An open letter to Manly coach Geoff Toovey.

Dear Sir,

Let’s examine some recent evidence.

Manly centre Steve Matai leaps into the air to clothesline George Burgess with a violent swinging forearm and only gets a one week suspension with an early guilty plea.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey spits the dummy.

Manly fullback Brett Stewart drops his elbow into Andrew Everingham’s jaw, even though Andrew wasn’t even carrying the ball, and gets away with the offence through an early guilty plea.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey has a whinge.

Manly forward Richie Fa’aoso drops Greg Inglis on his head not once, but twice, in a blatant and dangerous spear tackle and only gets an eight week suspension. Bulldogs centre Krisnan Inu got five weeks for doing it only once to Greg Inglis. Based on the precedence Richie Fa’aoso should have got at least ten.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey sooks to the cameras.

Manly forward Jason King also hits Greg Inglis with a spear tackle and drops him on his head, resulting in six stitches for the South Sydney fullback. No penalty at the time. No charges laid.

Manly coach Geoff Toovey bitches about how unfairly his team are treated.

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Anyone could easily think that this list of misdemeanours occurred throughout an entire season, but they didn’t.  They happened in one spiteful 80 minutes of Rugby League when Manly coach Geoff Toovey’s team showed up to fight and the South Sydney Rabbitohs concentrated on playing football.

In the post match conference, after Souths had run out convincing winners, Manly coach Geoff Toovey complained that the elbow to the jaw and the swinging arm did not warrant penalties. Manly coach Geoff Toovey also suggested that Greg Inglis was taking dives and falling on his head on purpose.

WTF Manly coach Geoff Toovey! Are you serious?

Manly captain Jamie Lyon claimed Greg Inglis head butted the ground on purpose so he could get a quick play-the-ball.

Yeah, right.

Manly winger Jorge Taufua thought the illegal forearm by Manly centre Steve Matai, was “f. . .ng awesome, man, I love playing outside that guy. When he pulls it off, I just lose it.”

Oh dear!

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Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans thought the illegal forearm by Manly centre Steve Matai was “a cracker of a hit.”

I wonder if he would feel the same if it was his face that Manly centre Steve Matai sought to rearrange with his right forearm.

Sensibly Manly forward Richie Fa’aoso hasn’t commented yet. Don’t forget though that this is the same guy who hit Gold Coast forward Ashley Harrison with an illegal shoulder charge earlier in the season. Ashley was left concussed and had to be stretchered off the field. Manly coach Geoff Toovey lashed out at the judiciary via every media outlet he could find that would listen to his insane rantings and managed to have the charge downgraded. Richie Fa’aoso only got a one week ban.

Manly forwards Justin Horo and Brenton Lawrence were put on report for dropping West Tigers centre Blake Ayshford on his head in round 4. Nothing happened to them.

These are not simply heavy hits from hard men in a tough game of Rugby League. They are blatant, illegal practices from a coach with no other ideas.

Greg Inglis & Adam Reynolds from South Sydney

Greg Inglis (with stitches) and Adam Reynolds from South Sydney

Well congratulations Manly coach Geoff Toovey, you have once again galvanised the entire rugby league community into a hatred for your team, something previous Manly coach Des Hasler had worked so hard to change.

Perhaps, Manly coach Geoff Toovey, you should concentrate on actually coaching your players on how to play football? Thuggery and brutal stupidity might have you riding high on the competition ladder at the moment, but as your players build up an unsavoury reputation with the judiciary, and the suspensions become longer and longer, you will slide into oblivion.

Just a thought.

P.S: Yes I am a South Sydney supporter and no, I have never played Rugby League outside of high-school. So what makes me qualified to comment? Check out the video above and see for yourself.

Images from the Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, ABC, and Fox Sports.

Souths Turn 105 Today

On the 17 January, way back in 1908, the South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club was founded at Redfern Town Hall and Rugby League was born. Nine teams comprised the competition that year. They were, in alphabetical order;

Souths won the inaugural game of Rugby League, held at Birchgrove Oval, by defeating North Sydney 11 points to 7. South Sydney finished as minor premiers that year and went on to win the very first Grand Final by beating Eastern Suburbs 14 points to 12.

Since their auspicious beginnings Souths have gone on to win 20 premierships in total, a Rugby League record in Australia. We have also produced 64 Australian internationals, another record.

