MAN OF THE MOMENT: Russell Crowe (left) at yesterday’s NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium. DEAN LEWINS/AAP
MAN OF THE MOMENT: Russell Crowe (left) at yesterday’s NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium. DEAN LEWINS/AAP

Off-field legacy led to Rabbitohs’ final glory

MIDWAY through the 1993 season, when I was Queensland Editor of Rugby League Week magazine, I received a tip-off that John Lang and Shane Richardson were to join Cronulla as a coach/chief executive package.

At the time, Lang was coaching Easts in Brisbane and Richardson was his team manager, club president and working in the finance industry. As a former international, Lang was well known, but, without sounding disrespectful, Richardson was a rugby league nobody.

My tip came late one Monday afternoon, right on deadline. It was a terrific story and a dead-set scoop. Back then two Queenslanders heading off to the big smoke to take over the running of an NRL club simply did not happen.

When I phoned Richardson, he was dumbfounded that I knew and, understandably, extremely guarded.

The negotiations had been top secret, but the agreement not officially ratified. If news leaked, chances were the deal was off.

Good journalism it may not have been, but I didn't write the story.

Richardson - no doubt celebrating hard today after the Rabbitohs' first premiership in 43 years - and Lang, scored the job and their long partnership together at the Sharks, Panthers and Rabbitohs is now part of rugby league history.

Many, many people will be credited with the resurgence of South Sydney since those dark days of 1999 when the club was banished from the NRL competition.

The very public names and faces of Russell Crowe, Peter Holmes a Court, Sam Burgess, Michael McGuire and Greg Inglis immediately spring to mind.

But since Richardson joined the Rabbitohs in 2004 - after stints at the Sharks, Gateshead and Hull in England, and the Panthers - the club has ever so gradually climbed to where it is today, albeit traversing some rough terrain along the way. And today the Rabbitohs again reign supreme.

Last night was South Sydney's 21st title, more than any other NRL club.

It ends a woeful drought for them, having not won since 1971. Prior to that, their average had been a premiership every three years. But the Rabbitohs have not just assembled a champion team.

The administration, under Richardson's expert guidance, has rebuilt one of the most iconic sporting brands in the nation. Fittingly, last night's win was shared by the biggest NRL membership - the most 'official' fans in the 106-year history of the game.

A couple of weeks ago on the excellent FoxSports show 360, Rabbitohs' tragic Ray Martin sang the praises of Russell Crowe.

He had no doubt that without the input of Crowe - his passion as well as his money - Souths would not have existed.

But the bullets Crowe made had to be fired by someone, and that was Shane Richardson - the bloke who took a 50% pay cut back in 1994 to chase a dream.

That dream is now a budding dynasty - again.

And that same bloke still owes me a scoop.