Former Dragons and Kiwis Test winger Jason Nightingale says the 12th winner of the prestigious Dennis Tutty Award will soon learn the tremendous honour of being linked with the man who gave birth to player rights in rugby league.
The Dennis Tutty Award will be part of the annual RLPA Players' Champion awards night on October 14. The association is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, although the Tutty award didn't enter the program until 2008.
Nightingale is the 2018 recipient and said every rugby league player needed to say "thank you" to Tutty – the talented Balmain lock, who took on restrictive NSWRL player contract and transfer laws in 1968, fighting them through the Supreme Court and the High Court, and finally winning.
But Tutty's fight for players to be able to determine their own futures came at a cost. He stood down from playing for two years, suffered financial stress, health issues, and lost his marriage.
However, it was through his sacrifice that the legal doctrine of "Restraint of Trade" was established.
"It's a massive award for a lot of reasons. Mostly because of the sacrifices that Dennis made and what that means for your teammates and people you work with," Nightingale told NRL.com.
"It's about giving back and doing something selfless for the playing group as a whole, which is the example that Dennis gave us.
"It's a special award because it signifies what actions now, can do for players of the future."
RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast said the Dennis Tutty Award was an integral part of the Players’ Champion event each year.
"It's important that we continually take time to reflect and pay tribute to Dennis for his selfless actions that paved the way for the modern day professional players," Prendergast said.
"The RLPA board selects the recipient of this honour, which is bestowed upon an individual who has assisted in advancing the interests of the collective.
"We look forward to announcing the winner of this prestigious award on October 14."
Criteria for selecting the Dennis Tutty winner include:
- Leadership on and off the field
- Commitment to fellow players and to the protection of their rights
- Service and dedication to the game of rugby league
Nightingale, who retired last season after 266 games for the Dragons including the 2010 premiership, and 33 Tests for New Zealand, said players had a strong voice in the game today.
"You look across professional sports and the stronger the player association is involved, then the better the relationship is between them and the governing body," he said.
"The RLPA is all about making sure everyone is treated the right way – having our rights respected.
"That again is something that throws back all the way to Dennis. We're in a pretty good position today in terms of player conditions, well-being and education.
"Players are better looked after and are able to work hard and produce what they need to produce when it's time to play and train."
- 2018 Jason Nightingale
- 2017 James Maloney
- 2016 Dene Halatau
- 2015 Tom Symonds
- 2014 Nate Myles
- 2013 Clint Newton
- 2012 Robbie Farah
- 2011 Andrew Ryan
- 2010 Petero Civoniceva
- 2009 Michael Gordon
- 2008 Jason King