In 1925 Souths went through the entire season undefeated. They were the first Rugby League team to do so and are still one of only six teams to have ever achieved that milestone.

In 1951 Souths defeated Manly-Warringah 42 points to 14 in the Grand Final to claim their 13th title. It still remains as the highest score by any team in a Grand Final and the third highest margin. Manly gained some credibility back when they belted the Melbourne Storm 40 points to nil in 2008 😉

The miracle of ’55 saw Souths will eleven straight sudden death games in a row to claim their sixteenth premiership trophy.

The ’60s and ’70s saw four more Grand Final successes for the Rabbitohs, but times have been very lean since. In 2012 Souths finished third, which is their best performance since taking out the minor premiership in 1989.

With the largest membership base of any Sydney team, effective recruitment strategies and strong ties to the indigenous community, the Souths are poised to bring home their 21st premiership trophy.

Glory, Glory to South Sydney and happy birthday to the mighty Rabbitohs.

Birthday

iDad the Eighth

Move over Maradona.

By the time I had become a proud father of five I was nearing my late thirties. Unfortunately I had gained weight with each and every child that came along and my physique was no longer the bronzed Adonis of my early adolescence. My body had matured, like a fine wine or mouldy cheese and had slowed down to the speed of a turtle wading through treacle. I was in shape though. ‘Round’ is a shape after all. However, at the insistence of my partner, I returned to the sporting arena.

Standing in the Colosseum as rambunctious Romans bayed for Christian blood, shortly before the lions were let loose, was an exhilarating experience.  A crisp breeze dispersing the scent of blood before fear and defiance set in. At least that’s how I imagined it. The indoor soccer grounds at the local gym smelled more like old sweat and dirty socks, and the kids had come along to laugh at poor iDad as he waddled around breathlessly trying to compete with men not much more than half his age.

I lasted twenty minutes that first day.

As I stopped and spun anti-clockwise so as to kick the ball back into the field of play I heard a muffled gunshot. A millisecond later and my left knee could no longer bear my weight. The referee’s whistle blew and the young official approached me.

“Are you ok mate?”

I had no idea. Pain hadn’t set in yet. Nausea on the other hand…. Something was wrong.

“I don’t know. What happened?”

“Your knee popped. I heard it from over there. You need to go put ice on it.”

As I hobbled off the pitch for my ignominious exit I saw the man from the food shop walk round from behind the counter. He was carrying a bag of frozen peas, which he threw towards me.

“Get this on your knee quick smart mate or it will blow up like a balloon.”

“Did you hear it pop too?”

He grimaced at me before replying.

“Everybody heard that mate.”

He was right. The entire gymnasium had gone silent, and I was off to hospital.

Glory, Glory to South Sydney

Being an armchair athlete and the son of a Rugby League referee helped instill a passion for sports, and my favourite team is the South Sydney Rabbitohs. To date I have never seen them play in a grand final, let alone win one, but with Russell Crowe on board as the owner, iDad is quietly confident.

Rugby League is the dominant winter sport played across the eastern seaboard of Australia with the local competition boasting clubs from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand. It is played in over thirty nations throughout the globe with annual Test Matches between international sides and a Rugby League World Cup competition, with fourteen representative nations, held every four years or so.

It is a full contact, tribal game with some teams (and their fans) harboring grudges that go back over one hundred years. The annual State of Origin series pits New South Welshmen against their Queensland rivals, many of whom play in the same local sides together. Friendships are forgotten once the athletes walk out into the cauldron and the punishment these men put their bodies through needs to be seen to be believed.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are the most historically successful Rugby League team of them all. Unfortunately our glory has been few and far between in recent decades and it has become a sad reality that our supporters seem to have a mortgage on disappointment. This is reflected in our club mottos including:

The very popular, ‘oh well, there’s always next week.’

The seasonal, ‘oh well, there’s always next year.’

And the most frequently used of them all – ‘bugger’.

The love we have for our team can never be questioned though and in the year 2000, a crowd of 80,000 people marched on Sydney Town Hall to protest the way News Limited were treating the game and to demand that our club be reinstated back into the national competition. No. 1 was there with me. God Sakes and Granny had stayed at home. Fans wearing club colours from new teams, old teams and extinct teams vented their frustrations to the media; and the Rabbitohs went to court with a fire in their belly. We have not enjoyed much success since winning our case and resuming our playing status in 2002, but a true supporter never gives up.

