Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rabbitohs Stay Wary of 'Ralph'; South Sydney's Widders Is Well Known for His Pranks on Teammates

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rabbitohs Stay Wary of 'Ralph'; South Sydney's Widders Is Well Known for His Pranks on Teammates

Article excerpt

Byline: FRANCINE KING

For most people, walking out to the parking lot after work and discovering their car was not where they left it would induce panic.

But for a South Sydney player, it just means "Ralph" is probably at it again, and the car is hidden somewhere around the corner.

"Ralph" is the alter ego of South Sydney's Dean Widders, one of the Rugby League team's most popular players.

"He's the naughty, funny side of me," Widders said. "The cheeky side."

Widders said "Ralph" tends to be playfully at odds with co-owner Russell Crowe and the Academy Award winning actor's desire to implement innovative programs that make the club more professional.

"Ralph's from the old school," Widders said with a grin. "Ralph always has goes at Russell. He wants to be old and traditional and do the things they used to do back in the '80s and '70s, where these guys want to be new and advanced."

"Ralph's" antics don't stop at hiding cars.

Another one of the tricks he likes to pull is to grab a teammate's cell phone when he sees it lying around and send text messages on it.

"Telling girls that you're seriously in love with them and you don't know how to say it to their face," Widders said. "I've left a few guys with a lot of explaining to do when they run into chicks."

Widders, 28, is in Jacksonville this week preparing with the Rabbitohs to play an exhibition match against the Leeds Rhinos on Saturday at the University of North Florida's Hodges Stadium. He'll be sharing his experiences on the First Coast -- and probably a little of his "cheeky side" -- in a Jacksonville.com blog. Excerpts from the blog will appear in the Times-Union.

Widders' good-humored nature, which no doubt influenced the creation of "Ralph," makes him a fan favorite in South Sydney. T-shirts the club had made that said "I heart Dean Widders" were a top-seller.

Of course, it also helps that the father of three is a talented player.

Widders has played in the National Rugby League, the highest level of the sport in Australia, for eight years and is beginning his second season with South Sydney. …

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