By John Robotham
Saturday afternoon it’s personal.
Storm vs Souths in a qualifying final.
My club against the outfit I love to hate. The people’s club, with 104 years of rich history, ranged against an interloper created to fit the needs of a national competition.
If revenge is a dish best served cold, then victory will be all the
more satisfying for many long suffering Bunnies supporters still
scarred by the club becoming the biggest casualty of the Super League
Who can forget the wilderness years? Exiled from the NRL because we
were too proud to accept a merger and, apparently, did not meet the
criteria for the new 14-team national competition. Souths were unfashionable, underperforming, geographically vulnerable because they were an inner-city club and were just too identifiable as Sydney.
The result – two years on the outer before people power saw us back where we truly belonged.
It is 10 years since Souths were re-admitted to the competition, 10
years of frustration and mediocrity. It’s been even longer since the
Bunnies were genuine premiership contenders. Who can forget 1989 when
we finished as minor premiers only to exit the finals after two weeks?
And, of course, it’s been 41 years since we’ve held aloft the trophy
after the grand final.
I hopped on, like so many others, in the late 1960s during the glory
years – four premierships in five years – yet, perversely, my most
indelible grand final memory of that time is the 1969 decider, a
devastating upset defeat at the hands of Balmain.
I was shocked, my heroes – men such as Ron Coote, Bob McCarthy,
John Sattler, Eric Simms, Mike Cleary, Dennis Pittard and Elwyn
Walters – had proven themselves mortal. Success in 1970 and 71 eased
the pain slightly, but the loss of innocence was profound. Little did
I know that 1971 would be the last time a Souths’ captain would hold
aloft the trophy.
Finally, after seasons of despair, there is hope.
We have toughness and grunt in the forwards with Sam Burgess, Roy
Asotasi, Michael Crocker and Issac Luke, a skilful halfback with a
great kicking game in Adam Reynolds, some great finishers out wide in
Nathan Merritt and Andrew Everingham and of course the biggest X
factor in the game, Greg Inglis.
What’s more we also have the double chance. This rollercoaster ride of a season will continue for at least two more weeks.
The Storm are tough to beat at home, which will make victory Saturday even sweeter.
Bring it on.
Melbourne-based John Robotham divides his loyalties between Souths and Geelong in the AFL.