The South Sydney Rabbitohs are a professional rugby league team from Australia that are based in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Redfern. They compete in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition, Australia’s premier rugby league premiership. They are one of the nine remaining Sydney teams in the competition. They are often nicknamed the Souths and The Bunnies. The club has more than a centuries worth of history behind it and has been a highly successful in its time.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs are one of the oldest rugby league teams in Australia. The club was first started in 1908 and has the distinction of being one of the founding members of the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL). The club was founded to be the representative of several Sydney municipalities including Redfern, Alexandria, Zetland, Waterloo, Mascot and Botany. The South Sydney Rabbitohs are one of only two founding clubs left in the NRL, the other is the Sydney Roosters.
The club was briefly excluded from the competition in 1999 after failing to meet the NRL’s selection criteria. They later gained re-admission in 2002.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs have the distinction of being the most successful rugby league team in the history of Australia. They have competed in the New South Wales Rugby league (1908-1994), Australian Rugby League (1995-1997) and the National Rugby League (1998-1999, 2002-present) and have claimed an impressive 21 premierships over the course of their history. The club is also the only rugby league team to have won a premiership in their inaugural season.
Some of the South Sydney Rabbitohs achievements include:
Their 21 first grade premiership wins and 20 reserve grade premierships. The Rabbitohs also have the distinction of being the club to have scored the highest number of points (42), tries (8) and goals (9) in a single Grand Final, in a game against Manly in 1951. The Rabbitohs club is also one of only six teams in New South Wales to make it through a whole season undefeated, back in 1925. In the same year the club also one the premiership in all three grades – this has only be repeated three other times throughout history with the Balmain Tigers in 1915 and 1916 and again with the St George Dragons in 1963. The South Sydney Rabbitohs have also made one of the biggest comebacks in the history of Australian rugby league in a game against the North Queensland Cowboys. The club was down 28-4 in the first 53 minutes of the game but recovered to win the match 29-28. In 2014 the club made it into their first Grand Final game in 43 years and managed to defeat the Sydney Roosters 32-22 in the qualifier match, before they later defeated the Bulldogs in the Grand Final.
Many of the club’s players also have a number of notable achievements under their belt and have hit some important milestones over the club history. Some examples include:
John Sutton, who holds the clubs record for the most first grade games played for the team, after playing 283 games for the Rabbitohs. Jack Rayner holds the league record for the most Grand Finals wins as a captain and coach, with five wins between 1950 and 1955. The clubs player Eric Simms holds the record for the most points scored for the club, with 1841 points collected between 1965 and 1975. His tally for the club has yet to be beaten by any other player. Eric Simms also holds the record for the most goals scored in a season (112 goals and 19 field goals), the most career field goals (86) and the most field goals in a single game (5). Nathan Merrit holds the record for the most tries scored for the club (146). Johnny Graves also holds the clubs record for the most individual points scored in a single game, with 29 points in a game played against the Eastern Suburbs in 1952.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs is currently owned by a subsidiary company of Blackcourt League Investments, which is owned by actor Russel Crowe and James Packer. The club was purchased for $3 million in 2005 by the company. Since taking on the club Russel Crowe and ames Packer have erased the $7 million worth of debt that the club was carrying before being acquired. The result of the debt being forgiven is that the club is now in the best financial position it has ever been in since the clubs founding. The clubs current net asset position is at over $6 million and the club has more financial security than it has ever previously had. The club is now said to be worth around $20 million on the market. The club posted a $1.5 million profit in 2015 following the debt erasure. Most of the clubs profits are made from its large member base. The clubs current position is in stark contrast to their previous position where they had struggled financially for a number of years.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs traditional home has always been across the previously working-class suburbs of South Sydney, which were occupied mostly by factories at the time of the clubs founding. The rugby league club is currently based in Redfern, where their training and club administration facilities are located. Their supporter base however is spread right across Sydney. The teams current home ground is Stadium Australia which is located in Sydney Olympic Park.
