Ahh, Madge. You will forever have a special place in my heart as the man who finally, fiii-naaa-lly let me see my beloved Rabbitohs win a premiership.
I’m a total South Sydney Rabbitohs tragic. I blame genetics, or upbringing. My dad has been a Rabbitohs man since as long as I can remember and longer. He tells me he grew up pretending to kick the ball like Eric Simms, the star of his time, in the glory days of many glorious premierships . I grew up watching the poor old Rabbitohs hardly let go of the wooden spoon. I was never all that interested, though, until they were fatefully given the boot out of the rugby league competition. Actually, I was a little too young to understand the legal and rule based complexities of the situation. All I knew was I was a sucker for the underdog and my dad was devastated.
We went to one of the ‘save souths’ concerts back in the nineties, and my dad was one of thousands who marched in Sydney to show their disgust at the powers-that-be who arbitrarily decided Souths were out.
I don’t imagine that the people who made the decision to kick Souths out thought that doing so would actually create more Souths fans, but they did. I’m one of them. Seeing all this, what the ‘big end of town’ had done to the ‘little guy’ was enough to spark a fire in me. I barely knew what offside was, or what a 40/20 meant. But I knew I wanted to throw my support behind the beleaguered Rabbitohs.
I was there the day big Russ rang the historic bell. And I’ve been a die-hard Rabbitoh ever since. But we Rabbitohs fans know how to cope with adversity. As a teenager I watched far too many games where the Rabbitohs lost. Badly, often. We had few good players, and were regularly outshone. Everyone just assumed the wooden spoon would be ours, and it usually was. Still, I hung in there.
Then along came Madge, aka Michael Maguire. We had also started to get a few more quality players both from other teams and coming through the ranks. A shift occurred, and we weren’t at the bottom anymore.
Cut to 2014. I still cannot quite believe we actually won that premiership, but the hordes of cars with Rabbitohs flags roaring down Parramatta Road on 5th October, 2014 yelling ‘Go Rabbitohs’ at my ageing jersey were definitely real. My dad’s tears of joy were definitely real. So were mine.
Madge alone is not The Reason we won, but to be fair, you’ve got to give credit to him; his influence was massive that year. Despite a few blips, he continues to steer my beloved Rabbitohs to a better place and I’m so grateful he became part of ‘our’ team.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, his thoughts on the premiership year and its journey, because it felt honest, and gave me a new perspective on events I only knew from my own perspective. A Rabbitohs fan takes what we can, when we can. It was an actual lifetime between premierships for the Rabbitohs; the last one before 2014 was in 1971. My dad would’ve been 14. The next one didn’t come until he was 57. It was the first one I’d ever seen, and as we Rabbitohs know, it can be a long time between drinks. It could be the last one I ever see, but I sure hope not. And with a man like Madge at the helm, with his astute football and leadership mind, we are well placed for another win.
This book is for all the Rabbitohs tragics like me, and all rugby league fans who want a glimpse inside the game.