One day, after a particularly bad beating at the hands of the New Zealand Warriors, three sad little boys came to have a chat to me. No.1 was the spokesman,

“Dad, we love you.”

I could tell right away that this was not going to go anywhere good. God Sakes and Granny looked at their shoes as No.1 continued.

“But do we have to keep going for Souths?”

iDad was speechless.

“They never win dad.”

God Sakes was right.

“They suck dad.”

Granny was too. I nodded sagely.

“No boys, you don’t have to keep following Souths if you don’t want to.”

It hurt for me to say it, but I felt I had no choice. Then they delivered the coup de grace.

“We’re also going to start going for Queensland in the State of Origin. New South Wales never wins that either.”

As the terrible trio toddled off to cause chaos in the rumpus room I slumped back into my armchair and watched wistfully as another Warrior was congratulated for his part in decimating our once beloved red and green footy team. My knee throbbed from the recent reconstruction and I wondered how I would tell their grandfather of the betrayal.

Then a cunning plan formed in the grey matter of my cerebellum. Time for a Chinese meal.

Power to the People.

Stuff of legend...John Sattler, suffering a broken jaw, is chaired off by Bob McCarthy after Souths beat Manly in the 1970 grand final. Source: The Daily Telegraph

The South Sydney Rugby League Club in Redfern had arguably one of the best Chinese restaurants around. Nothing flash or fancy, just plenty of prawn cutlets, gow gee and fried rice. It was inexpensive, tasty and kid-friendly, which made it the perfect ‘westwomp’ as the boys had come to call it. Generally we would go as a family unit with uncles, aunties, cousins and grand-parents. Our table was large and round, and the Lazy Susan was kept incredibly busy.

Outside the restaurant, but still within the building, was the South Sydney Football Club Hall of Fame where photos of players that had gone on to represent their state or country, were hung with pride. The most memorable of all was the picture of John Sattler, South Sydney’s captain in the late sixties and early seventies, being carried off the field after wining the 1970 Grand Final against Manly-Warringah. Blood coursed down his chin from a badly broken jaw he received in the opening minutes of the game. In spite of his horrendous injury he not only played on, but captained his side to one of the most courageous Grand Final wins of all time. As I told the story to my boys their eyes widened.

“Souffs are cooool!”

Once again Granny was right.

One Little Girl hadn’t arrived yet and Mini Me was still bottle fed, so it was just the five us at the table this night. The staff were amazing in spite of the mess Granny made with the ‘chomp-stinks’. God Sakes had given up on them ages ago. He just couldn’t stuff the food in quick enough.

By the time dinner had ended there was a fine layer of rice coating the carpet like sago snow and no more talk about supporting rival teams. To this day my boys are all still members of the football club, waiting patiently for success.

As my boisterous boys embarked on another brouhaha in the brasserie, possibly high on monosodium glutamate, I noticed that there was a minor commotion in the kitchen. Curious onlookers peered from the double doorway as the head-waiter approached me with a purpose.

“Are these all your children?”

For one horrible second I thought we may have finally outstayed our welcome.

“Yes, they’re all mine.”

He turned to the scullery and nodded prompting ‘oohs’, ‘ahhs’ and eyes widened with awe. Then I was posed another question.

“They are all boys?”

“Yes they are.”

More vigorous head bobbing evoked a round of applause from the chef and his crew.

“You must be a very powerful man.”

With that last comment he left to process my credit card. He was right you know, but he still got a big tip.

Its the 10th Anniversary Since Souths Were Reinstated Back Into The NRL

Today, 6 July 2011, marks ten years since the South Sydney Rabbitohs won reinstatement to the National Rugby League.

I remember that dark day when the Pride of the League, one of the few remaining foundation clubs, was banished for no other reason than they refused to capitulate to the arbitrary and unreasonable demands of the despots who controlled the game. Howls of protest echoed from Redfern and the surrounding suburbs as fans struggled to come to grips with the loss of their red and green heroes. Celebrities, high-profile businessmen and average joes, united in their pain and anger, flooded the mailrooms of our major newspapers and clogged the phone systems of callback radio shows.

We were not going to go quietly into the night.

Donations came in from wealthy benefactors. Lawyers agreed to work pro bono. Exhibition matches at Redfern Oval between a combined South Sydney Rabbitohs and North Sydney Bears side, and the visiting national sides of Lebanon and the USA (American Tomahawks), were staged to raise money.

