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Roosters-Rabbitohs rivalry has never been fiercer

I heard it all - both good and bad - from Roosters and Rabbitohs fans during my playing days.

Despite what people may try and tell you this is not just another NRL match. How do I know that? I've been in dressing rooms where we were explicitly told losing was not an option.

It's for those reasons - and many more - that Friday night's match at the SCG is one you cannot miss.

The traditional rivalry is back and the fact both clubs are among the NRL's elite teams means this old rivalry is as intense now as I've ever seen it.

I debuted for the Rabbitohs, moved to the Roosters then back to the Rabbitohs and this weekend Angus Crichton, a Roosters junior, plays his first game for them after starting his NRL career at the Rabbitohs.

It was interesting for me because I went to the Roosters after the Rabbitohs got booted from the competition and I played a few years for the Roosters while Rabbitohs were in no man's land.

Rabbitohs season preview - NRL Teams

I'd only just signed a new three-year deal at the Rabbitohs when that happened.

When Souths did come back in, everyone was talking about me going back. But not only was I starting to find my feet at the Roosters, the reality was Souths never actually asked me if I wanted to come back.

George Piggins (who was South Sydney chairman at the time) made a statement that they were never going to pay a player the amount of money I was on so there was just nothing there.

When I did get to play Souths for the first time when they were readmitted in 2002, my old man turned up to the game in a Rabbitohs shirt in the Roosters area.

Everyone knew my Rabbitohs' roots but the first time playing them was a strange feeling. I was happy to see them back but in my mind, I was going to do anything to make sure they weren't going to win. It was just as a personal pride thing.

Back then the rivalry from the Rabbitohs towards the Roosters was always there. The Roosters had been successful for some time and taken a number of players from the Rabbitohs over the years.

In my early days at the Roosters, Souths weren't as much of a force so it was a case of "we've got to beat the Rabbitohs because we're expected to beat the Rabbitohs" but it was not as fierce of a rivalry from the Roosters' end.

As the years went on and Souths got better, the rivalry from the Roosters side as a player got stronger.

Roosters season preview - NRL Teams

I remember in that Roosters change room, losing to Rabbitohs just was not an option. Regardless of all the other games you played in the year, you just do not lose to the Rabbitohs.

My last game for the Roosters before I went back to the Rabbitohs in 2008 was a similar feeling. I knew I was going to the Rabbitohs and it was my last game for Roosters. I really didn't want to lose that game and ended up scoring the final try to seal it.

Then when I went back to Rabbitohs it was exactly the same thing. My very first game back for the Rabbitohs was against the Roosters and I came off after seven minutes because I dislocated my shoulder in a prowler tackle from Riley Brown. I remember coming off and the Roosters fans were absolutely giving it to me.

Craig Wing playing for the Roosters.
Craig Wing playing for the Roosters. ©NRL Photos

But the Rabbitohs just got stronger and stronger over the next few years and it's now progressed to where both teams are among the top few teams in the Telstra Premiership.

The rivalry even goes deeper now in terms of the juniors. Souths are doing a much better job of hanging onto their juniors and bringing them through the ranks to the extent that they're even going after GPS kids now.

For example, Scots College, which is right in the middle of Roosters territory is where Angus Crichton came from before returning to the Roosters this year.

Craig Wing playing for South Sydney against the Roosters.
Craig Wing playing for South Sydney against the Roosters. ©NRL Photos

Or Joseph Suaalii, who I've coached through the South Sydney Harold Matthews program. He played GPS rugby at Kings and Souths recently signed him to a three-year deal but I know the Roosters were interested in him too.

The rivalry has all been helped along by the commentary from Russell Crowe and The Book of Feuds.

Back to this weekend and Angus Crichton. If there's one game he's going to want to win it's this one.

Coming from a successful team, he will want to prove to everyone he made the right decision. There's a lot of pride involved.

The Rabbitohs will want to hit him as hard as they can and let him know they don't need him. Like always with footy, once the game is done and dusted they'll all be shaking hands but your toughest games and hardest hits are always against your mates.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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