Ryan McGhee from Tennessee USA found rugby league when there was no sport on TV due to the Covid-19 shutdown. He discovered the Rabbitohs & has adopted us as his club.
Ryan says he’s fallen in love with the game because of the pace of play and the unique aspect the kicking game brings to it. He said he watches live NRL on Fox Sports 1 & it suits him because he has a 1 year old who gets up at 6am when the games are on. Ryan said that he’s loves the Rabbitohs Radio podcast teams passion for the sport and the Rabbitohs.
Ryan hosts a Curling podcast called Rocks Across the Pond & he’s a huge Virginia Tech Hokies fans & tailgater. His crew has about 10RVs that all park close to each other & have a big party at games.
So Ryan is a now a Bunnies man but he will fit right in with us & here’s why.
The tailgate fans are mad supporters much like the Burrow. They get together, bbq, drink & cheer their team.
Curling is like lawn bowls on ice & Ryan says “Curling is a Scottish game deeply rooted in sportsmanship that starts with a handshake and ends with the winning team buying the first round.” What’s not to like about that?
Ryan is a sports nut just like us, welcome aboard mate, up the Mighty Rabbitohs!
Colin Whelan was a rugby league photographer for 34 years. He’s also an author, traveller and brilliant story-teller. Steve Mavin, co-host of the Rabbitohs Radio Podcast, so enjoyed listening to Col’s yarns on the show that he wrote up a yarn so good it needs three parts. This is the first one. It begins with Whelan hitch-hiking across Australia, ends with a favour from “Break Even” Bill Mordey. Enjoy the ride.
During my career playing for the Rabbitohs in the late 80s and early 90s, Col Whelan was always on the sideline taking pictures.
Although I’d say hello we never really got to know each other, and it’s only since he joined our Facebook group Rabbitohs Radio Podcast Listeners that we began to regularly communicate.
Col has also graciously shared many old Souths images from his lifetime behind the lens, and we’ve been lapping up the interesting commentary it generates.
The Rabbitohs Radio Podcast team – Grant Chappell, Darren Brown and myself – interviewed Col in our studio in June. As soon as our chat began we knew it was going to be a great one.
And while it’s very hard to do justice to telling the stories of a master story-teller, I’m going to have a crack.
Colin Whelan was born in Sydney in 1951 but grew up without rugby league in Adelaide and then in Perth. In 1963 the Whelan family moved back to Sydney, lived in Kensington and Col enrolled at Sydney Boys High where in 1964 he discovered rugby and rugby league.
Col started hitching from an early age after being inspired by Jack Kerouac‘s On The Road. Aged 13, to honour a bet with a mate, Col stuck out his thumb to see if he could hitch rides from Sydney to Perth and back. He completed the feat in eleven days. He had his mother’s blessing.
The adventure instilled a love of travelling in Col and an appreciation for “the intimacy of the road”.
Les from La Perouse was Col’s first mate at school. Les had only one stipulation about their friendship: “You have to barrack for Souths”. So Col did and they remain good mates to this day.
The night before the famous 1965 grand final between the Dragons and Rabbitohs – the one that saw a record crowd of 78,056 cram into the SCG – Col and Les left school, walked across Moore Park in their uniforms, and slept behind the Brewongle Stand. In the morning the boys emerged undetected and watched the game. So the crowd figure should be 78,058!
Experiences like this, Whelan said, meant he was “bitten by the red and green monster, and there was no antidote.”
In 1969 Col became the first (and still only) Prefect to be expelled from Sydney Boys High because of his refusal to stop protesting against the war in Vietnam.
Col had begun drinking in pubs after school and became a regular at Jim Buckley’s Newcastle Hotel on George St, The Rocks. At this establishment he met several brilliant authors who would shape his life.
At the Newcastle Col met Donald Horne who’d written The Lucky Country in 1964, Germaine Greer whose breakout book The Female Eunuch came out in 1972, and Frank Hardy (below) whose Power Without Glory is one of the most infamous books in Australian history.
