While the legacy of the great Dally “The Master” Messenger has endured the tests of time, and rightfully so, there was another great pioneering centre who many argue was as good as Dally.
The son of Irish immigrants, James Devereux was born in 1885 in the
Northern NSW town of Tenterfield. He had an elder brother, Phillip,
three years his senior, who was born in nearby Armidale.
Phillip stayed in the area before eventually moving further north, while
James moved in the opposite direction to Sydney, where he played lower
grade Rugby Union in the North Sydney competition, before making his
debut in their first grade side in 1906, shortly after turning 21.
The following season, Jim watched on as a rebel New South Wales outfit
took on a professional New Zealand visiting side who were en-route to
England to play against the rebel Northern Union sides.
The hosts lost the first game in a close battle. A number of changes to
the NSW line-up were made for the second game, with Devereux getting
called up to play on the wing in what would be his first representative
jumper in just his second year of top grade Rugby.
The Kiwis were again too good in game two, but Devereux impressed,
dubbed in the press as the “hero of the day,” to retain his place in the
third match, which was another hard fought victory to New Zealand.
Three weeks later, Devereux, along with all the other men who played for
New South Wales in the three games against the professional New Zealand
side, were handed life bans from the Metropolitan Rugby Union.
During the summer of 1907/08, 8 MRU clubs decided to break away and form
their own competition, playing Northern Union rules. One of those clubs
was Devereux’s own North Sydney, who on February 7, 1908, officially
became a Rugby League club, with Jimmy elected as a committee member at
the inaugural meeting for the iconic club.
After a strong start to the inaugural 1908 Rugby League season, Devereux
was selected at centre, alongside Dally Messenger, for New South Wales
against the returning New Zealand side in 2 games before earning a place
at centre alongside Messenger in Australia’s first ever Rugby League
game and Test, against New Zealand. Despite the narrow loss, Jim was
retained for the second test before being moved to the wing for the
Devereux’s form saw him earn a place in the Pioneering Kangaroo tour of
1908-09 to England, where he became the first player to score a try in
Tests between Australia and Great Britain, when he crossed for the first
of 3 tries in the first test played in London.
Team mate Tom McCabe described one of those tries:
He raced for the corner, finding no opening in that direction he wheeled
almost at right angles, and beat man after man, and scored between the
Devereux played in 2 of the 3 tests against Great Britain and a mammoth
31 games on the tour, with a total of 17 tries, more than anyone else in
Another team mate, Peter Moir, revealed in a letter to the Evening News that “Devereux (was) the champion three-quarter.”
Harry Dannatt, a director on the board (and former president) of the
Hull Rugby League club managed to secure the services of Devereux and
his North Sydney colleague Sid Deane for “a fair price” at the
conclusion of the tour in 1909.
Devereux played in 4 games for Hull at the end of the 1908-09 season
before staying on for the following season which saw him picked in the
York representative team. Hull made it to the final of the 1909-10
Challenge Cup against Leeds which ended in a 7 all draw. Devereux lined
up for Hull in the replay just two days later, however Leeds were too
strong, running out 26-12 victors.
Jimmy played the first half of the 1910-11 season with Hull before
deciding to head back to Australia, accompanying the 1910 Great Britain
touring side. He again turned out for North Sydney in just two matches
before returning with the British tourists to Hull.
After making a good start to the 1911-12 season, Devereux suffered a
series of injuries which hampered him for the rest of the season. He
again returned to Australia, this time sharing the ship with the
returning 1911-12 Kangaroos, who had just completed a successful tour of
Great Britain. Once in Sydney, he played the last 5 games of the year
for North Sydney.
1913 saw Devereux earn selection for New South Wales for the first time
in 5 years. He played in two games against the visiting New Zealand
side, with the hosts winning both games. He then set sail for England
Once back in England, Jim again played for Hull, playing a starring role
in their 1913-14 Challenge Cup victory over Wakefield Trinity, despite
playing out of position at halfback.
Devereux scored an impressive 21 tries in just 19 games for Hull in the
1914-15 season before the outbreak of war. Devereux enlisted with the
British Army in 1916, earning himself selection in an Australasian
Servicemen Rugby Union team later that year. Devereux rose to the rank
of Lance Corporal. At the conclusion of the war, he married Daisy Heath,
a local lady whom he had known prior to enlisting.
Hull won their first ever Championship in the 1919-20 season in a hard
fought 3-2 victory over the mighty Huddersfield side. Hull won
back-to-back Championships when they defeat nearby rivals Hull Kingston
Rovers 16-14, in a match which saw Devereux score the match winning try.
