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HOLMES A COURT: Why Russell was so good for Souths

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    No, not that Random Souths Guy. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Robb Cox)

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    Russell Crowe announced this week that 2013 will be his last year as an owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Roar asked me to share my thoughts on what this means for the Rabbitohs. I enjoy this site’s mad passion, so I agreed to write this.

    The last six years have seen the comprehensive turn-around of the Rabbitohs. In 2006 the club was labelled a bankrupt laughing stock.

    Today it is a financially stable, membership-focused club with a team that is a true Premiership contender. In 2013 the club is forecast to be cash-positive for the fourth consecutive year, with a net profit (after tax) of over $1 million (all of which will go into reserves).

    Depending on which way you slice the figures, the Rabbitohs are #1 in sponsorship, membership and social media activity in rugby league.

    Something else happened during that time that is harder to count, can’t be stacked up on league tables, and is difficult to share on social media.

    It’s about values, and putting them at the centre of what you do in business.

    An American sports team owner is famous for saying “just win, baby.” I never saw the goals of sports team ownership that way and I don’t think Russell did either.

    I’ve called what I’ve tried to do in business ‘values-based change management’, which sounds a bit too close to management speak.

    Russell is able to be a bit more immediate with his words. But the bottom line is the same, and I think we’ve demonstrated that good values have a place in good business decisions.

    Russell was outspoken on a number of issues, and showed that it was appropriate for an owner of a business to have views about how it interacted with its community.

    Russell took considerable heat for expressing his views on how women were seen at games (only as cheerleaders) and the impact to our society of putting poker machines in every corner of our cities. These were not popular or financially beneficial positions but they were the right ones to take.

    Russell instilled a laser-like focus on excellence, a habit of very hard work, and absolute determination to achieve your goals. These values will stick with the club.

    I remember when he first said we should try to recruit one of the best players in the world, Roy Asotasi. Roy deserves credit for seeing the potential, but it was Russell’s idea to go after the best. It was the change in values the club needed.

    He didn’t just have a vision for how our players should look, but how good rugby league could look. He shared a belief that league could stand tall and be proud of itself. More importantly, he was prepared to stand behind the sport, and promote it on a world stage.

    My involvement with the club began because of a chance meeting with a person associated with the club. He told us that the Rabbitohs would have to be happy to be back in the competition, and that is all they could reasonably hope for. The team from South Sydney would merely ‘make up the numbers’. Fans would have to be duped into accepting mediocrity.

    It would have to be a lie to every supporter who bought season tickets. Kids could put the posters on their bedroom walls, but they couldn’t afford to dream too high.

    When I heard those words I had to do my best to control myself. I was brought up to consider those to be fighting words.

    Not everything was exactly smooth: a few times we were put in very difficult positions. Certain individuals did some things that did not fit with our values, but in some ways they were helpful for us.

    In each case, the harder the decision in the short term, the better the decision was in the long term. I rank some of these as the most difficult decisions of my business career.

    At the heart of everything we did was our community, starting with a partnership with our members. We did what we told members we would do, and members did what we asked of them.

    This happened because our members, by an extraordinary majority, with all the information presented to them, and after considerable deliberation, voted in favour of Russell and I controlling the club.

    We got rid of nasty politics, but there were deep pockets of blazer-wearing bullies and keyboard cowards that would only be made irrelevant by performance.

    We put in (and kept) good people who work incredibly hard. They are open to new ideas and are dedicated to finding world’s best practice. I am confident that some of the best people in sports management in Australia work in our club.

    We respected the past, but we made sure we stole the best ideas from the future.

    We built systems, invested in the infrastructure, paid off old debts we inherited.

    We worked hard to be productive partners with City and State authorities. We supported the changes that have made the NRL a much better structured code.

    We worked to build a great relationship with ANZ Stadium and enjoy playing finals games there.

    Russell will be well remembered for his passion every time people see the Red and Green run onto the field. But those who know his full involvement will also see his impact in our financial results and the way the club relates to its community. Indeed, in everything that we do.

    Yours in sports madness, Peter Holmes a Court.