Col was taken under Frank’s wing and learned the etiquette of pubs; about drinking and of shouting. He learned about telling yarns. He learned the difference between telling stories and sharing them. He learned to listen.
Col went to work at the Commodore Tavern in North Sydney which he described as “a working-class pub that was very rough”.
One day George the publican asked Col to check what was blocking the toilet. Col discovered a Beretta pistol was hidden in the pull-chain cistern. George told Col to leave it there. A few days later it was gone, no-one the wiser about its owner.
The highlight of Col’s working week was when the beer truck arrived each Thursday with Paul Sait and Ron Coote delivering the amber fluid.
“I’d see two of my heroes and they were just normal blokes, real down-to-earth guys,” Whelan said. “I was working once a week with my idols, the guys I’d watch play on the weekend.”
Col went to Macquarie University from 1970-72 and played rugby union. When he left he hitchhiked (of course) from Burma (now Thailand) to Copenhagen in Sweden, a trip which took him across Afghanistan and other places now off limits.
He hitchhiked to North Africa and the Middle East. He followed the Grateful Dead’s tour of Europe and developed a love of opium and hashish. He spent five months working on an opium farm in Turkey and six months on a hashish plantation in Lebanon’s Beka’a Valley.
He was briefly held by the Syrian secret police for photographing where he shouldn’t have been. He headed to Jordan and Israel. He worked with Bedouins. He lived on a kibbutz in the Negev desert.
In 1976 Col returned home to Sydney with an Israeli woman, Naomi, who became his wife and the mother of their twins, a boy Jesse and daughter Natalie who were born in 1988 through IVF.
And he wondered what to do.
“I came home and thought what do I want to do?” Whelan said. “I had an interest in football and photography so I started teaching myself how to take photos.
“I started snapping pics at rugby games but at first I was terrible. So I would just give my photos away to players. There was no money in it.”
One day a phone call came from Gary Pearse that would change Col’s life. Pearse, a former Wallabies backrower, worked in marketing for Winfield, needed a photographer for the company’s new Winfield Cup sponsorship. After seeing Col’s action shots, a job offer came from John Quayle at the NSWRL followed by an opportunity at Big League Magazine thanks to “Break Even” Bill Mordey.
And a super sports snapper was born.
Stay tuned for Part 2 in which we talk to Col about his adventures as an NRL photographer, and Part 3 in which we talk about his cracking book about bush pubs. You can follow Col Whelan on Facebook at Nothing But The Pub or email him to say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the podcast this week we talk to legendary photographer Col Whelan, our Remembering A Rabbitoh is Paul Sait & we check out our newest Rabbitoh Jaxson Paulo.
Famous photographer Col Whelan gives us one of the best interviews we’ve had on the podcast. Cols’ life & times are nothing short of amazing from meeting Nelson Mandela, taking once in a lifetime photos to writing a best selling book on Pubs.
Paul Joseph Sait (Saity) #549 was 4th September 1947. Sait went to school at Matraville Public and also played his junior footy for the Matraville Tigers, he is a South Sydney man through & through. Sait worked his way through the grades at Souths and eventually made his debut in round 4 against Wests at Lidcombe Oval in 1968.
One of the most ferocious players to have ever worn the Red and Green, Paul Sait became a fan favourite among the Rabbitohs’ faithful as a versatile competitor from 1968-1978. In 1969 he come off the bench in the famous loss to the Tigers in the grand final & was unlucky when a controversial no try wasn’t awarded to him late in the game. “Referee Keith Page did us no favours, with the Balmain players going down injured all the time”, he once said.
In 1970 he played in the centres and marked up against rugby league Immortal Bob Fulton and played well smashing Fulton every chance he got. His form in 1970 saw him rewarded with a spot on the winning Kangaroo World Cup squad. Sait again played in the centres in the 71” grand final win over St George 16-10 & also made his test debut in 71” against the Kiwi’s which was a proud moment for Paul & his family.
