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The best South Sydney players who never played representative football


As for previous articles in this series, I will attempt to put together a quality team for each NRL club made up solely of players since 1980 who never went beyond club level. The criteria for selection is:

– No representing at senior level: internationals, State of Origin, Prime Ministers XIII, City vs. Country or All Stars.
– Current players are excluded.
– Players are only eligible for the club they played the most first grade games for.
– For players who straddle the 1970’s and 1980’s, 30 games after since 1980 is generally the cut-off to qualify.

Souths boast a top-quality half and plenty of experience in the pack.

Fullback: Bronko Djura (79 matches) – 1984-1989. 45 wins 29 losses. 11 tries 45 goals. 6 finals 1 win

Bronko Djura came to Souths after Newtown went under and played five seasons for the club. In a fairly solid era for the Rabbitohs, Djura played in three finals series, including the club’s 1989 season where they finished minor premiers but crashed out of the finals. He was the top try-scorer in 1986.

Djura also spent a year at St George in 1987 (topping the season point-scoring for them) and after leaving Souths spent a season with Wests but only played a single first grade game for the Magpies. After leaving Sydney, Djura turned out for the Bathurst Penguins.

He represented Australian Schoolboys in rugby league and Australian Under 19s in cricket, and played first grade cricket as a wicketkeeper throughout his football career. These days Djura manages the Wentworth Falls Bowling Club. He also apparently plays golf off single figures.

Wing: Ross Harrington (103) – 1983-1991. 60 wins 41 losses. 15 tries. 5 finals 1 win

Ross Harrington played nearly a decade with the Rabbitohs in the 1980s and I confess I can’t remember him at all. Maybe a winger that only scores 15 career tries is hard to remember.

However, he was a long-term player when Souths won more than they lost and he did score one of his rare tries in the 1989 major semi-finals, as Souths went down to Balmain. Harrington also played finals with the club in 1984 and 1986.

Harrington’s main claim to fame might be getting his jaw in the way of a Peter Kelly special at the SCG in 1986, with the Canterbury enforcer given his marching orders after just eight seconds of play. Unfortunately for the Rabbitohs, Canterbury still went on to win 26-2.

A police officer during his playing days, Harrington still played some football in retirement, turning out for the Police Combined Country side in 2001. Harrington is also a decent golfer out at Lithgow, in 2017 taking out the Easter Tournament scratch title with a 72, despite being penalised a shot for running over his own ball in his golf cart.

Wing: Paul Mellor (107) – 1991-2007. 34 wins 71 losses. 45 tries. 1 final 1 loss

Local junior Paul Mellor was the youngest player to ever debut for the Rabbitohs, at 16 years and 10 months. He enjoyed a 15-year career in the NRL for Souths, Canterbury and Cronulla.

Mellor played his first six seasons for Souths, topping their try-scoring list twice, before joining Super League club Canterbury in 1997 for two largely unsuccessful seasons.

He left Canterbury for the Sharks in 1999, where he enjoyed five successful seasons, appearing in finals every year, winning a minor premiership in 1999 and playing 104 games, making him one of the select few players to have appeared over 100 times for two different clubs.

During that time Mellor also played a couple of seasons for Castleford in England. In 2004 Mellor scored 15 tries for Castleford including two hat tricks, both in losses.

After a nine-year gap, Mellor returned to the Rabbitohs in 2006 and the following year finally played a finals match for the club. He scored a try in their qualifying final loss to Manly in his last game before retiring.

Mellor has turned to refereeing in retirement. Glutton for punishment.

Centre: Dylan Farrell (70) – 2010-2013. 41 wins 29 losses. 31 tries. 5 finals 2 wins

Dylan Farrell is another who had a notable debut for Souths, scoring a hat-trick including the match-winning try in a golden point win over Wests in 2010. Farrell was a regular starter for the next four seasons and played in the club’s preliminary finals appearances in 2012 and 2013.

Farrell left for St George in 2014, only to see Souths land the premiership that year. He played two seasons for the Dragons before being forced to retire at just 25 due to a back injury.

Steeden football on the tryline

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Since retiring Farrell has shown up running a gym and as a player-coach in his home town of Nowra.

