Smith, McCarthy banter for Heritage Round
In the middle of the picturesque Sydney Cricket Ground, rugby league greats – Dragon Billy Smith and legendary Rabbitoh Bob McCarthy – didn't mind having a dig at one another as they commemorated the 50th anniversary of their 1965 Grand Final.
With Smith's Dragons prevailing 12-8 five decades ago – their then 10th premiership in a row – the 26-time Australian halfback had one message for McCarthy and the Rabbitohs ahead of this weekend's Men of League Heritage Round clash between the two clubs "We still hate them".
McCarthy was more forthcoming and detailed how he used to love playing St George, with their champion side ultimately helping the Rabbitohs with their own success in the late-60s and early-70s.
"St George because they were so good I used to learn from them. We played them a few grand finals [post-1965] but they didn't have their greats," McCarthy said. "They still had Billy and Changa [Graeme Langlands] but all their famous players were gone and it was our time to shine."
As for the grand final itself, a then ground record of 78,000 people packed into the SCG stands (and on the roof) to see the Dragons come out victors once again.
"Ronny [Coote] and the boys had a big build-up to the 1965 Grand Final because they were the up and coming stars, so we had to be on our toes because they were a good side," Smith recalled.
"John O'Neill used to love killing me: he broke my arm, broke my jaw and hurt my knee – no wonder I'm on a walking stick now."
McCarthy added: "We beat them three times throughout the season: in the pre-season competition, and then when their stars went away to New Zealand and even after they returned we beat them pretty comfortably.
"I think the crowd thought it was an end of an era [before the 1965 decider] and our young whippersnappers were going to take the title so that's why all the people turned up. We found out that day there was a St George who played during the year and a St George who played in the grand final, and they were pretty hard to beat.
"They were a team of champions and they were just too good. They choked us out of the game. We hardly touched the ball, I know the score was only 12-8 but it could've gone for another two weeks and we still wouldn't have won it."
50 years on, and with the Dragons and Rabbitohs set to play on Saturday night at the SCG to commemorate the famous grand final, Smith was hopeful of his former team's chances.
"I just hope they win for a change, they're having a rough trot at the moment," Smith said.
"The good old days though against South Sydney, there was no animosity, we used to beat the... out of each other and then go back to The Cauliflower and have a drink with one another.
"I thought it was stupid but I'd go back for a game of cards and a beer anyway."