When the South Sydney Rabbitohs went down 62-0 to the Sydney City Roosters in round six of the 1996 season, ironically on a Thursday night, the famous cardinal red-and-myrtle green were at an all-time low.
Finishing 18th the season before, the Rabbitohs would finish a lowly 19th in 1996.
The Roosters on the other hand were beginning their ascent to the top of the rugby league world, largely due to the hefty influence of superstar Brad Fittler and iconic coach Phil Gould.
A team short on talent and depth, Souths were the whipping boys of the competition. The tricolours had bought their way out of trouble over the previous years and demolished the Rabbitohs on that infamous night at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Souths were a team of journeymen and veterans and littered with fringe first graders looking for an opportunity. The Roosters were anything but short on options.
Adrian Lam, Phil Clarke, Luke Ricketson, Matt Sing and Fittler made sure their fierce rivals had a night to forget. One of many in those dark old days for the Rabbitohs.
But on the back of an impressive 2012 campaign, the boys from Redfern have never been so primed to snare that elusive 21st premiership title.
Their first challenge comes from the Roosters this Thursday.
The Roosters have once again bought their way out of trouble after signing James Maloney, Michael Jennings, Luke O’Donnell and the prized Sonny Bill Williams. Souths might start favourites, but the Roosters will be hoping to crash their red-and-green party.
But a still-developing Roosters outfit could be walking into one almighty ambush.
On paper, Souths dominate the glamour club. In a combined seventeen, the Roosters can only manage six players while Michael Maguire’s men have eleven.
Greg Inglis, John Sutton and Adam Reynolds are walk-up starts on form alone. The forward pack is riddled with bunnies too with Sam Burgess, Issac Luke, Michael Crocker and Ben Te’o are all in the top 13.
Sonny Bill Williams and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves are the only Roosters in the starting pack.
Nathan Peats is preferred over Mitchell Pearce on the bench for his utility value.
Oh how times change.
Williams may still miss the match. But Rabbitoh Burgess says he isn’t worried about the SBW factor if the Kiwi is cleared to play.
“To be honest, if Sonny wasn’t playing I would still be excited, it doesn’t make a difference to how I feel,” Burgess told The Daily Telegraph.
“He is just another player in their team. We have been focusing on ourselves and getting our own performance right.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to start (on the left) but whoever is up against him is certainly going to have a challenge.
“He is a good athlete. We are certainly going to give him respect but we have got a job to do at the end of the day.”
After a dominant display against the St George Illawarra Dragons in the Charity Shield, the monstrous Rabbitohs might just give the Roosters a massive reality check after an off-season of media hype.
To these two sides, April 1996 was a lifetime ago.
Roosters/Rabbitohs combined 17
1 Greg Inglis
2 Nathan Merritt
3 Michael Jennings
4 Shaun Kenny-Dowall
5 Andrew Everingham
6 John Sutton
7 Adam Reynolds
8 Sam Burgess
9 Issac Luke
10 Jared Waerea-Hargreaves
11 Ben Te’o
12 Sonny Bill Williams
13 Michael Crocker
14 Luke O’Donnell
15 Martin Kennedy
16 Roy Asotasi
17 Nathan Peats
Published on theroar.com.au