NRL grand final: South Sydney 30, Bulldogs 6
SYDNEY (AP) — The South Sydney Rabbitohs ended a 43-year championship drought in the National Rugby League with a 30-6 win over the Canterbury Bulldogs in the grand final Sunday.
The Rabbitohs, co-owned by New Zealand-born, Australian-based actor Russell Crowe, dominated the second half of the match before a record crowd of 83, 833 at Stadium Australia, the highest attendance since the venue was reconfigured after the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
England international and Rabbitohs back rower Sam Burgess, who played most of the game with a suspected fractured cheekbone, was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as man of the match. He is set to leave the Rabbitohs to play rugby union on a three-year contract with Bath in England.
“This one’s for you, Souths fans, you’ve waited a long time,′ said Burgess, one of four Burgess brothers who played for the Rabbitohs this season.
Sam’s younger brother George scored the clinching try in the second half, powering his way around and over three attempted tacklers.
After the match ended, Crowe moved from his area outside the VIP section to the field to hug Sam Burgess and other Souths players.
“It’s deep satisfaction, it’s a grand reward for everyone who stepped up to the plate for us,” Crowe said in a television interview.
Before the match, South Sydney legend Bob McCarthy and Canterbury star Les Johns rang the Foundation Bell, which was used in the first professional game of rugby league between Souths and Eastern Suburbs in 1908.
It was bought in 1999 by Crowe for $42,000 in a fund-raising effort for the Souths team he had followed as a child. The last time it was heard was in round one of 2002 when Souths were re-admitted into the NRL and Crowe vowed never to use it again until his side reached a grand final.
Among the capacity crowd was avid Souths supporter Cathy Freeman, who won the 400-meter gold medal for Australia at the 2000 Olympics, the highlight of the games for most Australians. Freeman also lit the flame at the opening ceremony of the same games.
“First time I’ll be back at a packed @ANZStadium since Sydney 2000. C’mon @SSFCRABBITOHS! This is your year!!!” Freeman tweeted along with a photo of herself in a Souths jumper about three hours before the match began.