Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh McGahan: A change of mind on Souths side

1 comment
The Rabbitohs and the Roosters have a long-standing rivalry. Photo / Getty Images
The Rabbitohs and the Roosters have a long-standing rivalry. Photo / Getty Images

I still have a close relationship with the Sydney Roosters and have the privilege of entering the changing rooms where I have seen players, coaches and CEOs come and go.

One thing still alive within the club is tradition and rivalries. One not lost on we older Roosters is the original rivalry with neighbours South Sydney, the Warriors' opponents today.

It goes back to the founding of both clubs in 1908 - the only two foundation clubs in the NRL. They don't like each other. South Sydney was the working class playing the upper class of the Eastern Suburbs. This feeling lasted decades.

My first game with the club (Easts as it was then) was against Souths at the old Sydney Sports Ground now the location of the Sydney Football Stadium.

It was a jaw-dropping experience and I was introduced to passion, sledging, aggression and vile intimidation like I had never thought possible in a sports environment.

And that was just the fans.

Then I played the game and was subjected to 10 times that, especially for being a Kiwi. Dean Bell also debuted for Easts that day and I heard him called the worst names ever.

Wow - this was just supposed to be a game of footy but, no, it was war. There was hate beaming out of their eye sockets. That continued for the rest of my days at Easts and I bought into it, because it's easy to absorb the culture of those around you.

Since leaving Sydney, my feelings toward Souths tempered to that of dislike but the pleasure of 'us' beating 'them' is still significant today, as I'm sure it is with Rabbitohs fans.

However, that dislike has changed in the last couple of years with the introduction of a new breed of leadership at Souths. The high-profile owners have brought a new corporate environment to the scene and coach Michael Maguire has promoted a new thinking to shape the psyche of the players, which I admire.

Making players understand their role within the team and their accountability to the team is paramount; this is before their accountability to the club, owners and fans. If you understand and accept that team accountability comes first, the rest falls into place.

The Rabbitohs needed to change because they used to play on passion to please the fans and used them or their rivalries as motivation for a game.

I haven't mentioned the quality of the players they have signed because that is secondary. If new recruits don't buy into the culture, they won't fit in and will be squeezed out by the environment, not by management.

This is now a quality team I love to watch because they have the discipline of respect - and such respect keeps the feet on the ground. Hence they take nothing for granted, including the opposition, irrespective of where that team is placed on the ladder.

The world is changing for an old Rooster to speak in such terms of the Rabbitohs; watch this team come September.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

Hugh McGahan is a former Kiwis player and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Hugh Joseph McGahan MBE was a renowned rugby league player and coach who represented New Zealand in no less than 53 test matches, captaining 17 of them. Beginning his career in Auckland he later moved to Sydney where he played over 100 matches for the Roosters, finishing his career in 1991 as captain-coach of the eastern Sydney outfit. Accolades were never far away from the impressive Kiwi lock and in 1987 McGahan jointly won the prestigious Golden Boot Award, the first row forward at the time to win the award. Hugh McGahan’s international career was similarly impressive coming to the fore in 1982 after scoring a remarkable six tries for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in Auckland. Hugh Mcgahan ended his career with distinguished honours as he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby and later inducted into the NZRL Legends of League. He continues to write sports columns for the New Zealand Herald.

Read more by Hugh McGahan

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 28 May 2017 07:04:33 Processing Time: 367ms