Australia Rugby League History. And the legendary Dally Messenger.

Rugby League has in fact remained exclusively restricted to a small part of England. But it is played there with a fervour and passion that has often extended Australia’s greatest players. The game has ebbed and flowed in France. Only in two eastern Australian States, New South. Wales and Queensland have League flourished. As its founders predicted. And there it has had the support of the Catholic schools. The Brothers who came to Australia from Ireland embraced the new code.

Australia Rugby League flourished 13 years after the formation in England

It took 13 years after League was established in England for it to get started in Australia. The lunchtime meetings of rebellious rugby players continued. But the amateur rugby code was a clear leader both in the schools and in public esteem. Test matches were firmly established in rugby circles. British teams under the captaincy of the Reverend Matthew Mullineaux (1899). And D.R.Bedell-Sivright (1904). Had toured Australia before the first Sydney clubs were formed on in 1908.

Eastern Suburbs, Newtown formation

At Paddington Town Hall on 24 January 1908, the Eastern Suburbs club began. With Harry (“Jersey”) Flegg in the chair and Victor Trumper one of its foundation members. Also, Newtown had held the first inaugural meeting and were formed on 14 January 1908. Giltinan, Trumper and the other pioneers of Australian League had already played important roles. Before the first Sydney clubs appeared. The first club, Glebe, was formed on 9 January 1908. When the ‘Dirty Reds’ (Glebe) were controversially excluded from the NSWRL Premiership in 1929, Newtown became the oldest remaining Australian club. In addition, in August 1907. They persuaded Australia’s greatest rugby player. Daily Messenger, to join a rebel league team labelled “Australia” to oppose the New Zealand professional team. Known as the All Golds.

Australia Rugby League History as Dally Messenger switches codes

Three matches between Australia and the All Golds. Which the New Zealanders won 12-8, 19-5 and 15-3. Raised enough money to fund the first Sydney league competition in 1908. Giltinan and Trumper had gone originally to the hospital bed of New South Wales’ inspiring rugby captain Harold Judd. Who had broken his leg. Just 13 days after “Bluey” Burton had dislocated his collarbone in matches against the northern rivers. There were no stretchers or splints available. On the Sydney Cricket Ground when Judd broke his leg. Also, like Burdon, he had to pay his own medical bills. Also, bear the loss of wages while he recovered. Giltinan and Trumper believed Judd would bring a lot of players with him. If he could be persuaded to switch to League. Judd confessed that he did not have the courage to leave his rugby mates by changing codes.

Dally Messenger’s mother agrees to transfer

And stressed that, in any case, Messenger was the player they wanted. He emphasised that they should target Messenger’s mother. In the Messenger’s Double Bay home Trumper explained the plight of injured players like Burdon. And Judd to Messenger’s mother, Annie. Annie gave them a cup of tea while she considered their offer of £180 for her son to play the three big matches against the All Golds. As the discussion continued. It became clear that Annie was not concerned with the £180 fee to switch codes. But with the treatment her son would receive if he was permanently injured. Satisfied that the new regime would look after Dally if the worst occurred. She advised him to sign.

Australia Rugby League History – Dally Messenger a rugby genius

Firstly, Messenger was a rugby genius. Secondly, he was so unorthodox that his skills often confused his teammates. Thirdly, he was a magnetic figure for football crowds. Even after 87 years of League. Furthermore, his departure to professional ranks remains the biggest single blow ever suffered by Australian rugby. For instance, his acceleration. Inspired hands. Feints. Swerves. Sidestepping and dodging and dazzling changes of pace thrilled league spectators for 13 seasons. His impact was devastating and immediate. And although Australia lost all three matches to the All Golds. He was warmly invited to accompany the All Golds to England as a guest player.

Touring England with the All Golds

He went to England three times with league teams. And left a reputation for football wizardry that still persists. He was not a big man. But his range of tricks enabled him to get past opposing backlines with surprising regularity. On wet days. He rolled in the mud before play began to make himself harder to hold. He sprayed the inside of his jumpers with resin. And rubbed the ball hard against his chest before taking goal kicks. When he was tackled. He often recovered and rejoined attacks without respite. Several of his big match tries. Came from a long dive over the top of defenders. Which he had perfected diving through tyres in the family’s harbour-front boatshed.

Australia Rugby Union fighting back

On tour in England, he kicked a goal from his own quarter line. The League’s initial Australian season in 1908 saw the amateur rugby code produce strong opposition. With a tour of 17 matches by a British Lions team captained by A.F.Harding. New South Wales sparked interest in this tour by defeating the tourists 8-nil in Sydney, a victory followed by a shock 15-10 win by a Western Districts XV at Orange. These wins boosted the prestige of Australian Rugby, coming so soon after the first Wallabies successful tour of England and Wales.

Celebrating Australia Rugby League history and the formation of Rugby League

We celebrate the formation of Rugby League with these stylish t-shirts. Our Rugby League World T-Shirt Vintage Navy. Also available in Red. In addition, we offer the 1895 Rugby League T-Shirt Vintage Red. Also, in Grey.