Then we marched!

Some say there were over 80,000 people at Town Hall on that sunny Sunday afternoon in November. I reckon it was closer to 100,000. I was there with my son, my father and my brother-in-law plodding our way toward George Street, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of unhappy humans. An Eastern-Suburbs devotee in a brand new jersey was walking next to us. I thought he was there to gloat, so I asked him what he was doing. His reply:

“You think Roosters supporters don’t care what they did to you guys? Its a disgrace and should not be allowed to happen to ANY team.”

He was right, so I shook his hand and thanked him. We would be rivals again in a couple of years, but not today.

As the throngs assembled at Town Hall I noticed that the crowd was not just coloured cardinal and myrtle. Broncos, Bears, Bulldogs, Eels, Sea Eagles and Sharks made up some large numbers. Magpies, Tigers, Steelers and Dragons vented their anger at being forced to merge. Even the long extinct Jets were there. Whether they liked the Rabbitohs or not, Australia’s Rugby League community had come out in force to protest the injustice perpetrated upon on their game.

South’s legal team went back to court and, on the 6th of July 2001, they won the right to field a team in the 2002 competition and beyond.

We were back – finally.

It’s been a long, hard journey since reinstatement. There’s not been a lot to cheer about, but at least we have a team to cheer for.

Glory, Glory to South Sydney!

The Botany Gentlemen’s Club

It was the 3rd of November, 2001 and in the beer-soaked front bar of the old Endeavour Hotel five of Botany’s brightest entrepreneurs had gathered to watch the title fight between American loudmouth Zabdiel Judah and the softly spoken Aussie, Kostya Tszyu. The pre-match interviews featured a brazen Judah inflating his own self-importance and declaring that he was about to make history. Tszyu on the other hand simply complimented his opponent’s ability and assured his fans that he had trained well. Zab entered the ring with Mike Tyson in his entourage and an American flag wrapped around his neck.

The Endeavour’s patrons booed.

Judah’s reach was a good two inches longer than Tszyu’s, which tested the Australian’s maneuverability. Kostya ducked and weaved throughout the entire first round and although a few of Zab’s blows found their mark the first three minutes ended fairly even.

Round 2 however was an entirely different story.

It was as if the Aussie boxer had heard the advice of the Botany Entrepreneurs for as soon as the bell went he was up in Judah’s face. The  southpaw New Yorker could not get back far enough to throw a decent punch and with only moments to go in the second stanza Kostya tapped him gently with a left and then planted his right fist flush in the middle of the Brooklyn bragger’s nose.

The Endeavour Hotel erupted as Judah hit the canvas.

History was made that day. Firstly by the diminutive Australia pugilist becoming the first man in thirty years to unify the belts in the Junior Welterweight division, and secondly by the amalgamation of these ‘Captains of Industry’ into the Botany Gentlemen’s Club.

The flamboyant behaviour of the BGC (as they quickly became known) epitomised the Noughties. Frequent revenue raising activities at Randwick Race Course resulted in an equitable distribution of wealth amongst hotel staff, pro-shops, bookmakers and restaurants of the little industrial suburb. Topless waitresses flocked to the Captain Cook Hotel every Thursday so that these local legends could help them with their college tuition fees, whilst meat-raffle merchants knew they could count on the Entrepreneur’s donations.

No social activity was ignored. School trivia nights and Blues Brothers Revivals all benefited from the BGC’s largess, as did the local cricket club with BGC members cajoling the flirty nurses at the Royal hotel to support the boys and girls.

And when the time came to cast the deciding vote that gave Russell Crowe ownership of the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs Football Club, this League of Extraordinary Gentlemen were on hand to deliver the Bunnies their salvation.

Original Cast.

Formed over packet of Parker’s Pretzels and a schooner of Victoria Bitter, the BGC are indeed twenty-first century versions of Robin Hood and his band of merry men.

But who are the founding fathers of the Botany Gentlemen’s Club? Preferring anonymity to the praise they rightly deserve, these pillars of society can be identified as follows:

El Presidenté: Betting legend and dictator for life the BGC’s beloved President is a prince amongst men. Organiser of Christmas Parties, drinker of beer and member of the Guy Sebastian Fan Club, El Presidenté has never missed a planning meeting or a call to arms. Nor will you see him drunkenly abusing his minions because they refuse to watch that God-awful movie, Blues Brother 2000. El Presidenté is the only man who knows the babes from Bombshells by name and always makes eye contact when he engages them in conversation.

