Dally Messenger

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Dally Messenger
Image:Herbert Henry Messenger.jpg
Personal information
Full name Herbert Henry Messenger
Date of birth April 12, 1883
Place of birth Balmain, Australia
Date of death November 24 1959
Nickname Dally
Position Centre
Professional clubs*
Years Club Apps (points)
1908-1913 Eastern Suburbs 56
Representative teams

New Zealand
New South Wales

* Professional club appearances and points
counted for domestic first grade only.

Herbert Henry "Dally" Messenger (born April 12 1883 in Balmain, New South Wales, died November 24 1959) was an Australian rugby league footballer for the Eastern Suburbs club and is highly recognised as the game's greatest player. Messenger was a dual code rugby international representing Australia in 2 rugby union Tests in 1907 and 7 rugby league Tests from 1908 - 1910, playing 3 as Captain. His position of choice was at centre.


[edit] Early life

Messenger grew up in Double Bay, New South Wales. He lived in South Melbourne, Victoria with his aunt as a teenager and Messenger later referred to playing a game that was a mixture of rugby and soccer that was known simply as the "Australian game". [1] [2] [3]. He later returned to Sydney to attend Double Bay Public School where he honed his skills not only in the game he would master but also in cricket and his other love, sailing.

Dally had a brother Wally, who played Australian rules football for both Balmain Tigers and Paddington. Like Dally, Wally went on to represent Australia in rugby league. [4]

While at school Messenger held down a job at his family's boatshed at Double Bay in his spare time when he wasn't competing on the sporting field. In 1900 Dally first took up competitive rugby away from school playing rugby union with local side the Warrigals.

[edit] Rugby Union

In 1905, five years after Messenger had taken up the game of rugby union seriously he signed on to play with Easts rugby club where within a year he made his first grade debut for the club. Dally quickly won a vast following of fans because of his sublime ball skills, cheeky tricks and his highly accurate short and long kicking game from which ever foot he desired.

Messenger usually played at centre-three-quarter and his innovative running with the ball and sublime skills not only bedazzled fans but also more often than not opposition players. This earned Messenger the opportunity to play against the first professional New Zealand rugby union side in August 1907 and they subsequently asked Messenger to accompany them and join their ranks for the tour of England. Here was where Messenger became more acquainted with newly formed break-off of rugby league and upon returning home to Australia he secretly decided to switch rugby codes and play in the first Sydney rugby league season established in 1908.

[edit] Rugby League

Image:Dally Messenger in action.jpg
Dally Messenger in action

In 1908 Messenger decided he would play with the Eastern Suburbs club, again he was a star player and became immensely popular with the fans, showcasing his immense natural ability throughout his debut season and also racking up his first achievement of scoring the first try and kicking the first goal of the new league [5]. Messenger's switch to rugby league prevented Australian rules football from gaining a hold of the vast Sydney population, which still remains to this day. At the end of the 1908 season he was selected to be a member of the first Australian International rugby league side that toured Great Britain with New Zealand, where he was again the stand out player of the tour.

The 1911 Sydney rugby league season yet again showcased Messenger's amazing skills where he compiled a season tally and then record of 270 points (ensuring that the Eastern Suburbs club captured the premiership title that year), a feat which was not broken until 1935 by Dave Brown. Messenger was absent from Australia's second international tour of Britain but was appointed captain of the third tour of Britain where his name goes down as the fourth captain of the Australian national rugby league team. Messenger helped Eastern Suburbs to another two premiership titles in 1912 and 1913. Dally's short rugby league career came to an end two years later at the end of 1913 when he formally retired from all competitions including representative football where he had played seven tests for Australia, three for New Zealand and twenty-two games for New South Wales.

His career while quite brief only lasting a total of five years left an everlasting impression on fans who saw him play with his uncanny natural talent, though more importantly he left an unmatched print on the game of rugby league in Australia and around the world. Much of this print can now be seen by the National Rugby League's naming of the player of the year award to the 'Dally M. Medal' along with the Sydney Cricket Ground honouring Messenger by naming a stand at the northern enclosure after him.

In comparison to the modern day games players Messenger's career numbers are still quite literally astonishing, he appeared in a total of 140 career games and amassed 998 points earning him the nickname 'The Master' and ensuring he was rugby leagues first and debatebly greatest ever hero. He was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2003.

[edit] Life After Rugby League

After his retirement in 1913 at the age of 30 Messenger took to nurturing his second love of Sailing in Sydney Harbour. Messenger was for several years catamaran champion of Sydney Harbour and for a brief time long oarsman champion of Australia[6].

Dally spent the remaining years of his life attending a variety of social functions at varying levels around Australia for rugby league, being honoured at many of these as well as having several monuments and events named after him.

Messenger eventually died at Gunnedah, New South Wales on November 24 1959.

[edit] Sources

  • Whiticker, Alan (2004) Captaining the Kangaroos, New Holland, Sydney
  • Various Authors (1997) Oxford Companion to Australian Sport, Oxford University Press, Melbourne

[edit] External links

Dally Messenger

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