Herbert Henry Dally Messenger was one of Australasias first professional rugby footballers, recognised as one of the greatest-ever players in either code. Messenger, or The Master as he was dubbed, represented his country in two rugby union tests and seven rugby league tests. Messenger had a build, and while standing only about 172 cm in height, he was a powerful runner of the ball. He was a teetotaller and non-smoker during his career and other than breakfast, Messenger was born in the Sydney waterfront suburb of Balmain, New South Wales, and grew up in another of Sydneys waterfront suburbs, Double Bay, where his father owned a boat shed. He also spent some time living with an aunt in South Melbourne, Victoria, in Sydney, Messenger attended Double Bay Public School in the citys eastern suburbs. It was here that he honed his rugby skills, while also playing cricket and indulging in his other great sporting love. Messenger worked, too, at his fathers boat shed, by this juncture, he had gained the nickname of Dally. Fortunately, little Herbert Henry shed his pot belly as he grew older, together with the e from the spelling of his nickname, Messenger first took up competitive rugby in 1900, playing for a local rugby union club called the Warrigals in a semi-social club competition. In 1905 he finally began playing for Easts in the clubs second-grade team, in that same season, he also purportedly played Australian rules football club in a number of first-grade matches in the Sydney competition. Messenger began the 1906 season in first grade with Easts as a standoff and he swiftly won a following amongst the clubs supporters due to his mesmeric ball skills, cheeky tricks, blistering acceleration and accurate short- and long-kicking game off either foot. Messenger moved to what would become his customary position of following his selection there for the New South Wales team in 1906. By the time of his Wallaby debut in 1907, he had made that position his own, in the book Viewless Winds, the 1906 representative footballer Paddy Moran wrote that Messengers play was full of surprises, unorthodox, flash and directed largely by the unconscious mind. He said that Messenger never became a slave to copybook practices because his instinct enabled him to see, Moran compared him to Bradman in terms of their mutual ability to instantaneously co-ordinate their bodies into the right position in apparently ample time before the ball would arrive. When talk of a rugby competition, or a Rugby League, was being aired. He was approached by a consortium that included Test cricketer, Victor Trumper with friend J. J. Giltinan and he signed on with the new professional code in 1907. As the premier rugby footballer of the time, Messengers signing is considered the moment in the substantiation of rugby league. After he became a league player, Messengers rugby games were struck from the record books of the New South Wales Rugby Union. Messenger played in the series against a professional New Zealand team, the All Golds as they were referred to
Image: Dally Messenger 1930 rugby league player
Dally (3rd row left of suited Giltinan) Pioneer Kangaroos 1908–09
Messenger inside Dan Frawley in action for NSW v Qld 1912.