Before each home game, we salute a former South Sydney great in hope that the football club catches on and starts doing it at home games. Similar to how Canterbury-Bankstown honour past players by having them present the 18th jersey on the field to a member, Parramatta have a past player raise the blue and gold flag and let’s not forget the viking horn down at Canberra.
We salute, Ashley Harrison—former South Sydney captain and Queensland State of Origin (15 games 2005, 2008–13) and two time NRL All Stars (2011, 2013) representative and one time NRL Premiership winner (Brisbane 2000).
Ashley played 276 First Grade games (Brisbane 52 [2000–02], South Sydney 66 [2003–05], Sydney 41 [2006–7]) and Gold Coast 117 [2008–14] scored 56 tries (Brisbane 16, South Sydney 21, Sydney 7 and Gold Coast 12). He played the majority of his football at lock.
Ashley Harrison arrived to Souths in 2003 after three seasons at Brisbane. He was one of the club’s new recruits along with fellow Brisbane team mate Chris Walker and the return of Lee Hookey. Souths narrowly avoided the wooden spoon in 2002 and were hoping that these signings would boost the side. Ashley’s player number for South Sydney is 989.
Even though Ashley Harrison only played at Souths for three seasons he won the hearts of fans and became an instant fan favourite. His quality defence and ball playing skills really shone in losing sides. He was eventually awarded the captaincy, some can say to try and retain him past season 2005 but it was the perfect choice. The future looked bright with the likes of Ashley Harrison and John Sutton running around. In 2005, Ashley Harrison was named for Queensland in Game 3 of the Origin Series. This showed how good of a player he really way. Harrison’s breakout season was in 2005 when he lead Souths in a late season charge to avoid the wooden spoon.
Crossing to the dark side
Unfortunately during the 2005 season, Ashley signed to arch rivals Sydney for three seasons to play. Harrison was quoted saying ‘While I have enjoyed the challenge of helping rebuild South Sydney it is important for me to reset my goals and further develop my career’. There was talk earlier on in the season that Harrison would only stay at the club if they signed several blue-chip players for 2006. Souths at the time were chasing Matt Orford and Braith Anasta but plans fell through which made Harrison’s decision easier.
This defection did not go down well at the club and caused a lot of fans and past players to turn on him. He went from being a club hero to being despised. It was quite an unfortunate turn of events but Ashley was a professional and gave it his all throughout the season. There were calls for him to lose the captaincy but after back-to-back wins against Cronulla-Sutherland and North Queensland, Harrison proved that his heart was still in it. Souths then went on to win six of their last nine games.