What a strange decade the South Sydney Rabbitohs have had. First, the club with the richest tradition in the game was expelled from the NRL. Then there was the exhilaration of re-admission, followed by the disappointment of wooden spoons and the strange realisation that no one who’d marched for the Rabbitohs’ readmission actually wanted to watch them play.
Now, the takeover by Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court means the least glamorous club in Australia’s least glamorous sport – a club from Redfern, named after door-to-door rabbit carcass salesmen – is owned by one of Australia’s great business families and an Oscar-winning movie star.
No wonder George Piggins no longer feels at home.
Crowe is one of the tallest poppies in the country and, by definition, one of the most frequently felled. Even an opponent at the meeting heckled him with “What are you going to do, throw a phone at me?”. Honestly, you wouldn’t blame the guy for locking himself up in his luxury Woolloomooloo apartment.
But Crowe doesn’t – instead, he ventures out to drink at unpretentious pubs like the East Sydney Hotel. And I’ve ultimately come to admire his tireless commitment to being an ordinary Aussie bloke.
Sure, we can, and do, laugh at disasters such as his arrest and his singing, but it’s tough in the Hollywood limelight – and forming a band with your mates is a better way of coping than, say, joining the Church of Scientology.
Most of all I admire his support of hopeless causes. He single-handedly rescued the most recent AFI Awards, and now he’s rescuing Souths as well. He’s put his neck on the line for a club he loves, with little chance of a return on the millions he and Holmes a Court are investing. It’s so much more admirable than the usual ostentatious Hollywood habit of turning up to a trendy fund-raiser
and spouting platitudes about AIDS or world peace.
So it’s time we were more appreciative of a man who’d rather have a beer and watch boofy blokes run around a paddock than swan around Rodeo Drive with supermodels. A man who turned down Meg Ryan to marry an Aussie. A man who, it seems, aspires to little more than to be like the rest of us.
As the man himself might put it: “Go easy on Russ; go easy on Russ.”
PHOTO: Crowing up … Russell celebrates a Rabbitohs win with fans. Photo by Simon Alekna