Ruggers up: Versus plays Crowe's team


American audiences are about to see Russell Crowe in a much different role. The Oscar-winning actor will have his struggles as co-owner of an Australian rugby team documented in a six-part series airing on cable network Versus.

Crowe owns the South Sydney Rabbitohs, said to be one of the most historic championship clubs in the Australia's National Rugby League, with Australian businessman Peter Holmes a Court. The team, which had been publicly owned by the working-class sector of Sydney, had fallen on hard times because of a lack of money and a losing record. In May 2006, Crowe and Holmes a Court purchased majority ownership of the Rabbitohs after a heated debate and public referendum during which they barely got enough member approval to buy the team.

The series, "South Sydney Story," will detail their struggles to buy and rebuild the team as it enters its 100th season of competition. It aired on Australia's ABC under the title "South Side Story."

"If you can imagine the city of New York owning the Yankees and letting the team fall into disrepair, you can start to understand the magnitude of what Russell and Peter were up against to rejuvenate the club," said Marc Fein, senior vp programming and production at Versus.

Marty Ehrlich, vp and executive producer for the channel, added that the series came to Versus after Crowe and Holmes a Court approached the network.

"We knew it was a great opportunity that we couldn't pass up," Ehrlich said. "The show details the ups and downs of the team and gets to the real heart of what it takes to rebuild a storied franchise."

The series is set to debut at 10 p.m. Oct. 10 on Versus, which also airs sporting events including NHL games and the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Tour de France and the America's Cup.