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    The Crowd Says (77)

    • Roar Rookie

      November 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am
      Chris Hardiman said | November 22nd 2012 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      Will you be selling your slice of the Souths pie anytime soon mate?

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 7:06am
      oikee said | November 22nd 2012 @ 7:06am | ! Report

      Is this a G-up. 🙂
      Once Rusty is gone Homesy, bring back the cheerleaders. That will fix this club. Call them the Bunnies.
      If that does not work then shut it down and move the whole shebang to Central Queensland where passionate supporters will keep this great name and club safe.
      We will build a rabbit proof fence so no bunnies get injured out west in wild rocky.
      Build a huge club with Bunnies serving wenches and pokies on every corner. talk about opportunity lost. While afl is setting up clubs all around Brisbane and raking tens of millions from the public, you want to hold church service. This is footy, let get it on.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:12am
        Droppa said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        Build your own club in Central Queensland,it wasn’t only Souths supporters that fought to have them reinstated..anyway QLD aready has a 4th team,its called the Melbourne Storm.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 2:37pm
        mike from tari said | November 22nd 2012 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

        We started the game, we gave it a great history & great champions, we are called the Pride of the League so stick that in your rabbit proof fence.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 3:11pm
          browny said | November 22nd 2012 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

          No Mike
          you call yourselves the pride of the league

          • November 22nd 2012 @ 3:20pm
            The Perp Catcher said | November 22nd 2012 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

            Wrong Browny, it was a title bestowed on the club by a journalist in the 1920’s and as the holder of almost double the premierships of our nearest rivals, cannot be argued.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 4:38pm
          oikee said | November 22nd 2012 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

          All you guys are a little slow. I was reading somewhere just the other day that the Bunnies are now under a Australian order, or something like that.
          A national icon or the only sports club to be placed on the endangered species list. I will see if i can find it again.
          Maybe someone else knows more.
          What it means is they are a protected species. haha, you gotta laugh.
          No serious, i read about it not less than a week ago.
          Even if you wanted to kill them off, you cant. 🙂 That is awesome when you think about it, everready bunnies, you cant kill the suckers.
          Not even with a big stick. ? Sounds like rugby league. Remember the amoubnt of times our game tried to kill itself, impossible. Even the sports reporters were saying we cant kill the game. They were trying to kill us, but we showed em. 🙂

          • November 22nd 2012 @ 4:59pm
            oikee said | November 22nd 2012 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

            Oh, here it is, while i was looking up PNG rugby league, i come across this story by the bunnies.

            The national trust. ?? ok so that means even if the rabbits were gone, dead buried and bust, they still would not be dead.
            Come-on, their is only 1 team worthy of a national icon or trust or whatever else, well maybe 2 teams.
            The mighty Broncos and the Mighty Maroons.
            Bring on 2013 , moon doggy. 🙂

    • Roar Rookie

      November 22nd 2012 @ 7:57am
      John Vizzone said | November 22nd 2012 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      It has been a remarkable turn around for the Club and all Souths fans should be proud and happy about what the club has achieved in the past few years.

      As one comment shows here, any club, least of all a club with a history as rich as Souths, is always going to have its fair share of trouble makers and internet heroes.

      I am still waiting for one of Godfrey’s mates above to come out and offer to do a better job. Maybe he and his buddies can buy Russell’s share?

      Either way all Souths fans should enjoy the success the club is currently doing and applaud Rusty for his work.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 8:15am
      Godfrey said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:15am | ! Report

      I walked in both Super League protest marches for Souths. Russell and Peter didn’t. I donated my hard-earned to the fundraisers, which is also something Peter and Russell didn’t do. I turned up at the court cases and bought season tickets. I was a member of both leagues and football clubs before it became fashionable. I’ve stood in the rain watching games and travelled to far flung places to support the club. Before Russell and Peter bought Souths, I never saw them there. I’ve earned the right to express my view. I’ve also cited the facts and figures about the club’s financials taken directly from the club’s financial reports, which is something the Happy Clappers and Crowe Huggers never do. Don’t listen to the lie merchants. Ditch the hero worshipping.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 22nd 2012 @ 8:25am
        John Vizzone said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

        Are you really suggesting that Russel did not donate any money to any fundraisers?

