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Russell Crowe buys rugby league club

The South Sydney league club is nicknamed "The Rabbitohs" after the men who used to sell rabbits door-to-door as food during Depression-era Australia.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 13:50 IST

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe has taken his famous role as a gladiator to a new level by buying into Australian rugby league, a sport renowned for its gladiatorial contests.

Crowe and business partner, local businessman Peter Holmes a Court, offered A$3 million ($2 million) to take over the South Sydney rugby league club, one of the oldest and most famous clubs in the sport.

The inner Sydney club, nicknamed "The Rabbitohs" after the men who used to sell rabbits door-to-door as food during Depression-era Australia, had resisted the offer and its membership was split before an agreement late on Sunday.

Local newspapers reported on Monday that Crowe had given an impassioned speech to members of the finacially struggling club on Sunday before a 75 percent majority voted to accept the offer.

"My last words to members were 'let's vote yes, let's get into bed together, I hope you respect me in the morning'," Crowe told club members.

Crowe has been a life-long fan of the club and has taken some of Hollywood's biggest names, including Tom Cruise, to watch games.

But some of the club's leading figures were upset by the purchase.

George Piggins, a former player, coach and club president, cut his long-standing ties with the club.

"The South Sydney football club as it stands now doesn't represent what I represent, so I'll move on," Piggins said on Monday.

Rugby league is a 13-player-a-side game similar to 15-a-side rugby union. Its players are among the fittest in professional sport and wear little of the protection used by players in American football despite its often brutal defensive play.

Regarded as a working-class version of rugby union, it is played mainly in Australia's eastern states, New Zealand, the north of England and small pockets of France.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 13:50 IST