Turf war heats up: Rabbitohs blame Roosters for blocking access to Allianz Stadium

South Sydney are blaming bitter rivals the Sydney Roosters for sabotaging their hopes of completing their captain’s run inside the new $828 million Allianz Stadium this week.

Relations between rugby league’s two oldest rivals have never been more strained in the countdown to Friday night’s blockbuster to open the rebuilt stadium at Moore Park.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told The Sun-Herald that Souths had been informed they were free to train at Allianz on Thursday after making inquiries a month ago. But the club’s officials were left stunned when informed late in the week they were no longer welcome and that they would not get a close look at the new venue before kick-off on Friday.

To make matters worse, Souths were told the playing surface needed to be preserved, and the Roosters – the stadium’s main tenants – would be the only team welcome to use the facilities.

However, the Roosters’ NRLW side will use the ground on Thursday and the Springboks and Wallabies will also be given access at the start of the week ahead of their rugby union Test on Saturday, 24 hours after the Roosters and Rabbitohs kick-off.

When CommBank Stadium first opened its doors on Easter Monday in 2019, Parramatta and Wests Tigers, who were the visitors on that afternoon, were both given the chance to train at the venue before game day.

The Roosters and Rabbitohs are set to renew a famous rivalry when they open the new Allianz Stadium on Friday.Credit:Getty

Souths have already made it known they want to end their deal at Accor Stadium, after the NSW government shelved plans to upgrade the Sydney Olympic Park venue, and relocate to Allianz Stadium from next year.

The Roosters have also made it abundantly clear they have no appetite to share Allianz Stadium as a home ground with any rival NRL clubs, especially Souths.

John Sutton sports South Sydney’s provocative “Home Is Where The Heart Is” T-shirt.

One government official, who did not wish to be named, suggested that if Souths really wanted to look at the surface, “They should turn up on Sunday for the free community event before Guy Sebastian performs.”

Souths could not help themselves on Friday when they launched a cheeky advertisement, which featured club legend John Sutton standing out the front of Allianz Stadium, wearing a T-shirt with a print of a rabbit brushing aside a rooster with the caption: “Home Is Where The Heart Is”.

Given their rich ties with the Indigenous community, Souths had also planned to carry out a traditional smoking ceremony at the Moore Park site.

The decision to limit the amount of traffic on Allianz prompted Souths to ask NRL head of football Graham Annesley about whether the playing surface would be safe.

Annesley confirmed Souths had contacted him, but told The Sun-Herald: “We have complete confidence in the professionals who are responsible for the installation and maintenance of the turf at the stadium, however, in an abundance of caution, we will, of course, conduct our usual checks early in the week to ensure everything is in order for the NRL and NRLW games on Friday.”

The Roosters’ poaching of Joseph Suaalii, Jai Arrow rag-dolling James Tedesco in an Origin game, Latrell Mitchell’s hit on Joey Manu – not to mention Jared Waerea-Hargreaves wanting to continue the exchange with Mitchell later in that same game – are just some of the on-field incidents that have added to the spicy age-old rivalry in recent years.

Top: The newly completed Allianz Stadium lights up ahead of its grand unveiling. Bottom: Inside the rebuilt stadium concourse.Credit:Wolter Peeters

Mitchell stirred the pot again this week, saying he could not wait to get back to Allianz Stadium. “I scored a few tries on that field,” he said. “I’m definitely keen to slide [over] on that new turf.”

Souths legend Bob McCarthy was in the stands at Redfern on Friday, and tipped Mitchell to help deliver a few trophies.

“Latrell will be one of the all-time greats for the Roosters and Souths,” McCarthy said.

“He’s won two comps over there, he’s won nothing here yet, but by the time he’s finished here, he’ll have a couple of more premierships. It’s a pity the last couple of years he’s been injured or suspended because we could have won those comps with him.

“He hit Joey Manu [last year] but that was a big bloke hitting a big bloke. If he did not break his cheekbone, people are saying it’s a great hit.

“I don’t know where you will put Latrell in Souths’ greatest side by the time he’s finished. You might have to put him in the centres because they’ll keep Clive [Churchill] at fullback.”

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