Former chairman happy with talent

SYDNEY – Returning South Sydney patriarch George Piggins believes the Rabbitohs’ grand final side possess similar hallmarks to the 1971 premiership-winning team he played in.

Piggins, who led the push for the Rabbitohs’ reinclusion to the NRL for the 2002 season after they were kicked out three years earlier, will watch the team for the first time on Sunday since losing a bitter ownership battle with Russell Crowe in 2006.

The 69-year-old has also served the club as coach and chairman and the Rabbitohs’ award for their player of the season is named after him.

But after spurning several offers to attend Souths games and events, Piggins will watch from a corporate box at ANZ Stadium after his demand for $100,000 to be given to charity was accomplished.

“I had to honour my side of the conversation,” Piggins said.

“I’d love to see them win, it’s bloody hard to do that as shown by it taking us 43 years since the last one and we’ve won more than anybody else.”

Piggins was in the side that beat St George to win Souths’ 20th premiership and like Michael Maguire’s team it contained a large smattering of locally-produced players.

Current stars Adam Reynolds, Dylan Walker, Alex Johnston, Jason Clark and John Sutton all came through the ranks having grown up around the club’s heartland just like many of the ’71 vintage.

“It’s good for the kids in the community to see local products come through,” Piggins said.

“We had me, Ron Coote, Bob McCarthy, Paul Sait, Gary Stevens, that came through to grade at around the same time and you form a strong connection.

“Then there were the country kids who came down like John O’Neil and we’d all go to the pub together and they slipped straight in.

“A few of this current side are Mascot Jets so they were always going to be good.”

Piggins was also full of praise for the departing Sam Burgess and believes the rugby-bound back-rower would have fitted in comfortably to the side he played in.

“He’s hard to bring down and plays a good strong game,” he said.

“You can compare him with his fellow countryman Malcolm Reilly, who I used to clash with. He’s tough, big and strong … not bad for a Pommy.”

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