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.
One of the greatest
We salute, Rupert John ‘Jack’ Rayner, 1921-2008—former South Sydney player #340 and captain-coach, New South Wales and Australian representative.
Jack played 194 First Grade games for South Sydney (1946-57) winning a record five premierships as captain-coach, scoring 58 tries, kicking nine goals. He represented New South Wales 16 times (four tries) and Australia five times (one try).
A man of his word
Even though Jack was born in Coraki, Northern NSW and was schooled in Lismore. He ended up being enlisted in Queensland, 61st Regiment – the Queensland Cameroons. It was whilst serving in New Guinea during the second World War that he was first introduced to South Sydney.
Jack was playing rugby league for his regiment in Port Moresby against the 30th Regiment from New South Wales when former South Sydney player and coach Eric Lewis approached Jack and insisted that he’d try out South Sydney after the end of World War 2. Jack responded ‘If I get out, I’ll come and see you’. Jack was a man of his word and the rest is history.
Caption: Jack Rayner’s name appears on South Sydney’s 2018 ANZAC Round jersey which commemorates all 340 graded players that served in World War 1 and 2.
In 1946, Jack arrived in Redfern with battle scars from a Japanese bayonet and signed up to South Sydney and the NSW police as a detective. He would turn out to be a a club legend and a respect police officer.
Not an easy start
When Jack arrived to South Sydney, in 1946, they didn’t win a game. In his second year at the club Jack was awarded club captain and they won nine and lost nine. Jack’s leadership was slowly turning the club around and in 1948 he earned a spot on the Kangaroo tour.
In 1950, Jack was awarded captain-coach and with a playing roster consisting of the likes of Clive Churchill, Ian Moir, Les ‘Chicka’ Cowie and Bernie Purcell another golden era was within sight.
Under the guidance of Jack, South Sydney won the 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954 and the miraculous 1955 premierships. South Sydney were defeated in the 1952 premiership by Western Suburbs in controversial circumstances with referee George Bishop alleged to have had money on Western Suburbs. Jack is famously quoted saying ‘It seemed we weren’t allowed to win’. Legend has it that since that grand final, Jack and George lived in the same suburb Maroubra and crossed paths frequently but Jack would never speak to him again.
The legend of 1955
A players meeting called by Jack mid-way through the season as Souths hadn’t won a game. A lot of honest words were shared by the players and Jack didn’t get through it unscathed. During the meeting, Jack set a challenge to his team that they would not lose another game that season. The team responded by winning 11 straight to claim the 1955 premiership. This has never been seen before and will most likely never be seen again. One of the greatest miracles ever seen in rugby league.
The Iron Man
Back in the 1940s and 1950s Jack was a giant compared to his peers. Standing at 6ft 2in and weighing in at 92kg he was a tough forward known for his strength and tackling ability. Clive Churchill described Jack as ‘a great tactician’ and ‘a cranky forward’.
A knee injury saw Jack retire in the 1957 season, leaving South Sydney holding the record for most games played. Quite an impressive achievement considering how Jack arrived to South Sydney. In his 12 seasons at South Sydney, Jack never played one game of second and third grade.
In 1958, Jack coached Parramatta first grade for three seasons but with little success.
Jack passed away in 2008 and was described in his obituary as having an ‘Australian tough but fair attitude’. This sums up the legend of Jack Rayner perfectly.