Centre: Steve Mavin (89) – 1987-1992. 44 wins 42 losses. 24 tries. 4 finals 1 win

Ignoring that final in 1987, Steve Mavin had a 101-game NSWRL career, playing all but one season with the Rabbitohs. Mavin, a Souths junior, played over 20 games in each of his years at the club (apart from a one-game cameo in his final season in 1992) and finished his time with the club with a better than 50 per cent winning ratio.

Mavin also found time in 1990 to have a stint with English lower division side Trafford Borough and played a season with Canterbury in 1991.

He debuted at just 19 years old in 1987 and played every game that season. Unfortunately his last game that year was a shocker in a semi-final against Canberra. After a number of errors being mercilessly targeted with kicks by Peter Jackson, the young man was hooked after less than 20 minutes.

He left the ground in despair and watched the rest of the game from a local pub. Nevertheless, Mavin played another three quality years for the club and won a minor premiership in 1989.

After breaking his leg at the beginning of the 1992 season, Mavin retired at just 25.

Mavin was well known for his flamboyant dives when crossing for tries. Ken Sutcliffe once said: “It was a dive that would get him a part in Swan Lake.”

Five-eighth: Neil Baker (87) – 1984-1987. 43 wins 42 losses. 15 tries 206 goals. 5 finals 1 win

Neil ‘Bionic’ Baker played over 150 NSWRL games across three clubs and played finals with each team. After time in the Newcastle competition and three years on the fringes with Canterbury, Baker joined the Rabbitohs in 1984.

He made an immediate impact as the club made the finals in three of the next four seasons, including finishing one point away from the minor premiership in 1986. Baker scored over 500 points for the club, including kicking five from six in their 1984 minor preliminary semi-final win over Manly to knock the two-time grand finalists out of the competition.

He also won the Dally M five-eighth of the year in 1985, although he was equally at home at fullback and also played some centres for the club.

Baker also spent an off-season with Salford in England in 1985/86.

Baker moved to Penrith in 1988 for two seasons and the club reached the finals in 1989, after which Baker retired from top-level football. While at Penrith Baker snapped three field goals in a single match, against North Sydney.

In retirement, Baker played in the Newcastle competition. In 1992, he captain-coached Newcastle Western Suburbs to win the Clayton Cup, which is awarded by the Country Rugby League to the best performed country side across all competitions. It was the first win by a Newcastle team since 1956.

Halfback: Craig Coleman (208) – 1982-1992. 99 wins 103 losses. 25 tries 8 FG. 8 finals 2 wins

I went a bit early a couple of weeks ago, proclaiming Todd Payten’s 260 first grade games without a rep jersey as the most ever because here at 268 career games we have Tugger Coleman.

Rabbitohs legend Craig Coleman played 11 seasons for the club during the 1980s and 1990s. After winning the Under 23 premiership in 1981, he provided sterling service in first grade as the club made the finals four times, but unfortunately the best result was a preliminary final loss in 1989 after finishing as minor premiers.

During his time in the NSWRL, Coleman spent four different seasons in England, turning out for Widnes, Hull FC, Leeds and then Salford after leaving Souths.

In 1993 Coleman actually spent the year playing park football with the Coogee Wombats after failing to receive a clearance to play for the Gold Coast upon his return from England.

Coleman then spent two seasons in semi-retirement with the Gold Coast Seagulls and a final season with Wests in 1996 to finish with 268 NRL first grade games.

Coleman returned to the Rabbitohs as coach in 1998 and was there when the club was excluded from the NRL and also when they made their return in 2002, although he only lasted that year before being replaced.

Coleman was a Souths junior with the Waterloo Waratahs and was named on the bench in South Sydney Juniors Team of the Century, alongside players like Ron Coote, Bob McCarthy and Eric Simms.

On playing with renowned hard man Les Davidson, he would tell Davo, “I’ll do your thinking, and you just do my fighting.”

On teasing Mario Fenech: “Every week at training I’d get some scissors and cut up his undies, and the next week he’d come back with them neatly sewed back together by his mum.”

Lock: Michael Andrews (181) – 1984-1993. 98 wins 86 losses. 21 tries 7 goals. 8 finals 2 wins

‘Eddie’ Andrews was a mainstay for Souths during the 1980s and into the 1990s. After making his debut in 1984, from 1985 to 1989 Andrews played over 20 matches for five years straight, culminating the Rabbitohs’ 1989 minor premiership. In all he appeared in four finals campaigns with the club.