The Treasurer: Paul Keating’s got nothing on this guy. From his chipped little china teapot hidden away at the back of the pantry, the Treasurer managed the barren bankroll during the early days of the BGC, ensuring their financial stability and success for the years to come. As a share holder in Carlton United Breweries the Treasurer became the first man in history to build his children an above-ground swimming pool made entirely out of empty VB beer cans. With his innate ability to sleep standing up, the Treasurer has never shirked his responsibilities donating both his home and his brazier to the BGC’s bonfire requirements.

The Skipper: The BGC’s resident boating enthusiast (who’s afraid to go fishing outside the heads) has a fondness for Tyrells’ Old Winery Cabinet Merlot and James Boags Premium Lager. Although this man lacks a Gilligan he does have his very own Mary-Anne who, upon his command, will fetch him a beer or a sandwich and make sure the BGC members get home ok. The Skipper never thinks twice about paying a little extra at the silent auctions on school trivia nights and will wait until everyone is over the ales and onto the bourbon before he has his shout.

The Burglar: With two solo golf titles to his name and a handicap that would shame Tiger Woods, the Burglar is the youngest of the founding members. His skill at selling meat trays to vegetarians came in handy during those early years of fund raising and his penchant for winning seafood platters fed the BGC at times when their money was all but exhausted. A raconteur of literary repute, the Burglar partnered with the Treasurer to take out the 2010 BGC Pool Championship and, together with the Skipper and the Probie, he recently claimed the Inaugural Ambrose BGC Golf Trophy.

Blisters: So named because he would turn up after the work was done, Blisters went to the pub during one of the BGC’s early camping trips and was never seen again.

New Recruits.

With the groundwork done the founding fathers (sans one) refused to rest on their laurels and expansion quickly came to mind. The BGC’s notoriety had spread to soccer clubs, netball squads and touch football teams so a recruitment program was quickly put into place. Identification of possible candidates though was no mean feat. Selection criteria included the ability to drink beer from both aluminium cans and plastic bottles (if the need arose), an unfailing support of the South Sydney Rabbitohs and a like-minded, yet somewhat evil, sense of humour. Wannabes were culled thick and fast but the following outstanding applicants were successful.

The Signmaker: A humble, giant of a man with a passion for surfing and bonfires, the Signmaker brought brazier destruction and Bundaberg Rum to the BGC. With calloused hands harder than steel the new member could feed razor sharp palm fronds into the fire faster than the Flash. A misspent youth and wicked stories to match made the Signmaker a welcome addition to the BGC team.

Mr Email: Mr. Email is the only member who can simultaneously shut down the servers of several major international corporations with a simple electronic communication. His fondness for g-strings and the height impaired is legendary, as is his winning try for the BGC touch footy team. Unfortunately he talks a better pool game than he plays and his penchant for effeminate cocktails and wanting to ‘spoon the Probie’ frequently causes the Founding Fathers to look sideways at him.

The Probie: The newest addition to the BGC likes to brew his own beer and listen to doof doof music. He also has a man crush on ex Rugby League player Brett Kimmorley and only supports the Rabbitohs as his second side. In spite of his rugged good looks and rakish charm the question still remains how he got past the review committee.

With new talent on board the BGC quickly began to spread their wealth up and down the NSW coast. Una Voce, Gwandalan and Culburra were identified as towns in need of patronage and the BGC obliged. Cash was flashed at jukeboxes, bars, coffee shops and RSL clubs by loyal BGCers as their goodwill rampaged north and south. Discarded building materials and unwanted fence posts were properly disposed of in thirty foot infernos that provided warmth to all the local inhabitants whilst beer kegs were emptied and refreshed in all the regional bowling clubs.

So what’s next for this philanthropic band of brothers?

Following on from a successful stint as backing vocalists for Richard Clapton and The Neil Diamond Show there was a very real possibility that this charismatic cadre would go head-to-head with the rock star wannabes on Australian Idol. However, the BGC have always made it their mission to provide support for those that need it most and with the current condition of the Wallabies Rugby Union side and the NSW State of Origin team you can bet that interstate and indeed international expansion is certainly on the cards.

We call rest assured though that whatever happens it will be for the benefit of the lucky community that the BGC next sets their sights upon.

God bless you boys!