Cannon-Brookes’ investment in Rabbitohs a vote of confidence in NRL

Some people still see the decision as an act of treachery towards patriarch and saviour George Piggins, but the reality is the club was six months away from insolvency and couldn’t attract a decent player.

Russell Crowe’s successful stewardship of South Sydney since 2006 has vindicated the members who voted to sell him a majority stake.Credit:AP

Not only did Crowe save the club from going under, he enabled it to soar: it signed superstars, won the premiership in 2014, made the grand final this year and turns a profit more often than the publicly listed Broncos.

A fallout with Holmes a Court allowed Crowe to bring in another billionaire, James Packer. It almost sounds like the start of a bad joke: two billionaires and a Hollywood actor walk into a bar near Redfern Oval …

Critics will say Souths have become a plaything for rich boys with not enough toys. It’s rubbish: Crowe has as much skin his club as Nick Politis has in his Roosters or Gerry Ryan has in the Storm.

Crowe has also been respectful about who owns the club and the structure of the board from day one highlights this very fact.

The decision to give members a 25 per cent stake in the club means it will always retain its heritage, its jumper, its history.

The members have two directors on the seven-member board. Blackcourt, the company that owns the remaining 75 per cent, has five.

Instead of keeping them all to himself, Crowe wanted to make sure Souths Juniors had a seat at the table so he gave them one.

Crowe also wanted Nick Pappas — the lawyer who worked pro bono during Souths’ battle for readmittance to the league in 2002 — as chairman.

Those will long memories will recall how ugly that privatisation vote was.

The club owes a debt to Piggins it can never repay because without his tenacity and stubbornness it would never have been reinstated. But he’d taken it as far as he could and handing over control was hard to do.

At the time, his many supporters rallied around him. Alan Jones on 2GB went after Holmes a Court with vigour.

“Peter Holmes a Court? What do we know? Not a lot, not a lot,” Jones said before referring to him as being the son of a dead property tycoon and then wrapping it up to fit in the traffic report.

What do we know about Cannon-Brookes? Plenty.

He’s the co-founder of software giant Atlassian and has a personal wealth of $20.18 billion. He’s a minor owner in the Utah Jazz in the NBA.

He’s been in discussions with Crowe about buying into Souths for the past 18 months but talks intensified in the past month.

Just how hands on Cannon-Brookes will be remains to be seen. Packer effectively acts like a silent partner, deferring to Crowe’s judgement.

Crowe himself has stepped right back, no longer delivering pre-match speeches (which were always more Maximus from Gladiator than Roger Ailes from The Loudest Voice). He believes in proper corporate governance.

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Cannon-Brookes can obviously bring digital acumen to a business that has been ahead of the curve in that regard.

Does he have skin in the club? He was a regular at matches before COVID-19 struck.

Sure, he lives in a $100m house in Double Bay, right in the middle of Roosters territory, but he’s often seen lurking the streets of the affluent inner-city suburb proudly wearing his white Bunnies hat.

He’s also about to build a 40-storey headquarters for his company near Central Station, right in the middle of Souths territory.

As a football club, Souths can still pull the wrong rein — like letting Adam Reynolds leave — but that’s simply a matter of opinion. They get it right much more than they get it wrong.

As a business, they’re the benchmark, along with the Roosters and the Storm.

Souths can’t call themselves the Pride of the League, but there’s plenty for them to be proud about.

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