In the early years of the clubs history the Rabbitohs very rarely played home games. Most of their games were played at the Sydney Showground between 1908 and 1920. From around 1911, the Sydney Sports Ground was also used in rotation with the Sydney Showground. In 1948 the club relocated to Redfern Oval. The club played the majority of their home games their until 1988 when they began to play some home games at the Sydney Football Stadium which had recently been built on the former site of the Sydney Sports Ground and the Sydney Cricket Ground. They remained at the Sydney Football Stadium until 2005. They club did not play in 2001 and 2002 however as they were excluded from the premiership. In 2004 and 2005 the club began to investigate new facilities because their contract with the Sydney Football Stadium was going to run out. The club eventually made the decision to relocate to Telstra Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park, the club is now known as ANZ stadium. In 2008 the club renewed their partnership with the stadium, committing to play their home games and final at the stadium for the next 10 years. In the same year the City of Sydney Council completed an upgrade on Redfern Oval worth $19.5 million ad in 2009 the oval became the site of the Rabbitohs training facilities and administration offices. In addition to the ANZ stadium, the club also plays some home games at the Sunshine Coast Stadium. The ANZ stadium has an impressive 83,500 person capacity.
The clubs current head coach is NRL super coach, Wayne Bennett. Wayne Bennett is regarded as one of rugby leagues greatest coaches in the history of the sport. His coaching career in the NRL began with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who won the Brisbane League premiership under his leadership in 1980. In the 1990s he was selected as Queensland’s state of origin coach. He began his NSWRL coaching career with the Canberra Raiders before being later appointed as head coach for the Brisbane Broncos club in 1988, who won six premierships under his leadership. He later coached the St Geroge Illawarra Dragons who won the 2010 premiership with him and he later coached the Newcastle Knights before taking up his current position as head coach of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Emblem and Colours
The South Sydney Rabbitohs emblem, the rabbitoh is based on a now unused term from the 20th century that was used to describe hawkers who would capture skinned rabbits and sell the skin at markets. The hawkers would capture attention from market shoppers by shouting ‘rabbit-oh’. The club is often informally nicknamed the Rabbits, Bunnies and Souths. The origin of the clubs official ‘Rabbitohs’ name in unknown. In some accounts, some of the players would earn extra money working as rabbit-ohs and stained their jerseys with blood in the process; other clubs from wealthier districts did not appreciate the smell and would mock the club with the ‘rabbit-oh!’ cry. Another version of the story is that the field the team played on was covered in rabbit holes. The clubs logo is of a white running rabbit and was first adopted in 1959. The logo has evolved over time since it was first adopted. The first emblem design from the 1960s is currently featured on the clubs current jersey. In 2008, the team celebrated their centenary year with an emblem to mark the occasion.
The Rabbitohs have used red and green on their jerseys for most of their history. Prior to 1908 the club mostly wore a red and green hooped jersey. They’ve sued a similar design for most of their history. In 1945 and 1946 the club broke tradition and adopted a jersey with a red and green colour scheme and a V design. In 1980 and 1984 they used a jersey that included white hoops and a green design. In 2006 the club added a predominantly white jersey for away games. In 2007 the Rabbitohs made the away jersey identical to the jersey from the 60’s. They have used black shorts throughout most of their history.
The clubs mascot is known as Reggie the Rabbit. The mascot’s first appearance was in 1968 in a game against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. The Rabbitohs mascot is known for venturing onto other team games, other mascots only appear for home games. The mascot is also known for being involved in a lot of charity work.
The Rabbitohs have a large supporter based throughout Sydney and the rest of Australia. Their supporters are known as ‘The Burrow’. Their active supporters are also known as ‘Gate 38’. They have the highest membership numbers in the league, with numbers exceeding 35,000, of which 11,000 are ticketed members. They have members from all across Australia and from 22 countries around the rest of the world. The club also has a number of prominent backers known as ‘Group 14’ which is made up of prominent businessmen, politicians, musicians and media personalities.
The Rabbitohs were first formed in 1908 and won their first premiership in their inaugural year. The club experienced further premiership success in 1914 and 1918 and then had a great run of success between 1925 and 1932. The club struggled in the 1940s, struggling to win games and making the club record for the longest losing streak with a 22 game streak between 1945 and 1947. In the 1950s the club experienced resurgence and won five of six premierships between 1950 and 1955. They struggled with poor form again until they made the Grand Final in 1965. The club started to struggle financially in the 70s and their form suffered also. They recovered in the 80s and made the finals on five occasions. They suffered major financial issues in the 90s and were ejected from the league between 1999 and 2002. The club was acquired in 2005 by James Packer and Russel Crowes Company, pulling them out of financial trouble. In recent seasons the Souths have made the finals, but fallen short of a Grand Final appearance.