George Piggins in hospital but South Sydney’s poor treatment of Rabbitohs club legend continues

George Piggins in hospital but South Sydney’s poor treatment of Rabbitohs club legend continues

The Rabbitohs turned their back on their saviour, George Piggins, years ago. Now that he’s laying in a hospital bed, not much has changed, PAUL KENT writes.

Paul KentPaul Kent

April 23, 2021 - 4:54PM

News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom

NRL: The Rabbitohs are reportedly moving Cody Walker to fullback in order to cover the loss of the suspended Latrell Mitchell.

He was a man who loved South Sydney, even when South Sydney no longer loved him.

Once committed, George Piggins always believed you never quit.

That was the measure of Piggins who, three times, saved South Sydney from extinction. The first two nobody ever heard about. The third made him a folk hero, for a while at least.

He never gave up loving his club even after the fans who marched behind him eventually turned on him and voted for privatisation, ultimately showing they were the same as everyone else, that self-interest was king.

Not George.

George Piggins joins thousands of protesting Souths fans march along Sydney streets during the rally in 2000 to reinstate the Rabbitohs into the NRL. Picture: Mick Tsikas

And now he lies in a hospital bed, serious but stable they say, and hardly a word is heard about George and his tremendous sacrifices to save the club that continues to call itself the pride of the league while they politely ignore that, when the heat got fiercest, they lost their courage and voted privatisation.

No one will ever fully acknowledge the debt to Piggins, who loved the club too much. He is being forgotten out of history.

There was a day many years ago when Ian Walsh was retiring at St George and George was young and tough and talented and Frank Facer, the great Dragons boss, tried to sign him to replace Walsh.

“No,” George said, his reason simple. He was a Souths man.

He played nearly three more years in reserve grade behind Elwyn Walters because he was a Souths man who refused to play for another club.

Souths represented the community he came from and, in return, he believed the club belonged to the people.

That was it with George. That’s what they never got.

It was one-in, all-in, Souths people sticking together.

There was a day many years ago when Souths had their trip away to the Gold Coast and they were all in the pub and George looked around and saw one of them missing.

He walked outside and found Bruce “Lapa” Stewart sitting in the gutter.

“What’s wrong?” George wanted to know.

“Nothing,” Stewart said. “They just don’t let black fellas in.”

This was in the 60s when it still happened, so George went back in and told the publican they better let Lapa in and the publican told him he couldn’t do it, they had a no blacks rule. So George went to that reservoir of violence that sat deep inside and he told the publican that if he didn’t let Lapa in they would tear the pub apart.

And then he welcomed Lapa in.

It was always Souths first for George Piggins.

Former Rabbitoh Bruce ‘Lapa’ Stewart.

Soon after Souths got back in the competition, in the early 2000s, the Make-A-Wish Foundation called.

A young boy had brain cancer so advanced it would eventually take his eyesight but he wanted to watch Souths play.

“We’ve got to look after this kid,” George told his club.

George kitted him up in all the Souths gear and, every time he went to a game, took him in the dressing room. He really turned it on, knowing what it meant and what he could do.

By then, George was used to young men following the Rabbitohs and how much it meant to them.

He coached Souths in the 1980s for five years and two Dally M Coach of the Year awards, and it did not cost the club a cent because he refused payment, and young men often wanted to be around the club.

One young man often knocked on the change room door at Redfern Oval, asking, “Excuse me Mr Piggins, can I come in and see the players?”

George Piggins collected plenty of silverware as a Rabbitoh.

George always let him in. He was a young actor of some sort, went by the name of Crowe. His father had an auto electrician shop at Botany.

That was why the betrayal cut so deep when Russell Crowe launched his privatisation bid. Crowe had benefited from George’s belief that the club belonged to the people when he was young and anonymous and now here he was taking the club away from the people.

George’s position was simple: South Sydney Rabbitohs should always be owned by the people.

By the end of the campaign, everything they ever claimed to be was gone, and these South Sydney fans, who pride themselves on old-fashioned values like loyalty and character, turned on the one man who saved their club from extinction.

He was unfairly portrayed as a tyrant, drunk on power and unwilling to surrender control.

Peter Holmes a Court later rewarded the authors of their campaign with a pair of golf balls and a plaque. The golf balls were shaped like testicles and had the Rabbitohs emblem on them. The plaque said: “It took balls.”

It might have, but it was costly too.

There were lies and slander spread about George, and as a result he won five separate defamation cases out of court.

Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court are all smiles at Stadium Australia after winning a vote of the members that gave them control of the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

He was the only one, in the end, who refused to compromise.

Along with the football club, the members voted away their four storey leagues club building, 10 apartments in Chalmers St and 198 car parks, for which they cared very little about at the time.

They just wanted Crowe’s and Holmes a Court’s money to prop up the footy club.

Today that property would be valued somewhere in the vicinity of $60 million. The members have not a dollar from it.

And so George Piggins walked away from South Sydney that day in 2006 when South Sydney members turned on him and voted to sell three-quarters of their club to an actor and a businessman.

And they made Souths successful. They put money into the club that wasn’t there before and Crowe used his considerable profile to attract players.

But it will always be George who saved South Sydney. He is the greatest figure in the club’s history because without him there would no longer be a South Sydney.

