Greg Inglis seeks final piece of Rabbitohs legacy

MICHAEL CHAMMAS
Last updated 09:14 04/09/2014
Greg Inglis
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RABBITOHS STAR: Greg Inglis may be a top player for South Sydney, but with no title with the club, it's hard to call him a legend.

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Churchill. Sattler. Inglis?

Does the phenomenon that is Greg Inglis belong in the company of those legends if he wins a storied premiership?

And if he does, will that be enough to convince Inglis to walk away from South Sydney at the end of his next contract, with the job finally done?

Churchill. Sattler. Inglis?

Does the phenomenon that is Greg Inglis belong in the company of those legends if he wins a storied premiership?

And if he does, will that be enough to convince Inglis to walk away from South Sydney at the end of his next contract, with the job finally done?

The answer might be yes on both scores.

"If I leave this club with a legacy like those guys, it will be a massive achievement individually," Inglis said.

"But individual accolades like that come from teams. Those blokes played in high-quality teams and I've got one here, I know I do."

At 27, what happens next is beginning to weigh heavily on the mind of Inglis.

Some die-hard South Sydney fans will argue Inglis is not in the same echelon as Clive Churchill without a legitimate premiership to his name and having fallen at the second-last hurdle two years in a row at the club.

Others will argue only time stands between him and being regarded as the greatest fullback rugby league has seen.

While he has fallen in love with the club and still has another three seasons at Redfern, Inglis has conceded time could be of the essence to take the Rabbitohs to the promised land.

Ahead of Thursday night's blockbuster against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium, the South Sydney No 1 will not jump in and tell you he wants to be a "bunny for life".

He admits he has already discussed what the future could hold, with wife Sally - who gave birth to their first child Nate in June - open to the possibility of a new challenge when his contract expires.

"You never know what's around the corner," Inglis said.

"I finish my contract here in 2017. I just have to sit back and wait and see, whatever the future holds.

"It's been spoken about behind closed doors with the wife and I. It's just something you really have to weigh up your options [about] when it comes to the time.

"What legacy you want to leave is the question you have to ask yourself when it comes to that time."

Rabbitohs chief executive Shane Richardson, who was instrumental in luring Inglis to the club in 2011, says Inglis hasn't approached him about what he plans to do in the twilight of his career.

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But Richardson is under no illusion as to what impact Inglis will leave on the club and the game, regardless of what he decides to do in the final years of his career.

"When Greg first came to us, people were saying he might be the greatest indigenous footballer of all time," Richardson said.

"I told him he can be greatest footballer of all time. I'm not saying he's there, but he sets high standards for himself and they are not unrealistic.

''One thing about Greg, he's got great humility and respect for past players.

''I don't think you can compare eras, but he has the opportunity to create greatness here at the club."

In a city he once hated, Inglis has built an incredible connection with the people, who have adopted him as one of their own despite his love affair with the Sunshine State.

In less than four years at South Sydney, Inglis has become the face of a club that only a few years ago had nothing more than a rich history of success to crow about.

"Coming from Melbourne to Sydney, you really do realise the difference in the surroundings and it probably took me close to half a year to really know how important this club is, not only to the players, but to the community," Inglis said.

"It's been a good journey and a remarkable journey at the same time. Being from Melbourne, you could walk down the street and go unnoticed, but here it's more in your face and you can't escape it. That was probably part of the reason why I didn't get what the Sydney lifestyle was all about, because I really hated it at the start. But that's all turned around quick smart. I love it here now."

Brick by brick, from Sam Burgess to Inglis and Michael Maguire, the Rabbitohs have begun to rebuild the once-mighty empire, to give hope to all their long-suffering fans.

South Sydney has fallen in love with Inglis, which is hardly a surprise given what he has produced on the football field.

But the impact the club has had on him is one he never envisaged when he joined in 2011.

"Words can't describe what this club means to me," Inglis said.

"What they've given me in my time here is remarkable. It means a hell of a lot. I feel the pain of the fans, I do.

"Everyone keeps talking about this long drought, but at the end of the day, you can't control what happened in the past. I can only control what happens in the future."

Some will wonder how in one sentence Inglis can talk about the possibility of moving on from the club when his contract expires, then express his affection for South Sydney.

That might have something to do with inquiries being made by European and Japanese rugby union clubs, offering to double his annual income. Or perhaps it is to do with his wife's family living in Queensland.

Maybe when the end of 2017 rolls around he might have achieved all he has wanted in the game or at South Sydney, and be ready to test himself elsewhere.

"I think that's perfectly logical thinking," Inglis' manager Allan Gainey said.

"He still has three years to go with South Sydney, so he probably only has got another contract in him.

"You just don't know what's around the corner. He might have three kids by then and not want to move. He might have a post-football career sorted out by then and want to stay.

"Or, on the other hand, he might have won a premiership or two with South Sydney and be ready for another challenge because he's ticked everything there is to do in the game. But one thing about Greg, he's very loyal and he loves rugby league.

''He's had plenty of chances to do other things and was going to AFL when he left the Storm if it wasn't for a last-minute meeting with David Gallop."

Question marks over his loyalty when he walked away from an agreement with the Broncos in 2011 stung Inglis at the time.

He was hurt by the backlash it created and how it tarnished his image, but Gainey defended his client, blaming the Broncos for not showing the same level of interest in him that South Sydney did.

"People were questioning his loyalty at the time, but let me tell you, he's one of the most loyal people you'll ever meet," Gainey said.

"I know the Brisbane Broncos thing didn't come off, but they never once made him feel welcome or wanted. There was no comfort there. He never even got a call from the coach Ivan Henjak to say, 'It's great to have you coming,' something a coach would normally do.

"He didn't feel connected with the club, but right from the start things were different at South Sydney.

''They made him feel like it was the place he should be. [CEO] Shane Richardson treated him like his son, and he still does.

''He loves Madge [coach Maguire], he loves the whole place down there. Sure, he hated Sydney when he first got there, but he loves it now."

Souths' desire to please Inglis saw him spend the first four months of his time in Sydney living at Richardson's house, and according to the Rabbitohs boss, has become a part of the South Sydney family in more ways than one.

"He's the best footballer I've ever had stay at my home, and I've had a few," Richardson said.

"He made his bed every morning, cleaned up after himself and by the end my girls were calling him big brother.

''My wife treats him like another son that's how close he is to the family. We even argue and fight over the crackling of the pork at dinner. He means a lot to us and everyone at the club."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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