premiership drought in 2002 the Rabbitohs announced Roosters second-rower Bryan Fletcher as their star signing.

He would even be captain, and go on to deliver two straight wooden spoons.

The Roosters laughed and laughed.

 

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