        I am not going to argue with you because you anti-establishment brigade will always challenge the clubs leaders whether they be GP, RC, PHaC or anyone else.

        If one looks at the record of the club on and off the field, I doubt anyone can honestly put their hand on their heart and say that they have done a bad job.

        Leaders on and off the field. Enough said without getting into semantics about figures.

        As suggested, those who feel they can do a better job should get in touch with Crowe and buy his share.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 22nd 2012 @ 8:51am
          Chris Hardiman said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:51am | ! Report

          I hope for any of your clients sake that you can come up with something better than let’s see you do a better job.
          I go for Souths and prior to this year they have been anything but successful. In fact 2011 and 2010 were some of the most frustrating years ever.
          I can’t comment about off the field. All I have to go on is what Souths tell us and what’s in the newspaper. If what Godfrey has to say has any substance then why not address that?
          And tell me this. If Rusty has done such a great job then why does his rich mate feel the need to do his public relations on a social media website?

          • Columnist

            November 22nd 2012 @ 9:54am
            Spiro Zavos said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            This is a ridiculous comment. The piece is not a public relations piece on as social media website. The Roar is an interactive sports opinion website. Peter Holmes a Court has gone on The Roar to express his views about the worth of the Crowe/Holmes a Court partnership in reviving the magic of the Rabbitohs and ensuring that the great club exists as a powerful rugby league force into the distant future.

            There is nothing ordained about the continued existence of a rugby league club, no matter how deeply entrenched it is in the history of the game in Sydney. I lived across the road from Alex Buzo. He was haunted for years before his death about the fact that his beloved Bears were no longer in the ARL premiership.

            This anguish of Buzo’s would have replicated in the tens of thousands if Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court hadn’t put their own money into reviving the fortunes, on and off the field, into the club.

            I was taken, too, by the comments made in the piece about values. For any institution to last, in my opinion, it has to accept the principle of excellence in all its endeavours. This has been a mark of the Rabbitohs in the Crowe/Holmes a Court era from the choice of a chief executive, to the way the players present themselves, to the recruitment of so many star players and to the reaching out to the indigenous community which has a special affection and identification with the team.

            The idea that The Roar is something of a public relations forum rankles. Any of us who write for The Roar know that the comments are invariably pungent and forthright. Peter Holmes a Court, in fact, somewhat anticipated the hostile reaction of some of the comments in his article.

            He wasn’t disappointed.

            For some of us, though, it provides a chance to congratulate two businessmen/fans who backed up their passion with their money and their business acumen to re-establish the club as a financially viable entity that will, sooner or later, add to the glowing list of grand final victories achieved in the glory days of the Rabbitohs.

            • Roar Rookie

              November 22nd 2012 @ 10:39am
              John Vizzone said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:39am | ! Report

              I agree Spiro.

              As mainly a passive observer it is great to be able to come to a site with personal and forthright commentary and opinion, often from those in the thick of the action.

              As someone who has grown up in the South Sydney culture and is all too aware of the issues that Peter raises, I dare say he knew what was coming from the people that have sniped him from day one.

              I won’t engage in those debates further except to say that I hope that people don’t lose sight of why they support Souths and follow football.

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:54am
              Australian Rules said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:54am | ! Report

              Well said Spiro

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:09pm
              oikee said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

              I normally dont like you, but yes, well said Spiro.
              My post sounded bad, but i do really have the Bunnies in mind. I just want them to prosper.
              Most know they wont be moving anywhere, they are much loved in Sydney.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:15pm
                planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                We will see Oikee if the sponsors were really buying into the new value’s and new structure or were they star gazing ? As I said earlier Oikee it will take time to prove me right or wrong.

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:22pm
              Renegade said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report


              That’s one of the best and most well thought out responses i have seen on the roar!

              • Roar Rookie

                November 22nd 2012 @ 5:28pm
                Chris Hardiman said | November 22nd 2012 @ 5:28pm | ! Report

                And your response should be put in the brown nosers hall of fame.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 8:46pm
                Renegade said | November 22nd 2012 @ 8:46pm | ! Report

                I’ve stuck it to Spiro in other articles mate….i give credit where credit is due.