When Ron Coote left the club in 72” Sait moved into his preferred position of lock forward at Souths. The same year Sait was again a part of the Australian World Cup squad, putting in one of his finest performances against France where he scored a double in the 31-9 win. In 73” He played in all 3 matches again Great Britain.
Ron Coote said of his former team mate “he was a brilliant player, he had to wait to make his mark in first grade but then he did a terrific job, he played in the centres and also in the forwards or wherever you needed him to play. Sait was a fine attacking player and he could defend too. Sait retired in 1978 the same way he started playing against Wests at Lidcome Oval.
Sait was made a life member of the Rabbitohs in 1991 He is a member of Souths dream team He was also named in the Souths Juniors team of the century He captained his beloved Rabbitohs He was a versatile player who could play front row, second row, lock, 5/8 and in the centres.
Pauls son Paul Jnr aka Stich said “Dad coached Souths lower grades and also the Illawarra Red Devils & La Perouse. I also remember going to Souths games and being in the dressing room & being allowed to sit on the sideline. Dad would take us surfing when we were young, he loved surfing, spearfishing water skiing. Now we just enjoy quiet birthday get togethers”.
Thanks again to Marco Sivis & Brad Ryder for their contributions.
I’ve always been fascinated by the year the South Sydney Rabbitohs began in 1908. The focal point of the this tale is Arthur Stephen Hennessy nickname A.S.H & I was immediately drawn to the fact that we share the name Stephen spelt with the PH. ASH is Rabbitoh first grade player #1 & I’m #757, he made his debut in 1908 & mine was 1987 but we are both Stephens & Rabbitohs players so for me we share an affinity. I realise it’s only his middle name, the S in the acronym ASH but the man known as the ‘Father Of The Rabbitohs’ and I both suited up for the mighty Rabbits & didn’t spell our name Steven with the V. (Yes I do answer to the shortened version Steve but that’s beside the point!)
The most satisfying discovery I made was to uncover the fact that the first rugby league game ever played in Australia was held on the 21st of March 1908 at Sir Joseph Banks Park Botany. On this historic day a South Sydney Possibles & Probables trial match was played. I was born & bred in Botany, played for the Botany Rams & still live here today but I never knew about this game that ASH took part in was played at a park that I roamed as a kid.
In The Beginning…
The story of the Rabbitohs inaugural season in 1908 & their eventual victory in the first ever Australian rugby league grand final is a tale that Rabbitohs fans will cherish forever.
Stories will endlessly be told about the clubs Redfern origins, it’s 11-7 victory over North Sydney the first time the team took the field & the march to glory over the Roosters in the grand final at the end of that season.
This article takes you through some key points of this time & highlights the involvement of the ‘Father Of The Rabbitohs’ Arthur Hennessy.
Rugby League broke away from Rugby Union in the late 1800s for the simple reason that players weren’t being paid. The greatest game of all was born in England in 1895.
The beginning of South Sydney traces back to early meetings in the Australian test cricketer Victor Trumper’s shop. Trumper is one of the most important figures in the club’s formation.
Five other men also played huge roles in creating the Rabbitohs – Arthur Hennessy, S. George Ball, Johnny McGrath, Billy Cann & Ed “Son” Fry. Early meetings were held in 1907, plans were hatched then finally a meeting took place on 17th January 1908 at Redfern Town Hall Sydney to form the South Sydney District Rugby League Club.
Arthur Stephen Hennessy (nickname ASH) was born in Sydney on the 24th September 1876. Hennessy played hooker & although only a small man at 5ft 8ins (173cm) & 12st. 6lbs. (79kg) he would become a star rugby union player winning a competition with Souths Rugby Union in 1905 & gaining NSW representative honours.
By the time he finally helped create the NSWRL & the Rabbitohs, Hennessy was 31 years old so his career as a rugby league player was relatively short but he would go on to become the first captain of NSW & the Australian Kangaroos.
