Ever wondered how much damage one little lie could do? One Newcastle player certainly found out the hard way.
Before the salary cap was introduced, players had to play for the team representing the area they lived in. If a player residing in Sydney wished to change clubs, he had to leave the suburb he used to live in, and then live for a year in the area of his new side before he could play for them. If a player from outside Sydney wished to play, they only had to live in the area of their favoured side for just 28 days.
In 1917 one player’s dishonesty caused a major rift between Glebe, a competition outside of Sydney and the games governing body.
Dan Davies, originally from Newcastle, joined Glebe for the 1917 season. Davies had to live in the Glebe area for 28 days before he was allowed to play for them.
Davies moved to Sydney and lived with a relative...in Annandale. Glebe administrators were aware of this, but instead of being honest, or requesting he move to the Glebe area, decided to simply alter his address in the hope no-one would realise.
The time had finally come when Davies could play for Glebe and ironically, his first game would be against Annandale. His participation in this match was the catalyst for a series of events between Glebe and the NSWRL.
Glebe beat Annandale 26-5 with Davies on debut. Annandale, aware that Davies was living in their area, lodged a complaint requesting the game be forfeited by Glebe for fielding an illegible player.
AN official inquest began regarding the matter. Davies was forced to sign a declaration by Glebe officials stating that he had indeed been living in the Glebe area, however it was quickly found to be false.
The NSWRL stripped Glebe of its two competition points for the win against Annandale. Davies' dishonesty saw him being handed a life ban by the NSWRL.
Glebe believed they were being discriminated against, future events of that season may suggest such, but it was the demeanour of the club that caused things to get out of control. In a match shortly after the Annandale game, three Glebe players were sent off; two of them later got suspended for the rest of the season for seemingly minor incidents.
The next week, Glebe was to line up against neighbouring rivals Balmain. Balmain was the reigning premiers for the previous two seasons. The game was scheduled to be played at the SCG, but after the deceit of Davies and Glebe, the NSWRL moved the game to Balmain's home ground, the much smaller Birchgrove Oval, were the gate taking would be substantially less.
Glebe officials were outraged and the players threatened to boycott the match. Glebe instead fielded a second rate team, all of their first graders opting not to play the game. Balmain flogged Glebe 40-9, Glebe's worst defeat since 1910 when they were beaten 36-0 by Easts.
The NSWRL were angered by the Glebe players for boycotting the game, so they consequently suspended the 14 First Grade Glebe players for the entire 1918 season, including the Burge brothers.
During the long off season, the NSWRL overturned their suspension on most of the Glebe players. Frank and Alby Burge had their suspensions cut back to May 1918.
Ironically, again, when the suspensions of Frank and Alby Burge had been served, their first game since being suspended was against Annandale.
What about Dan Davies?
Well Dan went back to his home in Lambton to work in the mines. But the controversy wasn't over yet. In 1917 in the Newcastle competition, his former side, Newcastle Wests, threatened to go on strike as well for not allow Davies to play for them against Newcastle Norths.
Norths agreed to let him play, however when news got back to the NSWRL that Davies was playing Rugby League, they suspended every player and administrator from the Newcastle competition, except for Newcastle Easts. The suspended players and officials started their own competition. The NSWRL again suspended everyone involved in the breakaway Newcastle competition, but were ignored. This battle continued for three years, until the NSWRL relented in 1920 and lifted all its imposed suspensions, allowing the Newcastle competition to run as it had before.
Isn't it amazing what one little lie can do?
****An extended version of this article appeared in the Men of League magazine****