Well it’s that time of year once again, the rugby league grand final and an all Sydney final: South Sydney Rabbitohs vs Canterbury Bulldogs.
The last time these two meet was 1967, South’s winning that one 12-10.
Both teams are strong on supporters, with fierce local fan groups. They are old teams in the comp, with South’s a foundation club from 1908 and Canterbury joining in the first push of new teams in 1935.
Both have won their fair share of finals too.
South’s won the first grand final in 1908 (and 1909 when their opponents, Balmain, failed to turn up for the game. Souths kicked off at 2 to an empty field, gathered the ball and scored the winning try) and they hold the record for the most finals for any club at 20 out of 33 appearances. In the first 20 years of the comp, South’s won 9 finals, including 5 in a row between 1925 and 1929. Their last win was 1971, beating St George 16-10.
43 years since the last has been a very long time for South’s. Not only have they not won a grand final, but in the aftermath of the Super League in the mid-1990s, South’s were excluded from the NRL. Following two Supreme Court challenges and two mass rallies, the first which attracted 30,000 people who marched from Redfern to the Sydney Town Hall and the second that attracted 80,000 league fans from all clubs, they were readmitted to the comp in 2002. In 2006 Russell Crowe, a lifelong supporter, bought the club, and a new era began.
Canterbury have played 17 grand finals in their 79 years in the comp, winning 8. They won their first in 1938 just 3 years after joining the comp, the quickest win for a non-foundation club until Melbourne won in 1999. Like South’s the Bulldogs had a long drought after early success. They won in 1942 and then not again until 1980, 38 years later.
The 1980s were the Bulldogs glory decade, appearing in 5 and winning 4 grand finals, including 1984 and 1985. Another 3 played in the 1990s with a win in 1995 and their latest win in 2004.
While South’s have long been known as the Rabbitohs, Canterbury have been through a series of names in their history. At first, the logo was a B inside a C and so they were nicknamed the See-Bees. Then in the later 1940s, with a lot of country players in the team they were called by their detractors the Country Bumpkins, then the Cantabs by the media (doesn’t really roll off the tongue that one) and then the Berrie’s.
In 1978 under pressure from the league marketers to come up with an animal mascot (Canterbury and Newtown were the only 2 teams without an animal mascot), the club asked the fans what it should be.
Overwhelmingly the decision was for a Bulldog, and so it was.