Cathy’s speech, the fans … and that pig: Maguire on Souths grand final win

Part of the appeal of taking up the South Sydney job was coming into contact with club’s incredibly varied fan base, but Michael Maguire got the shock of his life when he first arrived at Redfern Oval.

“Every walk of life was there,” Maguire says. “From people from the high end of business, to the ones that did it tough.”

On any given day, a smattering of club greats, school children and other Redfernites would bear witness as their heroes prepared for game day. There was also another staple at just about every training session.

“When I first arrived there was a whopping big pig that had wandered the street and it’d come in and around the cafe,” Maguire recalls.

“Like it’s made up. I’m telling you, a massive one when I first arrived, you’d be thinking what on earth’s going on?

“It was hilarious, that pig became famous for our time there. Until you actually saw it, no one would believe it. You’d be in the cafe and the pig would be coming into your bag and you think what the hell’s going on here?”

Maguire isn’t big on reflection. That much is evident to those who read colleague Malcolm Knox’s recent column on “Madge”: the coach too fixated on masterminding the next victory to bask in former glories.

And yet, a rare indulgence is allowed. Last Saturday, Maguire and the heroes of the 2014 premiership win gathered at Souths Juniors to celebrate the club’s last premiership.

It was a time to share stories about that drought-breaking campaign. Cathy Freeman’s pre-game address. Bob McCarthy ringing the foundation bell. Sam Burgess’ heroics. That pig in the cafe.

“It was one of the greatest days of my life,” says Maguire, referring to both the reunion and the grand final triumph that preceded it.

“I’ve never actually spoken about Souths, I’ve never talked about it to anyone.

“That weekend did that. It was the weekend to remind us all that were involved, of how special that time was and how special the people were.

“That’s the reason why we’re having a chat.”

What follows is a flood of staccato memories. The day before the game, Freeman spoke to the players at Redfern Oval. She spoke about standing before the eyes of the nation, at the lighting of the cauldron and then at the starting line for the 400 metres final of the Sydney Olympics, knowing destiny awaited.

She embraced hers at the same venue that was to host the Rabbitohs-Bulldogs decider the next day.

“Cathy came in and spoke about her experience of winning gold at the stadium,” Maguire says.

“She’d never been back to the stadium, so it was the first time she’d actually been back. It was one of the all-time greatest speeches.

“What she spoke about was just pure belief and confidence when she walked into that stadium, which really resonated with the boys the day before.

“You could feel that it was coming. And then it rolled into the next [day].”

It had been 43 years since South Sydney won their last premiership and Canterbury were determined to make them wait longer still. Once the pre-game obligatories were done – the ringing of the foundation bell, a stirring rendition of “Glory, Glory to South Sydney” and the Bulldogs countering with the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out” – Souths ran onto the Olympic stadium. Canterbury coach Des Hasler made them wait there, a ploy to put them off their game.

“Canterbury hung around the change rooms, and they came out late,” Maguire says.

“I remember watching, looking down and seeing the players actually feeling calm and relaxed. I actually saw some of them wave to their family, so it gave them a bit of time just to appreciate what on earth was happening. What was about to happen.

“We all talked about that, we’ve gotta thank the Doggies for doing that.”

“We were all there for the cause of success.”

Former South Sydney coach Michael Maguire

The opening collision was worth the wait. Sam Burgess, carting up the ball from the kick-off, ran straight into countryman and opposition hardman James Graham. The sicking collision resulted in three fractures of Burgess’ eye socket.

At half-time, Rabbitohs doctor Andrew McDonald surveyed the damage and concluded Burgess risked losing his eye if it was hit again.

Remaining in the sheds wasn’t a consideration.

“There was no way in the world he was coming off,” Maguire says.

“I remember it, we didn’t even talk about. It was just part of what was required to find the success of that day. Like all of the players, he committed. He wasn’t gonna let that one go away.”

Decades earlier, John Sattler wrote himself into folklore by playing through a grand final with a broken jaw. It’s a story that resonated with the class of 2014.

“The old boys, you can never underestimate what someone like Satts telling stories to the players really meant,” Maguire says.

“That was obviously mentioned when it happened, but it had already been spoken about.

cathy’s speech, the fans … and that pig: maguire on souths grand final win

Russell Crowe and Sam Burgess after the 2014 NRL grand final.

“So Sammy just played on. It was really nice to see throughout that game how the players were trying to protect Sammy.

“You could see that Canterbury were obviously agitating to try to get at him. I remember there was one scrum where someone poked the head of Sammy. But our players then shuffled him around and made sure that he was protected.

“That’s what a team does for each other.”

The match was a closer one than the final 30-6 scoreline suggests.

cathy’s speech, the fans … and that pig: maguire on souths grand final win

Api Koroisau and Adam Reynolds celebrate South Sydney’s 2014 grand final win against the Bulldogs.

“The last 10 minutes, you could feel the players were on their way,” Maguire says. “Luke Keary played inside, GI [Greg Inglis] runs through and does ‘the goanna’ in the corner.

“That was a pretty special moment to watch all the players run down and jump on Greggy. That left corner, you could really feel and sense they had done it. Then the crowd got to actually enjoy that little period too.”

When the fans dispersed, the Rabbitohs got to enjoy another special moment on the turf.

“There was a time there where we all stood in the middle of the field after it, just the playing group and the staff together,” Maguire says.

“That was a really special moment with a group of people that had put so much into achieving that.”

These were just some of the tales that were retold last weekend at Souths Juniors, the same venue that hosted the premiership celebrations. There was a sombre moment when the club honoured a player who didn’t make it, the late Kyle Turner. The forward died last year at the age of just 31.

For the most part, however, it was an observance of a storied chapter in the history of the foundation club.

“To be able to be there with the players was a bloody special time,” says Maguire, who hopes the NSW side he oversees will soon create treasured memories of their own.

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