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The Sydney Morning Herald

Emotions run high at fighting fund function, as Rabbitohs plan their next wave

Date: 22/11/1999
Words: 734
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 33
South Sydney celebrated today's promised legal action against the National Rugby League by raising close to $300,000 on Saturday night. It means more bricks to rain on the NRL's 14-team parade.

The Rabbitohs are in the Federal Court at 10.15am today to seek an injunction not to prevent the go-ahead of next year's competition but to seek inclusion, to make next season a 15-team slugfest.

Lawyers have told Souths they need $1 million to fight the NRL and on Saturday night the club cleared almost $300,000, on top of the $100,000 already banked.

A Big Barbecue inviting every former South Sydney player and a 500 Club, to be organised by Alan Jones and set to raise half a million dollars, are also being planned to boost the Rabbitohs' fighting fund.

Insiders at the club believe they have the NRL nervous, although president George Piggins was reluctant to confirm such boasts after the success of Saturday night.

``The lawyers don't want me to comment too much and I'm happy to do that," Piggins said.

``But I thought we really did well out of the room. Besides that, it was a really good night."

So the fight is on.

And there was evidence of that in everything that happened throughout Saturday night's function, officially billed as Save Our Souths and organised and hosted by television personality Ray Martin, with able support from radio funnyman Andrew Denton.

When a framed Olympic flag autographed by Murray Rose and Betty Cuthbert was brought on stage for auction, Denton remarked: ``As I understand, only Dawn Fraser had one of these ..."

When a dinner with Martin and Denton was offered for auction, Denton tried to up the price, promising: ``If you play your cards right, you might get breakfast, too."

Over four hours, Canterbury football club was beaten only by actor Russell Crowe as the best sports of the night.

They waded in waist deep on every item for auction, bidding heavily against Crowe for the timekeeper's bell used to kick off Souths' very first rugby league match, in 1908, which fetched the highest sale price on the night.

Crowe bid $41,000 against the Bulldogs' offer and then, in the spirit of things or maybe because somebody missed the first take, Crowe stuck his hand up again and bid $42,000 against his own best.

Earlier he had beaten his own $9,000 bid with a $10,000 offer for a framed and autographed photo of Ron Coote helping Graeme Langlands up from the ground after the siren had beaten the Saints in the 1971 grand final.

It seemed just about everything was offered for auction or put up for raffle. Octagonal's racing colours went under the hammer, Kostya Tszyu's boxing gloves, six bottles of Grange Hermitage, Martin's silver Logie, holidays, an autographed statuette of Sir Don Bradman and Eddie Root's 1931 premiership blazer a ``chick magnet", according to Denton were all major fund-raisers.

In between came performances from Allan Caswell ``We'll all stand together ... So that Souths can stand alone", he sang and Troy Cassar-Daley and Lee Kernaghan, as well as a speech by Jones, whose comment came free, while John Sattler revived his fighting song which went public recently on the steps of Town Hall.

Most football memorabilia was donated by 96-year-old Albert Clift, sitting up front as strong as oak, who picked through his museum at home to donate the bell and other things.

``All for the cause," Clift said.

While Crowe won the bid, he told Martin it will never ring again if Souths are not in next year's competition, and if they are he will have it signal the start of the first game.

It was a gesture in sentiment and emotion, as much of the night was.

But as Jones pointed out to the bah-humbugs who would shout down the Rabbitohs' fight as foolish, ``what is sport without sentiment and emotion?"

Even Mark Carroll and Paul Harragon brought home the game's rare bonds when they hit the stage to harmonise on Carroll's frightful version of Wild Thing.

Indeed, it was a night of sentiment.

And raffles. Martin closed the night passing off 10 cartons of beer and two meat trays donated by his local butcher.

After all, what's a footy fund-raiser without a meat tray?

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