He was a star athlete that people would watch play any sport. He was a player that the founding fathers of Rugby League knew was a key to getting punters in through the turnstiles. We name an award after him, and over a century after his first Rugby League game his name still carries so much weight.
Dally Messenger still stands tall over Rugby League. The codes first true superstar.
I often wonder what Rugby Leagues pioneers would think of the game today. When you read what they went through to form the game and to keep it alive, it is really extraordinary.
It is interesting though that here in 2013 a lot of the lessons from the early days of the sport have long been forgotten.
People want to watch stars. They want to watch stars do anything. The reason you can sell boxing matches with Rugby League players in them is because people want to watch stars.
Rugby Leagues pioneers knew this. That is why they worked so hard to attract the biggest star of the day. Once they got Messenger on board, they had people’s attention. Other players started taking a look at the new Rugby League. After all, if it was good enough for Dally Messenger….
In 2013 Rugby League administrators no longer have to struggle to keep the game alive. In a very different world, men in suits now control a game that is a billion dollar behemoth.
One thing hasn’t changed though. People still want to watch stars.
What would Rugby Leagues pioneers think if we told them we have the game to attract stars, and we have more than enough money, but we let them go because we don’t put enough value in the pulling power of stars?
Had Rugby Union paid its players what they were worth in those early days, Rugby League wouldn’t exist! By not changing with the times and valuing it’s stars, Rugby Union allowed the formation of another sport that is still going strong over a century later.
In 2013 the National Rugby League is not valuing it’s stars as highly as it should. It is allowing stars to go and play Rugby Union who ironically, understands the value of these Rugby League players to attract the public’s attention.
How times have changed!
If you told Rugby League pioneers how much the game makes and how much it would cost to keep every single one of the games stars, as well as attracting the stars from Rugby Union, they would ask what the hell we are waiting for!
It took one star in 1907 to to change things. Sure, times have changed and life moves along at a much faster pace these days. One lesson remains true though.
Keep your stars. Keep the players that draw people through the turnstiles. If you don’t, another sport will take them off your hands, and who knows what that could lead to down the track….
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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