Dally Messenger - Rugby League

Rugby League

Messenger played in the rebel series against a professional New Zealand team, the 'All Golds' as they were referred to, and was invited to tour England with the New Zealand professional side. It remains unclear whether this was a result of the form he showed in the series or if it had been agreed on as part of his sign-on fee with the new code. It was said, and believed as Messenger family folklore for years, that the signing of Messenger to rugby league was negotiated with Dally's mother Annie, and the promised amount for playing, at first, in three All Golds' games, was 50 pounds.

It was in the North of England that Messenger became more acquainted with the new game. By the completion of the tour Messenger had topped the tour aggregates by more than 100 points.

On arrival back in Australia, Dally played with the Eastern Suburbs club of the newly formed New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL), although a heavy representative schedule saw him play only a handful of matches for the club. Messenger's popularity helped showcase the new game and the NSWRFL took full advantage of this. In rugby league's first year, besides playing for his club, Messenger made representative appearances for Metropolis (Sydney), NSW and Australia as well as for New Zealand and, in one case, Queensland, he also represented Australasia. Following two heavy defeats, Messenger agreed to play for Queensland in a third match against New Zealand. The match ended in a 22 all draw with Messenger scoring nine of the 22 points. Towards the end of the season Messenger was again selected to tour England, this time with the first Kangaroos, or 'Pioneers'.

Having toured with the New Zealand professional team the previous year, Messenger was well known in the North of England and on arrival attained celebrity status. Placards bearing the words 'Messenger Will Play' were erected outside of grounds. Messenger was offered contracts by leading soccer clubs, including Glasgow Celtic, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur, but refused them. Messenger captained Australia in the first two tests of the tour, missing the third through injury. On tour Messenger was credited with numerous goals from the other side of half way, including one from the sideline on his own 25-yard line that appeared in earlier versions of the 'Guinness Book Of World Records' as measuring over 80 yards (73m). Another from over 75 yards is mentioned in an English newspaper under the heading 'A Wonderful Kick', ".

" Quite a sensation was caused at last Saturday's football match when Mr Messenger kicked the ball from the 75 yards' mark and secured a goal....."

In the second test Messenger is said to have scored one of the greatest individual tries ever witnessed in Test rugby league. At the end of the tour Messenger had again topped the aggregates, this time by just under 100 points.

Returning home from the tour with injury and following a hectic schedule over the past few years, he elected to sit out most of the 1909 season, playing in just a few representative matches towards the end of the year. Messenger also rejected an offer to play with English club, Warrington, during the Australian off-season that year.

Messenger was captain of Australia when they hosted the 1910 Great Britain Lions tourists.

The 1911 season was Messenger's finest. In 21 matches played he amassed a then record total of 270 points. In one interstate match for NSW he scored 32 points (from four tries and 10 goals). That record has only been equalled in recent years, with tries now being worth 4 points as opposed to 3. He amassed a total of 72 points for the three match series.

Recently married Messenger stood down from the 1911–12 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain, leading his club Eastern Suburbs to its first premiership. In the semi-final that year against South Sydney Messenger scored 20 of Easts' 23 points. For each of the three consecutive seasons 1910, 1911 and 1912 he was the NSW Rugby Football League's top point scorer.

After retirement from representative football, he led his side to a second premiership in 1912 and followed that with a third consecutive premiership in 1913. Easts were given permanent possession of the NSWRFL's first trophy, the Royal Agricultural Society Shield. On announcement of his retirement, the Eastern Suburbs club presented the shield to Messenger in appreciation.

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