Nov 19, 2020







SUBJECTS: National Rugby League; South Sydney Rabbitohs; State of Origin; Australia during the coronavirus pandemic.


ANDREW VOSS, HOST: We have had superstar guest after superstar guest right from day one of the program where we were welcomed on air by the Prime Minister, Mr Scott Morrison. It is only fair that we square the ledger. And the great thing, and I said it back then when we had the PM on, one of the great things of the country, in my humble opinion, is that we have leaders that feel comfortable in their own skin, can go out of the footy, have a beer, watch the game. They are both great rugby league men. We know that our Prime Minister is an ardent Cronulla fan. In fact, he went lyrical about Cronulla for about five minutes of the interview. And now I give the right of reply, and probably to talk about South Sydney for five minutes. The Federal Opposition Leader, Mr Anthony Albanese, on the program for the first time. Mr Albanese, welcome.




VOSS: Appreciate the support. Can I ask you first of, all the love for the Rabbitohs, how far back does that go?


ALBANESE: I came out of the womb with a red eye and a green eye, Vossy. I’ve actually got a beautiful brooch that goes back to the 1930s. It was my grandma’s. It is a gold rabbit, as in gold colour, not real gold, with little crossed legs. It’s a beautiful brooch literally with a little red eye and a green eye holding a footy. And it’s one of my cherished things. My grandparents came from around Redfern way. And I just always supported Souths. And that’s one of the things about rugby league. It’s about your identity and who you are. I tell people who ask who my son supports, and I said, ‘Well, he supports Souths, of course. He had choices, but he chose to sleep inside’.


VOSS: Great line. Great line. We’re almost of the same vintage, if I may say. So, you’ve come onto this, or come into this, earth as South Sydney was enjoying their last great era. And I’m talking about ‘67/’68, beaten Grand Finalists ’69, won ’70, ‘71. You’re a young boy. So, it must have left a lasting impression because it was a super side back then. And you’re just falling in love with the game of rugby league then.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. And one of the great things, and the players still do it today, is they look after young kids and they bring them through and they develop their love for the game. I went to primary school, a little school that is not there anymore, St. Joseph’s at Camperdown. And we played in a black jersey with one single white V in the South Sydney comp. And every jumper had a bunny as the logo. That was part of the deal when you played at Souths Juniors at that time. And we always had a big player, we had John Sattler or Ray Branighan, that amazing team that Souths had during that era would come and present our trophies at the end of the year.


VOSS: What a thrill.


ALBANESE: And it was a great memory. And my mum, to her great credit, you had to get two busses to get to Redfern Oval, but she would take me there as a little kid and stand with me on the hill. And it was just a great time. And of course, it was a great era. And you had Sattler and O’Neill as the props. Stevens and McCarthy, Ron Coote, not a bad lock.




ALBANESE: And you had a choice of hookers, Elwyn Walters or George Piggens. It was a great team. I had number one on my back, Eric Simms’ number, and I fancied myself as a goal kicker.


VOSS: There we go. We are delving in here. Yes.


ALBANESE: I unfortunately was nowhere near good enough to make it as a professional rugby league player, which is why I had to go into politics.


VOSS: The Federal Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, my guest here on 1170 SEN. And it’s quite obvious to the listeners, no matter your political persuasion, this is a rugby league fanatic we have online. That being the case, you’re a Rabbitohs man and you know that Wayne Bennett is the current South Sydney coach, why couldn’t some of that magic rub off onto the Rabbitohs? They went close again this year, no cigar. And what Wayne Bennett has produced with Queensland has been quite amazing.


ALBANESE: He’s a great manager of young men. He gives them confidence in themselves to make the best of it. And I’ve got to say, Souths’ performance this year, particularly given our injuries, we lost so many, particularly our centres were really struggling. We were playing second rowers out in the centres in the finals, and that obviously is not ideal. But Wayne kept us going. You would have got pretty good odds. We were $41 at one stage to win the comp towards the end there. But any season where we put 60 on the Roosters is a good one.


VOSS: You’re giving us the odds as well. But yes, that’s right. Lovely, beautifully put. Doesn’t matter where you finish on the ladder as long as you’re beating the Roosters along the way. But that was just an extraordinary game. Alex Johnston, five tries. Do you feel the pain of Origin loss last night? I mean, if you were the Prime Minister of the country right now there would be some degree of expectation that you’re impartial but it’s hard on our Origin night, you’re either New South Wales or Queensland. You’re in either camp, you can’t be in both.


