On their return to the competition in 2002, South Sydney sucked. A lot. The 2003 and 2006 Rabbitohs were among the worst all-time NRL sides, winning just three games a piece. In 2007, the tide turned with a moderately successful recruitment drive, lifting Souths to a .500 win percentage. Souths would be just on the cusp of finals places for the next few years before securing Michael Maguire as coach and turning into a powerhouse (powerhouse Maguire years marked in cardinal).
In 2012, the Rabbitohs played their first finals series since 2007, appearing in a run of three preliminary finals in a row before winning the grand final in 2014 and breaking a 43 year premiership drought. In 2015, the club was bundled out in the first week of the post-season. Two very average seasons followed.
In the tumult of the instigation of the National Rugby League, one of Sydney’s oldest and most successful clubs was on the chopping block after years of below average performance on and off the field. Needing to rationalise the competition to fourteen teams in 2000, the NRL took the decisive step of excluding South Sydney from the competition. This led to years of court action, unprecedented protests and investment from movie stars before the Rabbitohs were returned to the NRL in 2002.
The Bunnies’ return to the NRL was not met with success. Spared the wooden spoon in 2002 thanks to the Bulldogs‘ salary cap rorting, Souths would take the spoon in three of the next four seasons before starting the long march back to the top. Souths first finals appearance in 2007 was the club’s first since 1989. A shallow few years passed before it clicked into place with three consecutive top four finishes and a premiership in 2014.