Devereux and his wife travelled to Australia in 1921, where Jim again
made himself available to play for North Sydney, but was unable to break
into the all-star backline of Blinkhorn, Peters, Rule and Horder, thus
only appeared in 3 games in reserve grade, before retiring from the
Jim took on the role of coach of the back-to-back premiers North Sydney
in the 1923 season. With his side sitting third and only a slight hope
of reaching the final two, the club suffered a cruel setback when
legendary halfback Duncan Thompson was wrongly suspended for kicking a
player. Thompson was aghast at the accusation and sentence that he vowed
never to return to Sydney again. Norths lost all of their remaining
Devereux’s team slid again in the shortened 1924 season, winning just 3
of their 8 games and finishing second last. They turned their fortunes
around in 1925, running second to the dominant South Sydney outfit right
up until the last round, where a loss to Western Suburbs saw them
finish the season in fourth.
Jimmy retired from coaching at the end of the 1925 season and went to
work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. On December 3, 1929 he suffered
horrific injuries when he was struck by a 35 ton girder that had fallen
off a truck. He suffered fractures to his pelvis, left shoulder and
right leg, as well as receiving severe head injuries. He miraculously
survived, however he had the lower half of his right leg amputated.
Unable to work, the disability and accompanying medical costs almost
forced Devereux and his wife into destitution. In 1932, upon learning of
the despair of Jimmy, his old club North Sydney donated £50 to help him
out. After amassing nearly £500 in medical costs and unable to earn any
money, the donation was gratefully accepted. However it wasn’t enough
and before the end of the year, he sold his house and decided to return
to England with his wife to live a more relaxed life, in an attempt to
get away from the hardships that had befallen him since his accident.
Sadly, he passed away just two years later.
He was made an honorary life member of the New South Wales Rugby League
in 1914 and was named in the North Sydney Team of the Century in 2008.
Despite weighing just 60kgs, Devereux was described as “an aggressive centre in every sense of the term” by Tom McCabe.
He was fast and agile with a big side-step, was a ruthless tackler and a
smart ball-player with great hands. He was constantly regarded as one
of the best three-quarters in the world during his time as a player,
some even suggesting he was better than Messenger.
Australia – 1908-09 – 5 Tests, 3 tries, 1 goal
1908/09 Kangaroo Tour – 31 games, 17 tries, 2 goals
New South Wales – 6 games, 3 tries
North Sydney – 1908, 1910, 1912-13 – Played 17 games, 9 tries
Hull – 1908/09-1911/12, 1913/14-1920/21 – Played 172, 102 tries, 4 goals
(also played 37 games in War Leagues from 1915/16 til 1918/19, scoring
25 tries, 9 goals which are not included in official records)
***This article appeared in the Rugby League Review Magazine***
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
Sunday, 18 September 2016
Last year the English Superleague competition cut its competing number of teams down from 14 to 12 and reduced the regular season from 27 games to 23. But they came up with a bold new concept to make up for the missing games and called it Super 8’s.
The top 8 sides at the end of the regular season would play every other top 8 side once more, thus creating an extra seven games. The competition points they accrued in the regular season would remain and for the Super 8’s and teams would be playing to accrue enough points to reach the top four after the Super 8’s had ended, so they could then play in the finals to determine the Champion side.
The problem with this concept is that it’s stupid. In the two seasons that it has been in place, the eighth placed side has had to somehow win at least 4 games more than the fourth placed side, just to match them on points. While it is a possibility, it’s a very slim one given their only opponents are all sides better than them. In 2015 the Super 8’s confirmed that the top 4 sides after the regular season were still the top 4 sides after Super 8’s. In 2016 the exact same thing has happened again.
This raises the question; why have the Super 8’s? Why not go straight into the finals and save the players bodies?
Furthermore, with 12 teams competing, why have 23 rounds. It means one team will have to play another three times in the regular season. It’s just nonsense and not a fair system at all. The competition would be better served by having 22 Rounds and a top 5 finals series.
Given that Rugby League in England on a weekly basis doesn’t draw large crowds, flooding the market with more of the product only serves to devalue it further and at the risk of shortening player’s careers. In short, longer seasons are doing more harm than good for the game.
This Super 8’s concept is also used in a slightly modified manner to determine which teams are relegated and promoted across divisions. Again this is unnecessary. Why not have the bottom four sides of the higher division play the top 4 of the lower, with all games elimination matches.
Superleague 12th v Championship 1st
Superleague 11th v Championship 2nd
Superleague 10th v Championship 3rd
Superleague 9th v Championship 4th
When you consider that all these teams also compete in the Challenge Cup competition, which can see some sides playing 3 or 4 games as well, the toll on players and clubs starts to become absurd.
If a top side in the Superleague played in the Grand Final and the Challenge Cup Final they would play 23 regular season games, 7 Super 8’s games, 2 finals, 4 Challenge Cup and 1 World Club Challenge game for a total of 37 games. That is simply excessive and absurd.
The game needs to find a way to ensure that the dramas that have besieged once great sides like Bradford don’t become commonplace. Cutting down in the number of games will go a long way to alleviating some of those concerns, not to mention reducing the impact on players and would make the game a slightly more rare treat which would have a positive effect on crowd figures.