South Sydney stalwarts George Piggins and Mario Fenech.

Some years back an old Balmain fan was told his club would still be around if only the fans had stuck it out like Souths’ fans did.

“No, you had George,” the Balmain fan said. “George was the difference.”

And today history slowly gets rewritten and Crowe is gradually reshaped as the man who saved Souths when all along it was the man who fell ill this week and lies in hospital fighting for his life, because he was always a fighter, and he gets barely a moment’s thought from the Rabbitohs’ faithful.

Not all, though.

Zac Cheney called this week and had only one question he wanted answered. Zac, a man now, was the young boy who went blind with his brain cancer and who George doted over every time he could make it to a game.

“Tell me he is all right,” Zac said.

We hope he will be, they said.

Weak article and shows kun# for everything he is, a Souths hater through and through. We all love GP, and I go back well before this idiot, however to claim that our members deserted GP is just not correct. We were saved by George with our reinstatement and we would have perished with George had we not voted for change. The nonsense about assets held way back when pales into insignificance when compared to what Rusty, PHaC and now James Packer have, and continue, to do for our great club. Kun# can bang on all he likes, it just makes him look more the very little man that he is.

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This is classic News Corp rubbish- still pissed off that we beat them in court. Kent is a stooge!
Yes, Piggins saved Souths, so did Crowe, and the fans too. Trying to divide our great club with this rubbish article, it’s shameful!
We all hope for the best for George, he is a legend to all Rabbitohs fans, even the large number who voted against his ticket.
Get well soon George.

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What a crap article. It’s trying to use one of our club legends to slander the club.

Being forgotten out of history my arse. The POTY medal is named after him. As far as I’m aware, the club has extended the olive branch to him numerous times.

What does Kent want us to do? Give a daily update on George’s status, put up a 10 minute video of him playing at every home game?

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What a knob. Talking about the club a Russell slandering George and down playing his achievements. I’d love to see a compilation of the articles his organisation wrote about George during the fight. They claimed that the March consisted of less than 10k people. I hope Rusty goes to town on him but then that is probably exactly what he wants.

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More dribble from Kent I suppose.
Do yourselves a favour and don’t click on his rubbish. Best way to silence a fool is to ignore him.

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I thought he turned his back on the club when we became privately owned.

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That’s it he has that little man syndrome.

What a sad bitter little man!

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Yes, this is true, because the people who beat him in the vote took over the club. But he was heartbroken, and I think as Souths supporters we can cut him some slack. He is the man who gave everything on the field as a player, gave his all as a coach and administrator, and then the man who led the fight back after we were kicked out.
It is complicated, but he will always be a legend of this club. George is Souths through and through.

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I was just wanted to correct the article stating that the club turned it’s back on George. I dont believe this was the case.

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Have always loved to watch George play and still have the utter most respect for him
If not for George we wouldn’t be where we are today
How about we find out what hospital he’s in and we give him a visit when appropriate ?

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Why does Kent hate the club so much?? Is it because he is a Roarter stooge?

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George will always be King George the #1 Bunny and only for him and the team that he led saved Souths.

Kent is self opinionated journalist of the lowest order that for some reason hates the Bunnies well Mr Kent we are here to stay! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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Kent must have been told to discredit us while we are challenging the MRC and judiciary. These hacks for hire are a blight on the game.

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there are some interesting points raised in this article.

Along with the football club, the members voted away their four storey leagues club building, 10 apartments in Chalmers St and 198 car parks, for which they cared very little about at the time.

They just wanted Crowe’s and Holmes a Court’s money to prop up the footy club.

Today that property would be valued somewhere in the vicinity of $60 million. The members have not a dollar from it.

We were paying approximately 1 Million a year in rent for 1 story of a building we used to own.
This is the true “crime” of privatization.

No one will ever fully acknowledge the debt to Piggins, who loved the club too much. He is being forgotten out of history.

There is supposedly a documentary in the works right now about the fightback, lets see how “fair” the coverage is, i wouldnt be surprised if someone has tipped Kent off that it wont be.

Its also worth noting, George still went to games after 2006, he still went to player functions, he was still involved in that side of Souths even if he wasnt involved in the club proper.

he never turned his back on the club like some people like to say

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The Leagues Club was a millstone around our necks foŕ 30 years. Hardly contributed a dollar to the fc. In fact it was the other way around during the 90s.

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Always have the deepest respect for GP. He’s one Of us. I remember back in the Redfern Oval Grand Final heyday, there was a brawl in the grandstand on finals weekend between LaPer and Mascot, Prescott giving La Per a hard time, La Per fans give Mascot a serve, out broke the blue, up came George and Formica, two of the hardest brawlers in the day, there was plenty of skin, hair and teef flying that day. Loved it, no better place to watch the footbrawl.

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I’m a simple bloke, so I’ll ask the simple question. When ‘we’ owned the building that ‘we’ now rent, where did the money saved go to?

we dont rent it anymore, it was too expensive so we moved out, which the implications of are something to look into, because the NRL grant should cover most of the clubs costs, which they did not at any point in time when we owned the building.

another interesting question is how exactly was that building sold without any money coming back to Souths?

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