Bunnies grand final hate-fest: Surely you can't blame these guys?

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Latrell Mitchell, Sam Burgess and Wayne Bennett, pictured here in action for South Sydney.
Latrell Mitchell, Sam Burgess and Wayne Bennett aren't exactly the most popular figures. Image: Getty

Look at vision and photos of the day 80,000 league fans marched through the streets of Sydney demanding the Rabbitohs' return to the NRL and you will see plenty of Norths, Balmain, Manly, Parramatta, Brisbane, St George and Roosters jumpers among the red and green throng.

Former Souths star Phil Blake, who marched alongside George Piggins and his disciples that day, remembers bumping into some of them and asking what the hell they were doing there.

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"I saw friends who don’t even go for Souths and asked what made them come and one said: 'mate, I'm just a rugby league supporter and I don't like what's happening," he said.

"No other club would get 80,000 walking down George St. It's because of the people and how passionate they are about Souths."

The faithful spoke, and months later so did the courts, ruling in favour of reinstating the Bunnies.

"Everyone in the game jumped aboard. Every fan wanted them back. No other side in the competition would have got back in, bar them," Blake declared.

He is dead right.

So at what point over the past 21 years did all those neutral fans lose their love for South Sydney?

Heading into the grand final, most non-aligned supporters appear more comfortable going to bed on Sunday night with a Penrith victory than hearing Glory Glory on high rotation.

Is it a simply a case of success breeding jealousy?

When the Bunnies weren’t a threat – and it was basically a case of picking up your two points against them and moving on – they were viewed as a cute novelty.

Souths have made the finals eight of the past 10 years, winning the 2014 grand final and making the past four preliminary finals.

They have reached this year's grand final on the back of a brilliant brand of rugby league, and over the past few weeks, courageous defence.

What's not to love? Perhaps the hate can be traced back to individuals?

The likes of Sam Burgess, Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker, Jai Arrow and Wayne Bennett have sent rival fans apoplectic over recent years.

South Sydney players, pictured here during a training session ahead of the grand final.
South Sydney players look on during a training session ahead of the grand final. (Photo by Russell Freeman/Getty Images)

Panthers heading down similar road to Souths

But here's the thing. Penrith are starting to go down a similar road.

This time last year we couldn't get enough of the Panthers as they almost pulled off a snatch and grab against Melbourne in the 2020 decider.

They were the best thing to hit rugby league since torpedo pants - all boomboxes, smiles and edge-of-your-seat footy.

This year is different.

The boys from the Riff are on the nose with a lot of fans. They've been labelled cocky, deceptive and arrogant.

Suddenly, the Cleary boys are no longer the blokes you'd have around for a Sunday arvo barbie.

So who do neutrals cheer for? Annastacia Palaszczuk of course.

She has the power to cancel the grand final so the rest of us can get on with planning for the 2022 season.

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