Australia Kangaroos Rugby League History. And the legendary Dally Messenger & Chris McKivat.

Despite the splendid crowds attracted by the Lions’ 1908 Rugby Union tour. And the well-established support for Sydney’s district clubs in the Rugby Union premiership. The initial Rugby League premiership competition succeeded. Messenger’s crowd appeal boosted crowds for all the Eastern Suburbs’ club matches. He went straight into the season with Easts on his return from the All Golds English tour. He played three Tests against a New Zealand league touring team. And went back to England with the first Kangaroo tourists in 1908-09.

The Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Tour 1908-09

On the voyage to England with the first Kangaroos. The players elected Dinny Lutge captain. But Lutge did not play in a Test. In the first Test in London. The Kangaroos clawed their way back from a 17-5 deficit in the second half to level the scores at 22-all by full time.

A controversial penalty goal by Bill Heidke gave Great Britain victory in extra time. Only 2,000 people, who paid a total of £70 in admission. Watched the match. Great Britain won the second Test at Newcastle 15-5. And the third Test at Birmingham 6-5. The first Kangaroos played 46 games, winning 18, losing 22, and playing six draws. A poor result, considering Messenger scored 155 points on the tour. From 9 tries and 64 goals. The tour lost money and manager Jim Giltinan was declared bankrupt after several court actions.

The Australia Wallabies Rugby Union Tour 1908

By contrast the first tour by the Wallabies. Who played Wales and England. Won an Olympic Games gold medal in 1908. And was a financial success. On the day the first Rugby League Test drew only £70 and 2,000 people in London. By contrast, the Wallabies drew 30,000 and takings of £1999 in the game they lost 6-9 to Wales.
One of the heroes of that first Wallaby tour was the halfback Chris McKivat. Who switched codes on his return and became captain of the Kangaroos for the second league tour of Britain in 1911. McKivat was a magnificent footballer. A brainy player who always had a clear vision of events all over the field. He overcame the absence of Messenger. Who stayed home to marry his sweetheart, Nancy Macauley. With a backline that relied on teamwork rather than individual brilliance. Including Charles “Chook” Fraser, Bob Stuart, and Steve Darmody.

The Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Tour 1911-12

McKivat cleverly avoided head-to-head encounters with the physically powerful British forwards. And encouraged his forwards to run the ball at every opportunity. British critics accused the Australians of avoiding the essential skills of solid scrummaging. But they repeatedly ran their opponents ragged. McKivat’s influence was clear. Every time he played and he had the immense satisfaction of leading Australia to a 19-10 victory in the first Test. Playing an 11-all draw in the second Test. And becoming first winner of a Test series. By taking the third Test 33-8. They were the first team to defeat Britain in a Rugby League Test. And the first to win a series in England. A feat not repeated until 1963-64 when Arthur Summons. Also a halfback, led Australia to a series triumph in England.

Australia Kangaroos Rugby League Legend Chris McKivat

McKivat, who played fly-half to Australian halfback Fred Wood. When he first appeared in representative rugby. Matured into one of the outstanding tacticians in Rugby League history when he switched codes. He was always calm under pressure. Thoughtful, observant, with an in-built flair for using the skills of his players.

His Kangaroo team won 29 of their 36 matches. Losing five. And drawing two. They scored 673 points. And had 287 scored against them. McKivat’s value to the team was shown in his appearance in 30 successive games. His team was harshly treated by English referees. And when the players returned home they had only been fairly beaten twice.

Kangaroos Full Back Sensation – Howard Hallett

The second Kangaroos pulled off a masterstroke. When they switched Howard Hallett, chosen as a centre, to fullback. Hallett proved superior to the team’s first picked fullback. Webby Neill. And well ahead of the teenager “Chook” Fraser. Hallett’s handling in the mud was a revelation to British critics. And established him in the fullback position. Where he forged one of the league’s all-time great reputations. Tom Berecry was the team’s outstanding winger.

But only slightly ahead of Dan Frawley. Next to McKivat. The outstanding personality of the tour was Herb Gilbert. Who had been a great success with the first Wallabies. Herb Gilbert proved the Kangaroos’ top try-scorer with 20. But as a centre he was only slightly superior to Vivian Farnsworth. As a combination, Farnsworth and Gilbert rate among the finest pairings Australia has ever fielded.

Australia Rugby League Officials Failed to Support Legend Dally Messenger

Dally Messenger dropped out of Rugby League at the end of 1913. And funds raised at a testimonial dinner for him raised enough money to pay for an engine for Lady Denman. His mother’s launch. And the pride of the family’s ferry fleet. Dally managed a banana plantation in Queensland for a time. Ran hotels. But died broke. Living in a grace-and-favour room at the league’s headquarters in Phillip Street, Sydney.
There was a public outcry. When it was discovered that his son helped to pay his board. Dan Frawley, the club’s chief steward. Was one of those who protested when it was discovered that the Australian Rugby League charged Messenger for his room. Frawley called the officials responsible. “a pack of ignorant and ungrateful bastards.” Daily’s son queried whether his father had ever been paid the £180. He was promised to play three representative matches when he switched to Rugby League. It was well known that when Jim Giltinan was found to be bankrupt. At the end of the first Kangaroos’ tour of Britain. But, Messenger offered his tour pay to help Giltinan.

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.