                Looking at your responses on this thread….your in line for d***head of the year at the moment.
                Keep up the good work 😉

                P.S You might want to get out of the old barbershop and get with the times.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 9:10pm
                Renegade said | November 22nd 2012 @ 9:10pm | ! Report

                Oh i see what’s going here….you’ve just spat the dummy because it was your post that got completely disintegrated by Spiro’s response!

                Oh gee, just take it on the chin ‘Rookie’ and again get out of the Old Barbershop 😉

              • Roar Rookie

                November 24th 2012 @ 6:12pm
                Chris Hardiman said | November 24th 2012 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

                I see what’s going on here. You’re embarrassed for being called out for crawling. Well that is a natural reaction so you know to rectify your behavior.
                Get a haircut.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:06am
          Godfrey said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Crowe didn’t donate any money to the club during the Super League War. When he was asked to, he donated 6 albums from his band. During the Piggins era, Crowe did not donate a cent. The first time he donated money to the club was in 2004 when he paid one year of Adam Macdougall’s contract..

          • November 22nd 2012 @ 1:55pm
            Christo the Daddyo said | November 22nd 2012 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

            If you could compile a list of everyone who has poured money into Souths over the last twenty years I suspect you would find Russell Crowe’s name at the top of the list.

            But I guess that won’t be good enough for you Godfrey…

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 1:59pm
              planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

              Would be an interesting list….Chirsto people on both sides of “the divide” would appear but I would be surprised if Russell did not loom large/high.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:25am
          The Spook said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:25am | ! Report

          John Vizzone, it is one thing to have had some success on the football field but the financial state of both the Football and Leagues Clubs is nothing short of a disaster.
          And yes Russell did not donate one red cent when the was kicked out of the competition, he still has not, he is charging 9% interest!
          As for buying the place you have to be kidding, there is a $6 million debt owing to your heros and they have sold off all the assets and that is not taking into account the disaster that is the Leagues Club.
          Grow up John, take a step back and just look at what a small amount of success has cost, I doubt that a buyer will come along and buy the mess that has been left by these tow imposters.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:12am
        Dayer said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:12am | ! Report

        Godfrey, admit it you are envious of the great job that CROWE did for Souths. make that you are Jealous.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:23am
          Godfrey said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

          Not envious at all. Just angry at the lies and the deceit. The financials are there for all to see. The club is question mark bankrupt. It couldn’t pay its debts when they fell due and the club has had to sell all its real estate assets. These are facts that fluffery, happy clapping, and hero-worshipping of celebrity can’t change. Open your eyes.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:15am
        josh said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        “I donated my hard-earned to the fundraisers, which is also something Peter and Russell didn’t do.”

        Isn’t that why Crowe came on board? He got sick of Souths coming to him with their hand out and having no say as they continued to run the club as though it were amateur hour.

        “He didn’t donate a cent”, followed by “the first time he donated was in 2004”. Very selective in your argument.

        Comments such as this undermine everything you say, go back to Churchills and down another schooner.

        • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:27am
          Godfrey said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          Childish insults don’t change the truth. On 30/12/01, The Herald ran a story titled ‘The Good, Bad & The Ugly’. It read: “Russell Crowe disappointed Rabbitoh fans when he donated only six copies of his album.”
          The truth hurts, but it’s still the truth. 6 albums is what Crowe donated to the court fighting fund.

          • Editor

            November 22nd 2012 @ 11:15am
            Zac Zavos said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            OK Godfrey – your points have been made and we all understand your opinions on this matter.

            We’re closing your comments down on this thread in order to keep the balance of voices fair.

            The Roar

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:34am
              planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:34am | ! Report

              Serious Zac don’t let people write articles of self serving dribble then.

              • Editor

                November 22nd 2012 @ 11:44am
                Zac Zavos said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:44am | ! Report

                We invite numerous writers to write on our site. We’ve had every CEO in Australian sport write guest columns. And we invited Peter to write a piece.

                We just aren’t prepared for the threads to be overwhelmed by guys who clearly just want to air their concerns over and over again.

