Glory days are here again
If I'm being totally honest, there was a large part of me that thought we'd never make it.
I am blessed in so many areas of my life that I thought following a team who never won a premiership in my lifetime was the lone cross I had to bear.
I have a job I love and a beautiful family but when Bobby and Satts rang that bell to herald the arrival of South Sydney back onto the Grand Final arena on Sunday night I could feel 38 years of highs and lows gushing to the surface.
As I scanned the crowd, a more beautiful sea of cardinal and myrtle the likes of which I had never seen before, my emotions got the better of me and I shed a tear or two.
I couldn't get the words to "Glory Glory" out for fear of turning into a blubbering mess and when John Sutton emerged from that eternal time tunnel the waterworks were turned on once again at the mere thought of what was now possible.
Australia's most successful rugby league team was now back on its grandest stage and all that stood between us and a 21st glorious premiership was 17 hardened Canterbury first-graders and a crafty coach who let his opposition stew in the broth of expectation before sending his men into battle.
Notwithstanding a head clash in the first tackle of the game that stunned Sam Burgess but would not make him yield, things started well enough but points remained hard to come by.
In every facet except on the scoreboard the contest was one-sided yet it wasn't until a quarter of the way through the premiership decider that first points were scored.
Sitting in Bay 611 I couldn't have told you whether it was Alex Johnston or George Burgess who scored the first try but that wasn't important. With my brother two seats down and wedged in between my father – a Kenso junior who shared the footy field with the likes of Ron Coote and Bobby McCarthy – and mother who we had to convert from an Arthur Beetson-loving Roosters fan, this was a day for family.
Not just the family that bought me my first jersey but the extended family who paraded those same colours across the streets of Sydney all week. Truth be told, winning wasn't that important to me until we went into half-time with a 6-0 lead.
Then, the 43-year wait to shed so much unwanted baggage started to weigh heavily.
This was it, this was the moment that we had been waiting so long to revel in but Canterbury, as we knew they would, put the fear of God into South Sydney camps dotted throughout the land with a try in the 49th minute that levelled the scores.
I'd told those closest to me, physically and figuratively, that the 10 minutes after half-time would be crucial in deciding the outcome and here were those Bulldogs with a sniff of victory and their stumpy tails in the air.
But with two bounces of the Steeden fate dictated that the suffering had gone on long enough and a 14-6 advantage soon turned into a 30-6 blowout reflective neither of the effort of the Canterbury players nor the execution of the Rabbitohs.
When players were making their way back beyond halfway following the 78th-minute try to Adam Reynolds the cameras caught the battered face of Sam Burgess, tears now streaming down his face.
I soon followed suit and recalled the moment in 2001 when I discovered the team I had loved so passionately as a child had been admitted back into the National Rugby League.
I was pulling pints in a bar in London when a girl casually remarked to her friend, "Dad's happy, Souths are back in the comp." I asked her to repeat what she'd just said because I'd honestly given up hope. When George Piggins appealed the original ruling against reinstatement in the Supreme Court my heart went out to him. I wanted to hug George and say, 'Let it go, you've done all you can.'
But George is made from much sterner stuff than I and even though News Limited won the next round in the courtroom to have the appeal overturned, they allowed South Sydney's readmission regardless.
Over the past 12 years we've been called lots of names and ridiculed in innumerable ways but each stinging criticism only served to fuel our resolve.
This is the team big business couldn't kill; the team with more premierships than any other club in premiership history in Australia; the team whose injustice not only unified a supporters' group but the game as a whole.
We've been called losers, chokers and spawned our own hashtag (#lolatsouffs) but for the next 12 months you can call us by one name only...