A trial match was organised between the South Sydney Possibles & Probables on the 21st March 1908 at Sir Joseph Banks Park Botany as a tune up for the upcoming season but also so the players could learn the rules to this newly created game. Englishman Tom McCabe lectured players and officials on the finer points of the new code. This historic match would be the first ever rugby league game played on Australian soil. Hennessy captained the Probables but they were defeated 9-8 by the Possibles led by Bill Cann.
On the 20th April 1908 the big one happened, the Rabbitohs first ever competition game in the NSWRL. Hennessy took the field for the Bunnies at Birchgrove Oval as an undersized captain/coach. Arthur Hennessy would earn the honour of being named Souths first grade player number #1. This numbering system was introduced by the club in 2003 & Hennessy was allocated his number then. The modern players like myself have embraced this numbering system with pride. Chris McQueen has his number 1070 boldly tattooed on his neck below is left ear.
The first ever try scorer for Souths was winger Tommy Anderson (first grade player #2) in the 11-7 win over North Sydney.
Souths would win their next 2 games before suffering defeat for the first time at the hands of arch rivals Eastern Suburbs 13-12 at the Royal Agricultural Society Showground. The Souths v Easts rivalry has been around for as long as the game has existed.
This would be Souths only loss of the season, they would remain undefeated all the way through to the grand final where they turned the tables on Easts to win the game 14-12. This result secured the competition, the first of the clubs 21 premierships, a record that has allowed the Rabbitohs to be continually described as the ‘Pride Of The League’
Hennessy would only play 5 games for Souths in 1908 before leaving for England on board the RMS Macedonia with the 1908-09 Kangaroos with 2 rounds to go before the finals. When their ship stopped over in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) the Rabbitohs players received a telegram from the team saying a simple message “Premiers”.
The tour robbed both Souths & Easts of their best players for the grand final & condemned the game to a contest without the best talent competing. Notable absentees that went on tour for Souths were Arthur Hennessy, Tommy Anderson & Arthur Butler (first grade player #3) while Easts lost the one & only Dally Messenger, Dan Frawley & Sandy Pearce.
Arthur Hennessy suffered a broken jaw on the Kangaroo tour & didn’t play in a test match. Hennessy played a total of 26 games for the Rabbitohs & would go into coach the Rabbitohs & Kangaroos.
Hennessy would create a institution of “running rugby” at South Sydney. He strongly advocated the no kick principle, emphasizing the importance of ball possession to score tries. This came to be the mark of South Sydney’s football with straight running and backing up. The no kick policy produced fast, open football and for Souths a remarkable winning record.
Hennessy was also caught up in the boundary wars with Easts that forced him to play for the tri colours for a short period.
Hennessy moved to Maroubra where he invested in the Maroubra Speedway and in mini-golf, and partly owned the Amusu cinema, Maroubra, living in a cottage opposite the theatre. Survived by his wife, Hennessy died on 19 September 1959 and was buried with Anglican rites in Botany cemetery.
After a 43 year drought the Rabbitohs won their 21st premiership in 2014. This victory meant that their legions of fans could celebrate the ‘Pride Of The League’ once again & sing the song ‘Glory Glory to South Sydney….South Sydney marches on’.
On Friday 26th June 2020 an image was posted in our newly created Facebook group ‘Rabbitohs Radio Podcast Listeners’ by legendary photographer Col Whelan.
Beneath the photo Col asked the question “Any idea who these blokes are”?
The next day we had our answer thanks to Chris Isouard. In the picture stood three Rabbitohs legends Albert Clift, George Treweek & Eddie Root.
“Albert mentioned this day in a couple of his interviews over the years” said Chris. “Treweek and Root visited him in the early 80s and presented him with some of their playing memorabilia. Like many, Albert was a hero of mine and inspired me as a kid to collect everything Souths”.
Albert Clift was a former player for South Sydney, former official and director, was the Club’s first mascot back in 1968, held an amazing collection of Rabbitohs memorabilia including the famed timekeeper’s bell from the first game in 1908 & is a Life Member of the Football Club.
