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 MessagePosté le: Mar 27 Mar - 10:30 (2018) Répondre en citant  

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by Michael Reid

CANBERRA , Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- He is one of Hollywood's biggest stars but his role this weekend as owner of Australian rugby league team South Sydney might be the most nerve-wracking of his career.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs have not won a league title since 1971 but for the past eight years Russell Crowe has made it his business to break that drought.

This Sunday, Crowe's team face the Canterbury Bulldogs in the National Rugby League grand final in Sydney, an achievement its fans would not have dared dream about when the side was rooted to the bottom of the table in the mid 2000s.

Three last-place finishes had many rugby league followers discussing when, not if, the club would fold.

Crowe , a long-time Rabbitohs fan and financial backer, along with Australian businessman Peter Holmes a Court, bought a 75- percent share of the club in 2006, after the club's second stint in the national competition seemed doomed to fail.

The film star has since used his Hollywood profile to secure sponsorships worth millions of dollars and generated mass interest in the game at home and internationally.

In the United States, Crowe drafted talk-show host Jay Leno to publicise a deal with one of the world's best players , and ESPN's prime-time football program to talk about his love for his club.

When Oprah Winfrey visited Sydney, Crowe spoke about the club to several million viewers.

The club, also known as Souths, was the first to be sponsored by a film, Cinderella Man starring , who else, Crowe.

The club once on its knees is now financially secure.

One of the players Crowe was instrumental in recruiting to the club was Englishman Sam Burgess. Burgess will finish his five-year Souths career to return to Britain but has nothing but admiration for Crowe.

"To me, he's just a good friend. I know he's the boss of the club but he's just one of my good friends. I can talk to Russell about whatever. We've created a good friendship over the years and one that will continue forever."

Burgess vividly remembers how Crowe worked to bring the forward from Bradford, England, to the other side of the world.

"Russell called me one day and it was the first time someone contacted me from the club. I didn't believe (it was) him at the start , it took some convincing. A few weeks later I went and met him, he was filming in England doing Robin Hood ? ... He made me feel pretty comfortable from day one."

Such was Crowe's impact on him and Burgess's high regard for the club, his brothers Luke, Tom and George also made the move to South Sydney in the following years. All four are expected to play in Sunday's big game.

Should the Rabbitohs triumph, a brass bell will ring out. Crowe bought it for 27 ,000 U.S. dollars in 1999 as the club began the legal battle to return to the NRL.

"I bought the bell at a Souths fundraiser in 1999. The last bidder to drop out was the Canterbury-Bankstown club, our opponents this week," Crowe said on Twitter this week.

"Significance of the bell: it was the very same bell that started the first game of professional rugby league in Australia in 1908. Where and when should we ring the bell?" he asked fans.

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 MessagePosté le: Mar 27 Mar - 10:30 (2018)  

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