‘That field goal was important’: Ron Coote on the Rabbitohs’ 1971 grand final win

One of the greats: Ron Coote. Photo: John O’Gready

One of the greats: Ron Coote. Photo: John O’Gready

One of the greats: Ron Coote. Photo: John O’Gready

We know grand finals are usually tight, but kicking a field goal to lead 1-0 at half-time in the 1971 win over St George?

It was like we were playing soccer. It was a really tough afternoon and we knew points would be hard to come by against a Jack Gibson team. Late into the second half it was 11-10 our way, so that field goal was important. Ray Branighan scored a great try in the Members Stand corner. People down the other end didn’t see much footy because we only scored down that end.

That might be one for David Middleton’s annals if we can find another 1-0 scoreline at half-time.

The other great thing of the day from a strategic point of view was George Piggins kept raking the ball back, because every play the ball was a two-man scrum. George had this knack of lifting his foot and raking the ball from the other side he was playing. We got so much ball we eventually got over the top of them. People were streaming onto the ground [at full-time] and there were 62,000 people there.

How many teammate of the week awards did you get for driving a beer truck for a bit of extra coin at the time?

I was a panelbeater as a kid and used to get crook knees kneeling on the concrete. I used to get 12 quid a week as an apprentice panelbeater and I was playing first grade with Souths getting 20 quid a win. The economics didn’t add up. I brushed the panelbeating and took a job as a road rep or sales rep. Johnny Sattler worked for me too. I captained Australia in the 1970 World Cup, and when I came back in 1971 I gave that job away and the brewery told me I could have a beer truck.

Surely the Souths boys thought all their Christmases must have come at once?

You used to get a few beers! But I tell you what, it was a good fitness thing because you were climbing up and down off the truck and you used to get all the bruises out of your legs. You were bending over all the time and working your body. I thought it was a really good thing to do.

Funniest teammate at the time?

Big Lurch [John O’Neill] was a funny big bloke and he used to rev himself up in the dressing room banging tables. I’m sure there was steam coming out of his nose sometimes. That was how he used to rev himself up … kicking doors. Satts [John Sattler] was a bit that way too.

Sounds like Des Hasler has learnt a thing or two from your old friends in the Rabbitohs’ engine room. Today’s Souths side?

They’re terrific. Sam Burgess is a sensational player and what he’s done for Souths is nothing short of amazing. The game is going to be the loser when he leaves the country. I’ve got to admire that James Graham too. He’s a great player and has had a great year. They’re both outstanding players.

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