This coming weekend’s Rugby League Grand Final has already made history. The South Sydney Rabbitohs, a team that were on the chopping block just over a decade ago, are now in the big game – against the Canterbury Bulldogs – after 43 years of waiting. Their story has gained attention well beyond a little pocket of Sydney suburbia, with good reason.
The drama of the little team that could has been riveting – and it’s attracted actors, theatre-makers, and comedians keen to tell the story again and again.
Rugby League isn’t a game that obviously and overtly draws artistic types; but the South Sydney Rabbitohs are a different type of team. They are an inner city/south east Sydney team that attracts battlers and underdogs. And the team has been close to the brink many times.
In the late 1990s the Murdochs proposed a Super League competition and Souths, who were lingering at the bottom of the ladder, faced extinction. The fan community rallied and the team has survived – but the showdown with News Limited hasn’t been forgotten.
This week Fairfax newspapers revived the saga, arguing, “whenever you see a Murdoch newspaper claim ‘we’re for Souths’, remember the treachery and call it hypocrisy”.
The battle to save Souths wasn’t just about community versus corporations, but in this case, the media corporation, News Limited, and its desire to take the game to Pay TV. This was a “little Aussie battler” arguing over identity and types of belonging that were much bigger than simply a code.
In 1999, when the future of the team was in strife, tens of thousands of Sydneysiders took to the streets to try to turn the tide. As Rabbitohs fan Andrew Denton put it on the ABC’s Australian Story in 1999, it was a display of:
In Denton’s words from that time: “You don’t have to follow football or understand the game to follow [the] story. It’s that old classic David and Goliath”.
By 2001 the team’s fate looked stronger and Australian Story returned again to the Bunnies. Comedian and Rabbitohs supporter Mikey Robbins called the Souths:
more than a story about a football team, it’s about a small community that took on a multinational, multimedia organisation.
The Rabbitohs on stage
In 2004 the story of the Rabbitohs vs News Limited was developed for the stage by writer Alana Valentine and Kate Gaul and supported by Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre as Run Rabbit Run. The production broke stereotypes about rubgy league: the show was driven by women, “arty” types and Indigenous communities – not a club of beer-swigging boofy white blokes.
A key feature was the letters of support (and advice for the Murdochs) from people like the broadcaster Caroline Jones. Her letter, as reproduced in the teacher’s notes for the play, addressed Murdoch junior:
Dear Lachlan, it might help if I explain a few things about Australians … They say we’re still not sure what our identity is, but try taking it away from us and you’ll soon find out because suddenly it becomes very clear what it is to be unAustralian.
Delivered during the Howard years, when being called unAustralian was the ultimate insult, these were fighting words. It was as if an attack on the identity of a local, historical, social group such as South Sydney was an attack not just on football but on the nation.
Run Rabbit Run covered the drama of the game on its own terms and also dealt with the politics within the Rabbitohs’ traditional fan base, one that encompasses a spectrum of fans including working class, Indigenous and disadvantaged communities, as well as inner city and international superstar types.
From Saint George to Superbacker Russell
The original fight to save Souths came via the former Chairman of South Sydney Leagues Club and former player George Piggins.
He was the man who took the NRL and New Limited to court. The 2001 Australian Story was really his, titled simply “In George We Trust”.
But once the battle to stay on the field was won, the battle to build a winning team was taken over by a much bigger player, or at least one with much deeper pockets – Russell Crowe.
Crowe purchased the team with Peter Holmes à Court in 2006. He has famously bankrolled Armani suits for players, poured rivers of cash into the team’s infrastructure, and made sure his Hollywood mates know what team to support when they’re visiting.
A photo gallery of Famous Rabbitohs Fans includes Oprah Winfrey, Snoop Dogg, Ben Affleck, Eva Mendes, Christian Bale and Pamela Anderson all in bunnies gear – none even necessarily even knowing what NRL is, but at least willing to fly the flag. Crowe and Holmes à Court have made the team financially viable and the code’s biggest brand – not bad for a team thought of a dispensable not so long ago.
As for the actual game this weekend, the team is as strong as it’s been in a long time. Whether Souths win or not – although, wouldn’t it be lovely! – the story of the Rabbitohs remains unique, unlikely and inspiring.
Once again I have a massive favour to ask all of you.
This year my blog is both a nominee for the Best Australian Blogs competition and the Peoples Choice Awards, along with half the population of the known world.
Last year I just missed out by a gnat’s whisker, so if you’re a basher of Burbage, a lover of lame humour, a fun runner, another frustrated parent, or an aficionado of literary genius, please mobilise your clicking digits and show me the love.
Here’s how you create history:
Follow the link below, swat the big arse bug, or click the Vote For Me Now button on the right of this post, to start the voting process.
Once you arrive on the home page, click on the big blue button that says ‘Vote here’.