Eddie Root (first grade player #139) 109 games & 34 tries was a starting forward in the Rabbitohs golden era of 7 premiership wins between 1925-32. Root had a brilliant career & is rightly regarded as one of the greatest ever Rabbitohs.
The 1931 Rabbitohs
The 1931 South Sydney Rabbitohs defeated the Eastern Suburbs Roosters 12-7 in the NSWRL grand final. Eddie Root was the hooker & George Treweek played second row.
George Treweek (first grade player #153) 119 games & 40 tries was a starting forward in the Rabbitohs golden era of 7 premiership wins between 1925-32. He is a legendary attacking player who was rated as the finest second row forward the game has produced.
On this weeks show we bask in the glory of our 40-12 win over the Warriors, chat to our special guest Souths fan Jeremy Muir, preview the monster clash with the Panthers, Roy Asotasi is our Remembering A Rabbitoh & we talk about Cowboys legendary jouno Doug Kingston.
Remembering A Rabbitoh – Roy Asotasi First Grade Player No #1047
Roy Asotasi is an Auckland junior who became an interchange forward with the Bulldogs in 2003, appeared in all 28 matches for the club in the premiership-winning 2004 season. Although 23 of these games (including the grand final) were from the interchange bench, Asotasi used his mobility and size to good effect at the club. In October that year he made his Test debut in the 16-all draw with Australia before making two more Test appearances for the Kiwis in England during the Tri Nations competition. Asotasi matured as a Test class forward and played in NZ’s victory in the Tri-Nations final in 2005. The following year he became a key signing for the battling Souths club for the 2007 season. – ALAN WHITICKER
Rabbitoh Of The Week – Jasmin Mavin & Tony Kingston
Our co Rabbitohs Of The Week are Mavos daughter Jas & her boyfriend Tony. Jas is an instructional designer & she has been a huge help on the show giving us guidance with production & design plus she provides us with honest feedback for the show, website & socials.
Jasmin went to South Sydney High like her dad, represented Souths in several Oztag State Cups & also in netball. Jas first dream job was to be the first woman of league and she had the word Mavo printed across the back of her year 12 red & green school footy jersey. Jas now works for Harvey Norman who sponsor the NRL and founded Women In League
Doug was a journalist at the Townsville Bulletin & in 1989 there was a Panasonic Cup game between the Broncos & Eels scheduled to be played in Townsville. Locals formed long lines to buy tickets & Doug seized the opportunity to promote the idea that North Queenland should have their own footy team by writing an article in the paper, meetings were held, committees were formed, the public was consulted & the rest is history.
In an article written in 2015 for the Cowbys 20th anniversary Doug talks about the day he arrived at the NSWRL headquarters with Kerry Boustead;
“The application (for the Cowboys to be included in the competition) was supported by a petition signed by almost 30,000 North Queenslanders, and letters of support from 20 major companies, 11 public sector organisations and 14 politicians.
It was delivered to NSWRL headquarters in Sydney by stagecoach, with Boustead riding up front with a shotgun, and me sitting on the back firing blanks from a starter’s pistol to simulate gunfire and attract attention.
The stagecoach had the desired effect because for the first time, the Cowboys were in the Sydney newspapers and on national television. We would never get away with that sort of trick today. Bowey and I would probably be arrested on suspicion of being terrorists”.
Tony is also a great young DJ & loves his music, when speaking about his dad he said “Besides rugby league my dad was also involved in the sport of basketball in North Queensland. Dad also helped to get Elton John to Townsville & when I once told him about the lack of live music in our home town he managed to help persuade the Groovin The Moo music festival to come to Townsville & that is now a regular event in the town”
The story of the first meeting to form the Cowboys has similarities to the famous meeting to form the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Rabbitohs officially began on the 17th January 1908 at Redfern Town Hall when administrator J J Giltinan, cricketer Victor Trumper and politician Henry Hoyle gathered together in front of a large crowd of supporters.