The Prodigal Son Returns?

There was once a young kid who could just about destroy a team by himself. This kid never really needed the help of his other young team-mates to beat the opposition, it was just a great run, or a classy pass that belied his tender age that set up the win. This kid was destined to captain the team he worshipped as a youngster, and if not for forces outside of his control he may well have got his wish.

It was not that the kid never got to captain his team, hell he was the captain of pretty much every team he was involved in from the age of 6 onwards. It was just that he never got to captain his team in the competition that mattered.

It is now ancient history that South Sydney were removed from the competition at the conclusion of the 1999 National Rugby League season, and this culling effectively ended the dreams of a 17 old destined to lead the South Sydney Rabbitohs into the unknown.

It is most probably obvious that the player I speak of is none other than Braith Anasta, and while at the time Braith was a young up and coming player, he was destined for great things. Braith played his entire rugby league career at South Sydney in the lower grades throughout the 1998 and 1999 seasons, however it is a little known fact that Braith was almost graded at Souths towards the end of the 1999 season.

Due to the injuries at South?s throughout the 1999 season, as well as a major suspension to halfback Darrel Trindall, then Souths coach Craig Coleman was toying with the idea of grading a then 17 year old Braith Anasta into first grade. However Braith?s uncle, George Piggins, put a stop to the talk pointing that Braith was too young for first grade - who knows what might have been had he not.

One could be forgiven for questioning the point of this article, since Braith is contracted to the Bulldogs until the end of the 2005 NRL season. However, there have been many rumours surrounding Braith?s future over the season and the talk has intensified over the last few weeks. However, there are two things that cannot be discounted when speaking of a possible return to Redfern for Braith:

1. Braith himself is hopeful of a return, having stated so to friends, and South Sydney fans alike, and 2. The shrewd operating of South Sydney CEO Shane Richardson.

Mr Richardson?s skills in player negotiation are widely recognised as top class, and he has demonstrated these skills recently by managing to sign both Shannon Hegarty and Peter Cusack from the Sydney Rooster while both were still under contract. However, Shane Richardson luring Braith away from the Bulldogs may not be as ludicrous as one could initially assume. The contract that Braith is currently on at the Bulldogs is reported to be in the range of $350,000 to $400,000 ? quite ridiculous money considering the state of the game at the moment, and this alone could be the leverage that South Sydney need to lure their prodigal son home.

The other side of this argument is that Braith has himself expressed a desire to return home to Redfern ? and at a considerably smaller contract. Now, while it is impossible to quote sources, both myself and other South Sydney fans have witnessed this desire first hand. While I do not profess to be close friends with Braith, I have played a lot of junior football against him (yes, I was in one of those team?s he used to single-handedly beat) and as such have spoken to him on numerous occasions. Leaving aside personal conversations, the best possible indicator I can share is that when Braith speaks of South Sydney, he uses the word we, not you. This may not seem to be a big deal to some, but to hear one of the games brightest young stars speaking like he cares about the fate of our football team is certainly heartening.

It is very hard to base hopes on rumours and innuendo and as such there are many South Sydney fans around who will treat this as simply indulging a fantasy ? since hasn?t Braith himself come out and said he will be Bulldog until at least 2005? Irrespective of this, remember you heard it here first ? Braith Anasta will be a Rabbitoh, if not in 2005, then definitely in 2006.

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