Now you will have arrived at the welcome page. Isn’t it nice to be thanked for all the hard work they are about to put you through 😉 On the welcome page click ‘next’.
Everything is alphabetised so you’ll have to scroll through to the third page to find Matts Notes. Place a little tick in my box and once again click ‘next’ at the bottom of the page.
You should now arrive at a blank page that gives you the opportunity to choose to continue the voting process by clicking ‘next’ again, or you can choose to finish up and leave by clicking ‘exit this survey’ in the top right of the screen.
Phew, wasn’t that a giant pain in the backside. But as Loreal continually reminds us, I’m worth it.
Voting closes on Monday the 5th May so please get cracking over the next couple of weeks and spread the love.
I promise I really will respect you in the morning 😉
The following video is a presentation from Ms. Sarah Kucharski at the Medicine X conference at Stanford University on the 28th September 2013. This is a remarkable story from a woman who has undergone some major medical traumas in her life, resulting from a rare condition called intimal fibromuscular dysplasia.
The twist in the tale though is that the story is not so much about the patient and the horrors she went through, but about her husband Travis and the strain on their relationship. It’s a love story that reminds us that the afflicted are not the only ones affected by ill health.
In Sarah’s words, “Patients, you must remember to care for your caregivers.”
On the 30th July 2012 the dodgy dealings of webuyanycar.com.au (WBAC) finally came to a head and the company was sent into administration and ultimately, liquidation. Many people lost money including employees, business associates and customers who sold them their motor vehicles in good faith.
I wrote about this unethical dealership in three blog posts. The first one titled Life Lesson Well Learnt outlined my own personal experiences in dealing with them before they went broke. With the flood of comments that soon appeared I realised I wasn’t the only one to experience their callous disregard for other peoples property. Luckily my story was able to find its mark and prevent others from suffering the eventual loss.
My second post came out after they were already placed into liquidation. In that article I included correspondence from Mr. Jeremy Herbert from webuyanycar.com in the USA who was keen to point out that they had no relationship with the Australian business or the Burbages. Unfortunately, it was already too late for many Australian consumers so I pointed people in the direction of Worrells solvency agents to make their case.
Other sites like Stuff Review and Product Review were also doing their best to inform the public as to the devious dealings of the Burbage business, but unfortunately all we could do was become a sounding board for those that had already been hurt.
Then everything went quiet. There has been nothing in the Australian press on the subject of WBAC for many months now and it seemed the Burbages had become harder to find than Christopher Skase. Their dead-of-night Houdini act cost them a million dollar home in Fig Tree and wife Lorraine’s $200,000 Bentley. It also cost around 1,200 trusting consumers over $3.6million dollars according to the Courier Mail.
Back in March this year I received a comment on my article about WBAC going into liquidation from a reader who was convinced that Hampshire Vehicle Sales in the UK was a new business that the Burbages were involved with. I ran the comment and was contacted five days later by Mr. Ryan Overton who claimed to be the proprietor of Hampshire Vehicle Sales and had no affiliation whatsoever with the Burbages.
Mr. Overton stated that he was the sole Director and owner of that company and that they were doing their best to trade through difficult times. He asked me to remove the links and, finding no evidence to link the Burbages to the company, I did so as a gesture of goodwill. Unfortunately I may have been misled.
Stuff Review ran an article over the weekend also linking Hampshire Vehicle Sales with the Burbage family. They went so far as to perform a whois search to ascertain the registrant of the website and according to their site it is Lorraine Burbage. I checked this last night and found the same information – see the image opposite.
Needless to say the comments are now back visible on my website.
Over the weekend I received an email and a comment on one of my posts from a Mr. Henry Winster who informed me that,
“Mr Burbage has been summoned to attend the Federal Court in Brisbane to answer questions in regards to his involvement as a director in the company. This is to be held on 3rd July 2013 I think. Worrells have more information for people wanting to attend as it is open for the public to view. Mr Burbage is not in Australia but has fled back to the UK where he has opened up another business with I guess the same intention of ripping off customers again.”
The guys at Stuff Review also picked it up Mr. Winster’s comment and added,
“Regarding webuyanycar / Karlands liquidation. Worrells are currently conducting a public hearing in the Brisbane Federal Court and have already questioned key secure creditors and Karlands ex accountant. A second 2 day hearing is scheduled for 2nd & 3rd July in Brisbane where both directors (Burbage & Diaga) have been summonsed to appear. Whether both will attend is yet to be seen as Burbage is in the UK and has started a similar business.”
Whether Hampshire Vehicle Sales is a Burbage concern or innocent bystander remains to be seen however, just because their names don’t show up on a company search does not mean they are not involved. In my experience ‘silent partners’ are not always that silent so, if you are going to transact with this company do your research and perform your due diligence before you part with your car.
And to everyone in Australia still feeling the pain, good luck and stay strong.