NRL Grand Final: Day of destiny
5 October, 2014, 10:10 am
Update: 10:10AM THIS is the grand final Sydney has waited 43 years to see.
South Sydney, with 20 premierships the most of any team in the NRL and their vast army of fans, return to rugby leagues biggest day since 1971.
It is a remarkable sporting journey for a club kicked out of the competition, returned in 2002 and is now one of the biggest and most glamorous in the country.
When the Bunnies last reached a grand final, the match day program cost 10 cents. A loaf of bread was 21 cents and a quart of milk set you back just 19 cents. For 80 minutes tonight, Sydney will again be living in the 70s.
Old Peter Bullfrog Moore, the club’s late Godfather, once said that success is in the DNA of Canterbury. It’s a tough club that doesn’t believe in fairytales or Russell Crowe-style Hollywood endings but true grit and grind.
Right across Sydney there has been the blue and white of the Bulldogs and the red and green of South Sydney as two very different footy clubs proudly pin their colours to the mast.
Houses have been painted, cars detailed with club colours and even lawns cut with club emblems.
That’s how much today means.
Two different tribes fighting for the same prize.
Every grand final takes on a life of its own, each magic moment etched deep in the minds of fans and later retold as folklore in years to come.
For Souths, it is the final game at the club for rugby-bound Sam Burgess playing alongside his twin brothers, George and Tom, for possibly the last time.
It is about young guns in 20-year-old Dylan Walker and 19-year-old Alex Johnston, two local kids, who have been at the heart of this Rabbitohs story.
And that’s not forgetting veteran 35-year-old Lote Tuqiri, who last played in a grand final in 2000 with the Broncos and has 12 different jerseys in his wardrobe.
For the Bulldogs, there is James Graham, the front-rower genius who came all the way from St Helens to chase his dream, halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson looking to build on their Origin success with NSW by claiming a premiership ring and Tim Browne, who has returned from a fractured skull just for this day.
Today represents 60 years of grand finals, with mandatory deciders first introduced to rugby league in 1954. What memories we have.
We have seen the mighty St George dynasty of 11 premierships in a row, Souths skipper John Sattler playing with a broken jaw in 1970, Bulldogs winger Steve Gearins miracle try in 1980, right through to Scott Sattlers tackle for Penrith in 2003.
Or who could forget the upset of 1969 or the magic of Benji Marshall for the Tigers in 2005.
Or, two years earlier when these two teams met in a grand final for the only time and Bobby McCarthy took an intercept and raced the length of the field to seal a 12-10 victory and sprint into South Sydney folklore. The extra time Canberra win of 1989 added to the theatre of grand final day.
One moment, one play, one legacy.
It’s a day for legends to rise, a day for footy fans to stand up for their heroes and the Greatest Game of All to take centre stage in Australian sport.
It is a day for the players, their families, the fans and a day when rugby league is Simply the Best.
Chief Executive Officer of the NRL Dave Smith thanked fans, sponsors and partners who have helped make 2014 such a success in his season-ending address.
Some 80,000 people may have marched to save Souths from extinction, tonight thousands will again march for what would be the ultimate redemption story.
In front of sold out ANZ Stadium opposing them is the Bulldogs army and the feared supporters of the Kennel.
They are two Sydney clubs with a rich and successful history.
Whose side are you on?