The eternal hope and despair of a Souths supporter
This Saturday the pride of the League, South Sydney, will play their last game for 2009.
No finals for the men in Cardinal Red & Myrtle Green.
Indeed, Souths have only made the finals once since 1989. Just once.
Tragically, it’s a case of what might have been as Souths are likely to finish just one game short.
What if the referee had allowed the scrum to pack 15 metres out from Parramatta’s line, with the scores level in Round 11? What if the referee had not awarded Canterbury a benefit-of-the-doubt try in Round 5? Or Gold Coast, two of these, in Round 23? Or what if Rhys Wesser or Roy Asotasi had not got injured?
Or countless other permutations.
Looking back in frustration at what might have been is an annual therapy for Souths fans. It helps us deal with our grief at watching the Final series as an academic exercise.
The truth is however, that this year we were brilliant at times, but just not consistent enough, and therefore have only ourselves to blame.
Last Saturday’s record win over competition leaders St. George showed what South Sydney were capable of. The forwards lead by Luke Stuart making yards, Sandow and Sutton revelling in the space that was created, and Isaac Luke and Nathan Merritt showing how exciting they can be. And how can a centre with a name like Junior Vaivai not be a future star?
This win was up there with beating Easts twice and almost as good as the win against Manly – but nothing beats smashing Manly at Brookvale!
It might have been easier to cope with defeat had expectations not been raised only to be dashed.
Such is the lot of a sports tragic. We loyally follow our team, regardless of how they may try our patience.
Hope triumphs over experience. Again.
For Souths fans, the long time between drinks has just made us thirsty for success. Parched even.
Before this year’s competition is over, we have once again turned our attention to next year.
Over the summer months we will look forward with increasing optimism to the 2010 season. We will declare confidently and loudly just how good Dave Taylor is. We will convince ourselves that Sam Burgess is the best prop in the world after Roy Asotasi, even though we’ve never seen him.
Our pack of Asotasi, Luke, Burgess, Stuart, Taylor and Crocker, with Geddes, Pettybourne and Tyrell off the bench looks pretty awesome on paper.
We will convince ourselves that it will translate to be just as good on the field and John Sutton will show the consistent dominance we know he is capable of.
We will remind those non believers who dare to question our optimism that the mighty Souths have won 20 Premierships – Rugby League’s most successful Club.
In 1971, as an 8 year old, my mum took me to the SCG, to see Souths’ last Premiership victory when they defeated St. George 16-10. We sat on the Hill and I loved every minute of it.
Passionately supporting a team that has endured a 38 year drought is not just about the result. It’s about a sense of belonging and identity which is why 80,000 marched to Sydney Town Hall when that was taken away.
In a world that is moving faster than ever we need to have some consistency in our lives and barracking for our team, whoever that is, provides us with a reference point to our family, our community and our culture.
Canterbury’s send off of Hazem El Masri – a great player on the field and a great man off it – was a marvellous and deserved celebration that those young Bulldogs fans present will carry with them forever.
One of my cherished moments was when my son told me that he was a South Sydney supporter.
He has stayed loyal, in spite of disappointment. High fiving Nathan Merritt after the memorable last minute field goal victory against the Tigers has helped.
I was hoping that, just as I did, he would get to watch a Souths Premiership victory at age 8.
He turns 9 in December.
Another South Sydney plan dashed.
2010 looks promising from a distance – I just hope that this time it looks just as promising next September.
Anthony Albanese is a former Director of South Sydney Rugby League Football Club.
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