When you think about rugby league royalty, the first names that pop into your head are Churchill, Gasnier, Raper, Sattler, Lewis (he was The King, after all), and, of course, Kalifa Faifai Loa.
But if Russell Crowe has his way, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Wills and Kate to us convicts – will be a timely addition to the Good Friday fixture between Souths and Canterbury at ANZ Stadium.
In a world exclusive, this column can reveal the Hollywood actor and Rabbitohs co-owner has invited the royal couple to his private box for the match.
They have already been confirmed to attend the Royal Easter Show that weekend, so there’s every chance they will appear in Noah’s ark (Russell is playing Noah in the movie Noah . . . see what we did there?) for the blockbuster on April 18.
Wills and Kate had been widely tipped to be guests of honour at Royal Randwick for The Championships, but an appearance now appears unlikely as they tour Australia and New Zealand with their toddler, George.
Prince William might not be versed in the intricate and wicked ways of rugby league, but he does appreciate the 15-man game.
He and brother Harry were beaming in the stands and later in the triumphant England dressing-room at ANZ Stadium in 2003 when a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal handed his side the Rugby World Cup against the Wallabies.
The Good Friday game between the Bunnies and Bulldogs shapes as one of the matches of the year.
Last season, it attracted a crowd of more than 51,000 – a then Sydney regular-season record only surpassed by the Rabbitohs-Roosters match in the last round.
No word yet on whether Wills and Kate will take full advantage of the NRL’s offer of free trains to ANZ Stadium this year.
CRASHING 'STILLIES PARTIES'
Heard the one about the high-profile league player who popped a Stilnox to a teammate during a session on the schooners a few years ago, and his mate ended up in a compromising position in a toilet cubicle?
Or the one about the high-flying Sydney team that used to throw “Stillies parties”, as far back as 2002?
Or the representative player who had to be helped off a plane after popping too many of the high-powered sleeping pill?
What about the former swimmer who took too many Stilnox on the plane trip home after a major meet and then shocked all when he put on his sluggos, goggles and cap, plugged in his headphones, and then walked down the aisle like he was about to race?
There were concerns about the Queensland Origin team and the heady mixture of sleeping tablets and Red Bull before a dead rubber in 2010.
Last month, the New Zealand Rugby League said the use of prescription drugs with energy drinks by star players was factor in the Kiwis blowing the World Cup final against the Kangaroos – something first raised in this space last November.
Meanwhile, Grant Hackett is in rehab in the US for at least another five weeks as he tries to shake the drug he first used towards the latter stages of his career before it exploded into a full-blown dependency following his messy split from his wife, Candice Alley.
Some are wondering why the NRL is testing for prescription drugs, as announced on Tuesday.
But plenty of club officials will tell you it should have happened sooner.
Former strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin is the last man standing as he appeals the NRL’s decision to ban him for at least two years because of the supplements program at Cronulla in 2011.
Plenty of people are backing Elkin, and he did not hesitate in paying up the $10,000 to take leave to appeal.
Behind the scenes, the unknown victim of this saga has been his wife Jane, who has worked at the NRL in marketing for the past nine years but has been on leave since December 17 when her husband was suspended.
It is believed she has been suffering from severe anxiety as a direct result from the stress of investigation and the way it has been handled.
What is the collective noun for Burgess brothers? A murder? A pod? A pint?
Either way, all four of them – Luke, Sam, George, and Thomas – along with Souths teammate John Sutton made an appearance in the Sportingbet.com.au suite at Royal Randwick last Saturday.
Indeed, several Rabbitohs were at the course the day after their narrow loss to Manly.
Interestingly, Sportingbet is running a market on which Seven star former news boss Peter Meakin will poach now he has joined Ten.
There has been a flood of money for Matt White (backed from $15 into $7.50) now that Ten has secured the rights to the V8 Supercars.
There have been real concerns about the health of doyen cricket caller Richie Benaud of late after he failed to make an appearance in the commentary box during the summer after a car accident last year.
We can happily report the 83-year-old and his wife, Daphne, have been seen striding out on the cliffs of Coogee on their morning walk all this week – and a fair old pace.
In other commentator news just to hand, while there might be some consternation about who fills the void in the rugby league commentary box after Ray Warren and Ray Hadley hang up the mic, emerging caller Matt Thompson is gaining respect at the network.
Thompson called the Titans-Tigers match last Sunday a treat, and you can expect him to get more air-time throughout the season.
“It was good. It fired us up there in the back 20. We needed it.” – Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman on Darcy Lussick’s inspiring head-high tackle on Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Just repeating the news, the Roosters won 56-4 and Lussick was banned for a month.
Yes, of course Greater Western Sydney need more than an upset win against Sydney to justify the $200 million the AFL is pumping into the club. But that was some win, against quality opposition. That captain and fullback Phil Davis put Lance Franklin firmly in his box with a damaged kidney adds to the fairytale.
Getting kicked off the podium, whether it be at the Olympics, dodgy nightclub or grand prix, is never cool. But when you kick local lad Daniel Ricciardo off the podium at the Australian GP for effectively going too fast because of obscure and hazy fuel consumption rules, well, that’s an insult to an entire nation.
IT'S A BIG WEEKEND FOR …
Kurtley Beale, who also comes up against his old club Melbourne Rebels when the Waratahs host them at Allianz Stadium. Beale left after one drink and errant punch too many to a teammate's head. Expect fireworks.
IT'S AN EVEN BIGGER WEEKEND FOR …
It's A Dundeel and Fiorente. Both equine superstars clash in the Ranvet at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, and it is a dynamite start to the autumn carnival. Expect fireworks. Oh, we already said that.
What's the dumbest question one of your teammates has asked about coming to Australia?
One person asked me how far of a drive it was from here to Auckland. Diamondbacks fans would be able to tell you exactly who said that, but I don't know if I can tell you that. He said: 'I've got a buddy in Auckland, how far of a drive is it from Sydney to Auckland'. That was pretty funny.
What's your knowledge of cricket?
Isn't the match between you guys and England called the Ashes? I was told you guys sprinkle Ashes of former players on the field. Can you set me straight here? They say it's sacred ground. I'm not standing on someone here, am I? I was thinking I don't want to dive all over some dead guy here. People keep asking me and I tell them this is what I heard. It seemed out there but Aussies are pretty crazy.
Is there anything Australians do that you find bizarre?
I realised when you ask an Aussie a question, they don't give you a straight answer, they tell you a story. They get pretty fired up about stuff. It's pretty entertaining.
What about your teammates – did they have any fears or concerns coming to Australia?
We went off to Palm Beach and some of the boys were expecting to jump in the water and have great white sharks nipping at their feet. They soon realised beaches are all the same, except here they are a bit prettier.
Will you have much time to get to see the city? Is there anything you want to do?
I've been to Sydney a couple of times. I actually lived in Potts Point for three months. My girlfriend is Australian, so I did everything. I went to Melbourne, Brisbane, and in Sydney I felt like I saw everything. When I come back I go to Bondi and just chill at the beach. It's awesome. We love this city. It's pretty gorgeous.