Almanac Rugby League – NRL R24, 2011: Glory, glory to South Sydney

We’re heading west on Parramatta Road. Every other car has a white rabbit sticker on its back window. After looking like dead men walking just a month ago, Souths have won three in a row and are suddenly in with a show of making the semis. If they win tonight, that is.

Boxhead and I have grunted no more than half a dozen words to each other since Annandale. The tension is unbearable.

At last we get to the ground. It’s cold and wet, a filthy night, but ANZ Stadium glows like a concrete and steel cathedral. The mob is red and green.

“If the crowd comes into it we’re a lay-down misere.” Straightaway I wish I didn’t say it. You never know what might Jonah your chances.

I could murder a beer, but Boxhead is off the drink so I abstain out of sympathy. We grab a couple of seats underneath the overhang of the upper deck, adjacent to the northern twenty-metre line. The Rabbitohs’ season-ticket holders are to our left. They are curiously subdued. We all just want the game to start.

The teams go through their warm-up drills, Souths wearing the traditional black shorts – a good sign. But where’s Inglis? And what’s happened to Merritt? Has he done something to his leg? Both are late withdrawals. Fetuli Talanoa, an old favourite, returns to the wing. Boom youngster James Roberts goes to fullback.

Early exchanges are brutal, the noise of impact awesome.

Roberts bombs and Johnny Sutton collects the bounce. It’s messy, but it’s a try next to the posts. Boxhead and I go up, but the team’s celebrations are restrained. There’s still a lot of work to be done

We hardly have time to feel good about being in front when the champion Jonathon Thurston waltzes through the defence to put the Cowboys on the board. It was ominously easy.

The visitors are focused. Neither of us wants to admit that they might be having the better of it. If there were an anxiety tax we’d be paying through the nose.

Souths grind their way into the Cowboys’ twenty. Sandow kicks high. Dylan Farrell bats it back to eager Eddy Pettybourne and the Kiwi international gets the try.

Again our lead is short-lived after the Bunnies surrender possession from the re-start. It’s a cardinal sin and the Cowboys make us pay when second-rower Tariq Sims storms over. What we’ve heard about Sims is true – he’s a monster.

It’s 12-all after twenty-four minutes and already I want half-time to come.

We make it to the break without further catastrophe and it occurs to me what a terrific game it would be if we didn’t care so much.

Souths start the second stanza strongly. The Pommie Luke Burgess almost scores off a Nathan Peats pass. Boxhead groans. The rain gets heavier. My feet are freezing.

The Cowboys threaten every time they go wide, but the Bunnies scramble and keep them at bay. Michael Crocker, our captain, is in the thick of the slog, a man among men. But now we lose Sutton – he’s injured his hand.

Disaster strikes. The Cowboys’ pocket-rocket full-back, Matt Bowen, scores from a kick, then centre Willie Tonga crosses and Souths are behind 22-12 with fifteen minutes to go.

The big screen shows coach John Lang on the bench. He’s got a severe dose of the Edgar Britts. So have me and Boxhead.

Roberts sells a sweet dummy and puts us back in the frame, but the clock is now the enemy.

Cue the miracle. Sandow takes an intercept and heads for the line, ninety metres away. Everybody stands, roaring encouragement … Oh no! Bowen’s gonna catch him … but wait … from the next play the Coal Train, Dave Taylor, delivers a one-handed pass to Chris McQueen who scores in the corner! 24-22.

A deathly hush descends as Sandow lines up the sideline conversion. Boxhead can’t watch, but the tiny halfback will kick it – I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. It soars over the black dot and we’re into golden point.

I feel calm. Even as Bowen’s attempted field goal sails towards the sticks I am convinced the boys will win. The ball hits an upright and Souths are awarded a penalty when the terrier Issac Luke cops a head-high.

Sandow makes no mistake with his kick. The crowd goes berko.

Driving home, Boxhead can’t shut up. We re-live every minute, bag the ref and praise each player in red-and-green. Parramatta Road has been transformed – we are Cadel Evans cruising down the Champs Elysees.

This is why we go to the footy.

South Sydney 26 (Tries: Sutton, Pettybourne, Roberts, McQueen. Goals: Sandow 5/5)

North Queensland 24 (Tries: Thurston, T.Sims, Bowen, Tonga. Goals: Thurston 4/4)

Venue : ANZ Stadium, 19/08/2011

Crowd: 11,208

Votes : 3 – Chris Sandow (Souths), 2 – Issac Luke (Souths), 1 – Michael Crocker (Souths).

Milestone : Issac Luke, 100 games for Souths.
John Campbell


  1. As a North Queenslander may I say……
    Souths deserved the win.
    The Cowclowns should have kept them out…but… Isaac Luke took a dive.
    if as Johnny Lang said on 10 out of 10 times a penalty would have been awarded why the need for the performance?

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