How Souths poached Crichton and Roosters lured him back

How Souths poached Crichton and Roosters lured him back

Five years after their fiercest rivals stole the 18-year-old rugby prodigy from right under their noses, the Roosters left no stone unturned in luring Rabbitohs forward Angus Crichton back across Anzac Parade.

The multimillion-dollar, three-year-deal that lured Crichton from Redfern to Bondi set rugby league's oldest hornets' nest abuzz over the summer.

Leading into Thursday's clash between the two foundation clubs at Allianz Stadium, discussions about Crichton's past, present and future will take centre stage once more.

In 2014, it was Michael Maguire who was determined to nab the raw-boned country boy playing his third year of First XV rugby at Scots College.

Earlier that year Crichton emailed the Roosters and asked if he could train and play in their SG Ball Cup ranks, duly smashing it in his four games before his school and rep rugby commitments took over.

Then-Tricolours under 20s coach Adam Hartigan knew what he had after Crichton's first contact training session when he showed no fear taking down man-child mountains like Willis Meehan and Nene Macdonald.

But Rabbitohs recruitment officer Grant Jones knew too. So did Maguire and club captain Greg Inglis, who also met the starry-eyed youngster as part of the Bunnies' courtship.

 

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Crichton met repeatedly with Maguire, who at that point was guiding Souths to their first title in 43 years.

Not many teenagers, let alone one with just a handful of games in the sport, get rugby league's red carpet rolled out like this.

Within a month of that historic 2014 premiership, the Roosters and Australian rugby had been trumped. Crichton was a Rabbitoh.

He is heading back to Bondi at the end of this year, following the same path as cardinal and myrtle icon Ron Coote more than 40 years ago.

When Coote signed with the Roosters in 1972, one instantly former fan told him the family's pet rabbit was no more.

It had answered to 'Ronnie Coote' and had promptly been cooked and eaten for lunch.

Crichton too has copped plenty via social media since his own move was announced, some of it vile and beyond reproach.  

Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton.
Rabbitohs back-rower Angus Crichton. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

The Roosters came to play this time around when it came to contract negotiations with Crichton. They say with roughly $700,000 a season, in the same ballpark as South Sydney's offer. Adding to the long-running feud between the clubs, Rabbitohs officials claim the Chooks offered closer to $1 million annually.

Hartigan, now the club's recruitment manager, was front and centre alongside coach Trent Robinson in the most recent discussions, drawing on the relationship forged years earlier.

Crichton's former Souths teammate Luke Keary was a sounding board, while Robinson's acumen and rugby league nous was a key selling point for the well-spoken back-rower.

And for a kid that revered now-assistant coach Craig Fitzgibbon and club icon Brad Fittler growing up, wearing the red, white and blue held serious appeal to complement the dollars and opportunity on offer.

"The sway for him was pretty simple, the Roosters were the team that he grew up following as an eastern suburbs kid, having moved from the country," his manager David Rawlings says.

The biggest thing for Angus was being able to play for the club he supported as a kid.

Angus Crichton's manager David Rawlings

"He used to sit and watch their games as a kid and when the opportunity came he jumped.

"Obviously the professional environment was a lure, Adam Hartigan was his coach the first time round in that Roosters SG Ball time so there was that relationship there too. But I'd say the biggest thing for Angus was being able to play for the club he supported as a kid, being able to do that and tick that one off was a big drawcard."

All of which makes Crichton's past, present and future colliding this Thursday night, a fair drawcard in itself.