Rugby League


Raiders-Rabbitohs clash gets religious

When talking of God they are on the same side, but on Saturday when the Canberra Raiders play the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Pat Power and John Woods will be on opposite sides.

With Churchill as his hero, no not Winston, but fullback for Souths Clive Churchill, recently retired Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn Pat Power has supported Souths for about 60 years. He says Churchill, who captained Australia, is arguably the best rugby league player ever.

While Canberra and Goulburn waits for the appointment of an archbishop, Monsignor Woods is in charge. He has been chaplain to the Canberra Raiders since 1986 and insists there will be no talk of diocesan finances or indeed any small talk during a game.

Though both are men of God, they are cautious about invoking His direct involvement in Saturday's game.

"You pray that they play to their God-given potential," Monsignor Woods says. "If they are good enough they will win. If the other side is better, then they deserve to win."

He says the sad thing is when players are not competitive and do not realise their potential. This also applies to life generally.


"I think God gets bombarded and confused when sporting contests are on."

Bishop Power says his mother was a great prayer but she would never pray for sporting results.

I asked Bishop Power when he began following the Rabbitohs? Before he could answer Monsignor Woods responds, "Who cares when Pat started following the Rabbits."

Bishop Power retorts, "it would have been before John was born."

He recalls the great days of the 1950s when Souths won several grand finals. Then they won in 1967, 1968 then the wheels fell off when beaten by Balmain in 1969. Souths won again in 1970 and 71 but not since.

Then, in 1999, Bishop Power joined 50,000 people to march from Redfern to the Sydney town Hall in what proved to be a futile attempt to prevent South Sydney being kicked out of the competition.

"News Limited and Murdoch were behind that. I have never bought a Murdoch publication since. That was one of the resolutions I made. "

Penrith was the first rugby league team to have a chaplain. The Raiders were the second. He was an Anglican priest in Queanbeyan. He was leaving when Monsignor Woods was appointed as priest of Queanbeyan.

"He put it to me that I might like to continue. So in 1986 I met with John McIntyre and the then coach Don Furner and it has gone from there."

When growing up in Canberra Monsignor Woods was more interested in Australian Football, having lived in Fitzroy Street near Manuka Oval.

"When I went to the seminary in Sydney I got more into the league and was following Canterbury. Then in Queanbeyan John and David Furner were altar boys of mine."

Though he played football he says, "my aspirations and my abilities were far removed from each other. My gifts lay elsewhere."

He used to train with the Raiders. Even now he continues to run five or 6 kilometres, two or three times a week. In fact, this was the first year in about five that he did not run in The Canberra Times Fun Run.

As administrator of the archdiocese, he simply had too much other work.

In 1989 Souths won the minor premiership. To the delight of Monsignor Woods, that was the year the Raiders won the premiership.

"I hope Souths don't replicate what happened in 1989," Bishop Power says.

He then admits, "I have always had a soft spot for the Raiders too."

In fact, several months ago, when the Raiders were having a tough time, he wrote to David and Don Furner to encourage them to stick to their guns.

"You can have a lot of fair weather friends in all of this."

He also played rugby league, albeit in a minor grade.

When playing for St Christopher's he kicked a goal which gave his team a one-point win against Bungendore and the minor premiership. But on the ground where we now speak St Christopher's lead 14-3 in the grand final at half time.

"We were beaten 18-17 and I still have bad dreams about that. To add insult to injury, the captain of the Bungendore team had come to Mass at St Christopher's that morning and I had given him Holy Communion."