Andrews continued playing until 1993 and captained the club during the 1990s. In his final year Andrews was awarded the Ken Stephen Medal for services to rugby league and the wider community. His daughter Emily has played for the Australian Jillaroos.

Second row: Ben Lowe (117) – 2008-2015. 68 wins 49 losses. 7 tries 1 goal. 2 finals 1 win

Toowoomba product Ben Lowe played eight seasons for South Sydney, as a second row, lock and bench option. He played from the bench in the club’s 2012 finals series, reaching the preliminary final.

Lowe nearly missed this squad, being selected as 18th man for Queensland in 2010. He was a bit unlucky in that way, also being 18th man and missing out on a final spot for the club’s 2014 premiership.

Ben’s brother Jaiman Lowe also played 142 NRL games, including 50 for Souths. In 2008 Jamain made his Souths debut in Round 1, beating Ben to the final bench spot.

Their positions were reversed for Round 2 and Ben got his debut. Lowe scored a try on debut in 2008 but only crossed six more times in his career. In Round 3 the brothers got to play together for the first time.

Second row: Nathan Gibbs (85) – 1978-1983. 33 wins 48 losses. 27 tries. 1 final 1 loss

Dr Nathan Gibbs is more famous these days as a physician to the stars of rugby league, but he also played nearly 100 first grade games between 1978 and 1984. In a tough era for South Sydney, Gibbs appeared in a final and was named the Dally M Second Rower of the Year in 1980.

Gibbs captained the club in the 1980s but retired fairly early to pursue his medical career, where he became the team doctor for Souths, Manly, NSW and Australia. He later also filled this role for the Sydney Swans in the AFL and the Wallabies in rugby union.

Gibbs’ claims to fame post-playing include controversially ruling Australian captain Wally Lewis out of the 1990 Kangaroo Tour.

Prop: Dave Tyrrell (155) – 2009-2017. 83 wins 72 losses. 6 tries. 8 finals 5 wins

Dave “Superman” Tyrrell is probably not the first name that comes to mind from Souths’ 2014 premiership but the front row stalwart was there locking up the middle third like he did for nine seasons with the club.

He was the only player to appear in all 27 games in the club’s premiership year. In all, Tyrrell played in four finals campaigns for the Rabbitohs between 2012 and 2015.

He nearly missed this side when named as 18th man for the Prime Minister’s XIII in 2015.

Tyrrell scored a try in just his second game of first grade but only crossed another five times in his career.

After retiring in 2017, Brisbane boy Tyrrell returned to his junior club the Easts Tigers in the Queensland Cup for a final season, appearing in a grand final in 2018.

Prop: Scott Geddes (125) – 2002-2012. 51 wins 72 losses. 5 tries

Another front row stalwart in the 2000s, Scott Geddes didn’t quite make it to the club’s 2014 premiership, retiring in 2013 after a decade in first grade.

That decade started with Geddes being one of the first players signed by Souths on readmission to the NRL for the 2002 season and by the time of his retirement in 2012 he was the only player have been with the club continuously since that time.

Geddes persevered with the club through those initial lean seasons as they built back up and was named clubman of the year in 2009.

In retirement Geddes joined Nathan Hindmarsh for season with the Moss Vale Dragons, his junior club.

From The Daily Telegraph: Geddes “has been close friends with Hindy since they would watch Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pumping Iron documentary as teens … then head into the backyard to do push-ups wearing a backpack loaded with house bricks.”

Hooker: Ken Stewart (142) – 1975-1983. 61 win 76 losses. 6 tries. 1 final 1 loss

English-born Ken ‘Scrambles’ Stewart was Souths’ first-choice hooker from the mid-1970s through to the mid-1980s. Stewart captained the club at various stages, including for the first-ever Charity Shield against St George in 1982. During his career the Rabbitohs only made the finals once, in 1980, although they did win the midweek Tooth Cup in 1981.

