Rugby league fans just want honesty
In 1907 on a dusty, unsealed road in Sydney's Double Bay a horse and cart pulled up in front of a modest sandstone home. Waiting at the front door was a stern mother dressed in proper Victorian clothes ready to greet three nervous men in top hats and tails.
Mrs Annie Messenger warily allowed legendary Australian cricketer Victor Trumper, his businessman mate JJ Giltinan and Labor politician Henry Hoyle into her home.
They were there to speak to her son Henry Herbert Messenger, or Dally for short.
A Wallaby and genius of rugby union, Dally Messenger was known as "The Master" of his time and the game's first real superstar.
Hoyle, Giltinan and Trumper were part of a consortium that had hatched a hair-brained scheme to start a new competition known as the New South Wales Rugby Football League.
It was to be a professional code that paid its players and they wanted their man, Dally M.
Messenger knew just talking to these three was as good as treason in rugby union circles. He knew he would never play the sport again if he put pen to paper. But he believed in what they were doing and with his mother's blessing, Messenger secretly signed up to Eastern Suburbs for the inaugural 1908 season.
It was a coup that legitimised the new competition, but caused a furore at the time. So much so, Messenger's rugby union legacy was struck from the record books and not reinstated for a century.
Fast forward 108 years and contracts and money are still causing controversy.
The Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran sagas involving Manly, Gold Coast and Parramatta are cases in point.
Depending on who you support, these 'backflips' can be described as a betrayal or a strategic stroke of genius.
While it's easy to look back at Dally Messenger's decision with rose coloured glasses, there would have been plenty of union fans who were just as bitterly disappointed as Titans and Eels fans today.
Think of the little halfback for the Burleigh Bears under-10s on the Gold Coast who started mimicking DCE's right foot step upon hearing he was going to play for his NRL team.
What about the Wenty Magpie or Rouse Hill Rhino who at Thursday night training was screaming out "FORAN" as he ran into the tackling bags.
And don't forget the family of four who sit on the hill at Brookie. The family that put aside money every year to buy memberships, jerseys and tickets. Money that could be spent on any number of things. But they spend it on rugby league.
On the whole, fans understand rugby league is a business and if they themselves were in DCE or Kieran's position they too would do what's best for their families.
But all fans want is transparency and honesty.
If a player holds a press conference and says he is going to another club, fans expect he honours that.
It works the other way too. Fans demand their club will deliver on what it says it will do for a player.
Just like what happened when Dally M made the gamble of all gambles back in 1907. He held up his end of the agreement and so did rugby league.
Our game is built on the values and legacy of people like Dally Messenger. He was quoted as saying, "More is made of me than I am worth".
Humble words still to live by after 108 years of rugby league.