By Matt Cleary
Once upon a time, so the story goes, a family of South Sydney Rabbitohs supporters owned a pet rabbit that they called ‘Ron Coote’.
The animal was named after the champion NSW, Australia and Rabbitohs lock and captain who won four premierships with South Sydney in a storied 208-game career.
Outside John Sattler and the Immortal player and coach Clive Churchill there was no more popular Rabbits man than the great Ron Coote.
Yet when he left Redfern at the end of 1971 to join arch-rivals Eastern Suburbs Roosters, the family wrote Coote a letter informing him that so disappointed were they with his transfer that they had cooked and eaten the rabbit.
It was one of the more cordial reactions.
Coote was cursed by Souths fans. And not just sworn at but actually cursed. A lady who identified as a gypsy declared that following Coote’s ‘betrayal’ of the Bunnies he would forever be blighted by bad luck.
Coote would go on to win two premierships with the Roosters, buy into a new restaurant franchise called “McDonald’s”, and co-found the Men of League (today the Family of League) Foundation.
And on Friday night, the Rabbitohs and Roosters will play for the Ron Coote Cup.
As ever, there is much more than just two premiership points to play for.
The neighbouring territories have long enmity about ‘stealing’ one another’s players. They argue today about who’s the ‘Silvertail’ and who the ‘Fibro’.
They half-joke that north-south running Coogee Bay Road is ‘The Gaza Strip’.
It is the game’s greatest and most intense rivalry.
And Friday night’s game promises to be as intense as any played in the 115 year history of matches between the Foundation Clubs from 1908.
Because on Friday night at Accor Stadium both clubs’ seasons are on the line.
The Roosters are in 10th position on the NRL ladder on 30 points. The Rabbitohs are in eighth position – also on 30 points.
If the Roosters lose, they’re gone.
If the Rabbitohs lose, they’re gone.
And thus tickets are selling quickly with upwards of 35,000 fans expected in.
On a sad note, pre-match both teams will observe a minute’s silence for much-loved Rabbitohs player No.1100 and 2014 premiership winner Kyle Turner.
It’s also Rabbitohs’ Old Boys Day, when the club’s past players form a guard of honour as the first grade side charges onto the field.
And then, post-match, when the gladiators have bled their last, the winning captain will be presented with the Ron Coote Cup.
And presenting it? None other than Ron Coote.
Doesn’t seem that curse worked.
Rabbitohs vs Roosters
Friday 01 September.
5:45pm Gates Open
5:50pm Kick Off: U18 – Botany Rams v Clovelly Crocs
8:00pm Kick Off: NRL Telstra Premiership – Rabbitohs v Roosters
Plan to arrive early at the Stadium, leaving plenty of time for the entry process and to find your seat.
Pre-purchase tickets online via Ticketek to beat any queues at the box office. Download and share your tickets with your group before arriving at the Stadium.
To ensure a smooth entry, please leave large bags at home.
Consider all your transport options and travel with your group.
All tickets to Rabbitohs home games at Accor Stadium include travel on Sydney Trains, Metro and Light Rail services. Visit transport.info for more information and to plan your trip.
Trains run regularly to Olympic Park station from Lidcombe every 10 minutes until late. Accor Stadium is a short walk from the station.
Remember – Accor Stadium is a cashless venue.