ALBANESE: No, I’m a New South Wales fan, of course. But I’ve got to say, the thing about Origin is just the quality of the game. And if Souths lose on a Friday night, let alone on a Thursday night, it ruins your weekend. Whereas, State of Origin, I think I don’t have the same emotional attachment. I’m still thinking about Adam Reynolds, just that that yellow boot on that line for the 40/20 kick in the Panthers game and whether we would have scored in the last four minutes.


VOSS: This is good.


ALBANESE: The Panthers were awesome. But they were struggling towards the back end of that game, I think. Anyway, we have made it there three years in a row. So, it’s been a triple heartache to be one game away from the Grand Final. But Bennett keeps getting the best out of his young players coming through. And I think they’ll be all the better for the run. And I think also that all those South Sydney contributors, to both sides in terms of Origin, playing Origin does tend to improve players when they go back at the club level. They’ve just played that faster pace. And it was a terrific game last night. Queensland were much better in my view. The score flattered New South Wales a bit. New South Wales’ defence, of course, was extraordinary and courageous. But we didn’t seem to have that much at all when we did get the ball. I think we were tired and no doubt Teddy’s injury really hurt us.


VOSS: It was proven in the stats. It was proven in the stats. The metres made and all those key areas, so much contrast to game number two. Now, the Prime Minister appreciated coming on to the program and basically saying that it was one of the more enjoyable interviews because he wasn’t being grilled by journalists. But I do have to slip some politics into it. Because last night was a triumph, to have 50,000 people at the football. At the same time the contrast is down in South Australia, they’re going into lockdown. It has been a very challenging year, and sport has played its part. But if I was to ask you to score the Government on their handling of the COVID crisis this year, would you come up with a low or high mark out of 10?


ALBANESE: Look, I think that the whole country has done well. I would score the Australian people with a 10. People have made sacrifices for themselves, for their families, for their neighbours, people they will never meet. And that’s been the extraordinary thing. And South Australia is going through a difficult time at the moment. But the Government there has done the right thing as well in locking down. Daniel Andrews coming through the second wave, the way that they locked down. You’ve got to make tough decisions. And I think that all governments have done that. And we’ve been constructive the whole way through. We have supported all of the packages that have gone through the Federal Parliament. We think there were some improvements further that could have been made. But we made suggestions like the wage subsidies. JobKeeper was something that we were talking about very early on as being necessary. And it’s good that the Government adopted it.


VOSS: Well, I think all Australians would like a unified Government. We certainly don’t want the divided states of America that we watch from afar as we deal with this crisis. I must say this though, let’s leave politics aside. Let’s get back to the football. No, we don’t have time. I really could have you on for half an hour, we could just go back over year by year, 1975 wooden spoon, Clive Churchill had to step down as coach. Anyway.


ALBANESE: I prefer to talk about 1971, mate.


VOSS: 1971, that’s right.


ALBANESE: My mum took me to the ‘71 Grand Final. And it is one of the great privileges of my life that I got to take my son to the 2014 Grand Final. It just had a real sense of personal history for me. Mum departed the world in 2002. So, it was a real sense of belonging, and that’s what rugby league is about. I was on the Souths board, I was a director of the club, when we got kicked out. And when we came back, and people would say to us, ‘Can’t you just follow another team’. No, you don’t get it. It’s not what it’s about. It is tribal. And we follow Souths and we’re sticking.


VOSS: Brilliant note to finish on. From ‘71, your mum taking you along as, I think would have been, by my maths, an eight-year-old boy. And then in 2014 taking your own son along. That is a brilliant note to finish. Mr Albanese, thank you for coming on the program. The footy fans just like to say, ‘Good on you, Albo. Well said.’ And have a great off-season and we look forward to getting all underway again next year under perhaps more normal circumstances.


ALBANESE: I start like every South Sydney fan, absolutely confident that we’re certainties for the Premiership when the comp begins.


VOSS: Beautiful words, Mr Albanese. Thank you for coming on the program. The Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. There you go. We squared the ledger here on Breakfast with Vossy on 1170.