On the Charity Shield in 1982: “After five minutes we knew it wasn’t a trial – everyone had to watch their own back … (Nowadays) they’ve probably got 20 or 30 TV cameras following them around the paddock where in 1982 we had nothing, all you had to worry about was Albert (Craig Young) chasing you around the paddock.”

After leaving Souths in 1983, Stewart played two season or Parramatta just after their three premierships.

In retirement Stewart ran the South Sydney Leagues Club and did some coaching for the Moss Vale Dragons.

Bench

Michael Pobjie (92) – 1983-1987. 49 wins 41 losses. 28 tries. 3 finals 1 win

Defensive three quarter Michael Pobjie spent a few seasons at Newtown and Balmain as well as his time with the Rabbitohs to finish with over 150 first grade games. Pobjie played finals with Souths in 1984 and 1986 as a centre and fullback, before playing in back-to-back grand finals with Balmain in 1988 and 1989.

1989 Pobjie was one of the players that Balmain coach Warren Ryan famously used to replace Paul Sironen and Steve Roach in the dying minutes of the grand final, only for the team to be run down by Canberra in extra time.

Sean Garlick (96) – 1990-1999. 29 wins 67 losses. 14 tries

Sean Garlick played 160 first grade games for Souths and Easts over a decade from 1990. He played finals with the Roosters in 1996 and 1997. A winning percentage for Souths during two stints in the early and late 1990s of just over 30 per cent kept him out of the run on side.

In 1999 Garlick was club captain when the Rabbitohs were excluded from the NRL. He played a prominent part in fighting for their return and was the club’s football operations manager in 2002.

As well as playing top -evel rugby league Garlick has been a police officer, an actor, a member of the NRL judiciary and now a pie magnate. As an actor he appeared in Home and Away and in a movie with Nicole Kidman.

Mark Ellison (87) -1984-1990. 48 wins 35 losses. 10 tries 164 goals. 5 finals 2 wins

Utility Mark ‘Rhino’ Ellison played five seasons for Souths as well as a couple for Cronulla and St George. Between 1987 and 1989 he played 20 games each season and scored 340 points as the club’s first choice goal kicker. He played finals with the club in 1984, 1987 and won a minor premiership in 1989.

Ellison has remained involved with the for nearly 40 years, and has been the head of football at Souths since 2016, helping to oversee a successful era at the club.

Darryl ‘Tricky’ Trindall was originally on the bench but I found that in 1992 he played a match for “Australian Aborigines” against Papua New Guinea. So, instead we have…

Charlie Frith (49) – 1979-1981. 24 wins 23 losses. 1 try. 1 final 1 loss

He did not play the most games for Souths of the remaining candidates (that would be Shannon McPherson), nor the most career games (Rod Maybon and Luke Burgess) and he didn’t have the coolest name (that would be Joe Squadrito by a landslide), but Roma product Charlie Frith was as tough as they come.

He only played three seasons for Souths but ‘The Hitman’ ended with a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the game and a winning record in an era when Souths were limited on talent but made up for it with wholehearted effort.

Frith was a huge man (around 6 foot 6) and had grown up on Queensland cattle stations. He started with Valleys in Brisbane, moved down to the big smoke, belted a few southerners and then returned to run a cattle station, aged just 26.

Frith laid out noted hardman rod Reddy at Jubilee Oval in 1979, Reddy recalled it as the harest he was ever hit. A tackle on Tony Trudgett from the 1980 semi-final against St George was used in the opening credits of Seven’s Big League TV show. Rex Mossop described Frith as ‘as human projectile’.

From rabbitohs.com.au on a famous 1978 tackled on Wests’ Bill Cloughessy that left him very worse for wear with veteran commentator and coach Roy Masters describing it as the most brutal hit he saw on a rugby league field: “”Mate, what if I’ve killed him?” Frith nervously asked fellow Rabbitoh Paul Sait as they stood over the injured Magpie. “Well,” came the reply, “kill another one.”

In 2022 a 460,000-hectare property in the Norther Territory owned by Frith and a partner was put up for sale with an estimate value of $30 million.

In response to overwhelming demand (okay, so it was one reader), next time I will tackle the forgotten clubs, firstly Norths, then Newtown then a combined team for the victims of the Super League War.

Then I will finish off by naming a team of the best players from across this series as well as the club with the best team of non-rep players.





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