                I might add that Godfrey & The Spook aren’t Roarers; they only comment on posts like this related to South Sydney.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:50am
                planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:50am | ! Report

                So this article is not full of self serving dribble? This article was written by someone who is trying to sell his share’s as well IMO. It appears that 70% of souths is on the market…. Possibly ? Zac I respect the fact Godfrey was saying the same thing over and over however this article is basically saying that Souths is doing well financially when IMO half of the sponsors of South’s were on board cause of the “crowe” factor. Time will prove me wrong or right but it will take a full sponsor contract cycle to find out…

              • Editor

                November 22nd 2012 @ 12:05pm
                Zac Zavos said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

                planko – clearly I don’t think it’s self serving dribble. But you’re entitled to your opinions.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:19pm
                planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

                Good luck Zac i like ending in a civil way we will see where souths goes moving forward…

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:20pm
                Renegade said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:20pm | ! Report


                To add to what Planko said, maybe you should take it step further and also not let people like Godfrey and Planko write anything on this site because it’s just full 100% dribble….

                These souths fans are kidding themselves having a dig at PHC and Crowe…..if it wasn’t for these guys you would have been kicked out again.

                The only grudge i have with the two men is that they saved a club that should never have been bought back into the competition…..set the game back 10 years bringing back the bunnies and their fairweather supporters.

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:22pm
                planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:22pm | ! Report


                Pot calling the kettle ….. ?

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:32pm
                Renegade said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:32pm | ! Report


                No, i didn’t write anything that criticised the running of a business from the outside without actually understanding what’s going on.

                As an outsider, It’s clear to see the changes that have happened at Souths…..what internal information do you have that suggests this is just self serving dribble??

              • November 22nd 2012 @ 12:53pm
                The Perp Catcher said | November 22nd 2012 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

                Renegade, Planko is part of the no camp still fighting a battle lost in 2006. They remain extremely bitter Piggins lost and worship the ground he walks on. These people are mules. Even a three legged dog would tell you how well Souths are travelling after that vote, but no, not the mules.

                I hope that helps. 🙂

            • November 22nd 2012 @ 2:56pm
              mike from tari said | November 22nd 2012 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

              I think that for Holmes A Court to take time out to write this article he should be commended, I have been a Souths fan for over 50 years & I was a member who supported the takeover, I cannot stand this animosity towards what RC & HAC, as a member and part owner I am proud to finally say to all the other clubs “WE ARE BACK, WATCH YOUR BACKS” instead of dropping my head and saying “LAST AGAIN, WHAT A SHAME”.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 10:48am
      planko said | November 22nd 2012 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      Well said Godfrey private enterprise and individuals are always and amazed when they take over these clubs how much effort and time has gone into building up the assets of a club. Now they are gone good luck mate with your club.

    • November 22nd 2012 @ 11:19am
      Midfielder said | November 22nd 2012 @ 11:19am | ! Report


      If what you say is correct South’s are trading while insolvent which is a massive breach of corporation’s law…not doubting what you are saying but on the surface it needs at the least a report to ASIC…. your figures show a 6 million shortfall …

      You said … Football club liabilities in 2006 = $1.909 million. 2011 = $10.643 million
      Football club assets in 2006 = $3.179 million. 2011 = $4.652.

      Football club Profit/Losses (under Holmes a Court and Crowe)
      2007: $2.759 million loss
      2008: $4.135 million loss
      2009: $258,527 loss
      2010: $60,644 operating profit
      2011: $864,226 loss
      The 2011 annual report forecast a loss of $204,318 for 2012.

      Crowe and Holmes a Court formed the partnership High Concept Commercial Pty Limited with Trivest (developers). High Concept went into administration in February 2012 unable to pay its debts.

      • November 22nd 2012 @ 3:20pm
        clipper said | November 22nd 2012 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        Midfielder – someone could be a guarantor as a backup, so that the debts could be technically paid when due, then it wouldn’t be trading while insolvent, but as I don’t know the details I wouldn’t like to comment too much.
        I don’t think there was much choice but to sell the assets – you have to factor in the cost to modernise the club as it was.

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