Saturday, 10 September 2016
The Titans have all but fallen into the finals on the very last day of competition, but not entirely through their own good work. However, of the last three sides vying for the last place in the top 8, the Titans were arguably the most consistent and deserving.
Why They Can Win
The Underdog Tag – The Titans play a relatively simple and composed style of football. They are a patient side who aren’t afraid to work hard. Because they’ve only just snuck into the top 8, they will be seen as the weakest link and easy beats, compared to the other 7 sides. Complacency is a killer in finals football, and the Titans are a side who do make the most of opportunities provided from teams not taking them seriously.
Why They Can’t
Form. The Titans have just 2 wins and a draw from the 11 games they’ve played against the seven teams above them on the ladder. They beat Canberra back in Round 4 when the Raiders were very inconsistent, and a four point win over Penrith in Round 11. They pulled off a hard fought and very impressive 18 all draw with then competition leaders Cronulla, who had won 15 straight games prior to that game. Since that game though, they have struggled, winning 2 of 5 games, against the Tigers by 1 point and the last placed Newcastle by 20.
Ashley Taylor. The rookie halfback has been nothing short of impressive this year. Thrown in the deep end at the start of the season when first choice half Kane Elgey suffered a season ending knee injury before their first game, the young half has improved immensely this year and has steered his side around the park very well. He has formed a good combination with new recruit Tyrone Roberts.
The Titans have a few injuries to key playmakers, however some of them have been missing all year and they have managed to reach the finals largely without them. Nathan Davis (leg), Kane Elgey (knee), Karl Lawton (leg), Daniel Mortimer (hamstring) and Matt Srama (knee) are all out for the season.
The Titans have only appeared in 4 finals matches to date, losing two games in the 2009 series. They last appeared in the 2010 series where they won their opening game against the Warriors before losing their last finals game to the Roosters.
The Titans come up against Brisbane on Friday night to open the finals series. Their record against the Broncos is very poor, having won just 5 of their 20 clashes. It’s even worse when playing at Suncorp, where despite winning their first game against the Broncos there, they have lost the last nine straight, with the last seven losses all being by a margin of at least 14 points.
**This article appeared on the Commentary Box Sports website**
The Panthers boast the second youngest side in the competition this year (behind only the last placed Knights) and had an inconsistent season up until Round 19 when their win against rivals Parramatta was the start of a strong surge towards the finals which has seen them clinch seventh position and qualify for the finals.
Why They Can Win
Utility Value. The Panthers have had arguably the most disruptive season to their spine of all clubs this year. They’ve used 4 different fullbacks, 5 five-eighths, 3 halfbacks and 4 hookers. Since they finally found a combination that worked, they have won 6 of their last 7 games. They boast some of the best young talent in the game who are very versatile players, headed by Bryce Cartwright, they also have Tyrone Peachey, James Fisher-Harris, Zak Hardaker and Matt Moylan.
Why They Can’t
Inexperience. Just 4 members of their current squad are aged older than 26, with Peter Wallace the only player in his 30’s (he turns 31 in October). Nathan Cleary is only 18 yet has had a stellar season at halfback. His five-eighth is the supremely talented 21 year old Bryce Cartwright. Such inexperience in the vital playmaking positions is their biggest hurdle in the most vital area.
Bryce Cartwright. The youngster is a back rower who has really found himself at home at five-eighth. He runs straight and hard when he needs to, but has the deft passing game required of any genuinely talented five-eighth. He has also helped to sure up the Panthers edge defence. 10 of their first 16 games saw the Panthers concede 20 points or more. The most they’ve conceded in the last 7 games is 20 points against the Warriors.
Penrith have been without their starting centres for most of the year. Dean Whare and Peta Hiku both suffered season ending knee injuries. Front rower Sam McKendry is also out for the rest of the year with a knee injury while last weekend saw talented young back-rower Reagan Campbell-Gillard cop a heavy knock which has broken two discs in his back.
The Panthers have played 21 finals matches. They have won 10 and lost eleven. This year is just their third finals appearance since 2004. In 2010 they lost both matches and in 2014 the beat the Roosters first up before going down to the Bulldogs 18-12 the following week in what is their last finals performance.
Penrith play the last game of Round 26 against the 12th placed Manly who have lost their last four straight games now. If the Bulldogs lose to Souths and the Panthers beat Manly, Penrith are a strong chance of finishing sixth on the ladder.
**This article appeared on the Commentary Box Sports website**
The Newcastle Knights have endured a horror season, but have seemingly been given a free ride from the media. They have been severely hampered financially, which – along with poor salary-cap management – impacted their recruitment.
This has seen a dearth of established talent available at the club, coupled with a horror injury toll and woeful form of experienced players, forcing new coach Nathan Brown to draw upon local juniors. Brown has used 35 players this year, 16 of whom have played less than 10 games this year.
While these are all legitimate issues, it should not excuse them from criticism. Western Suburbs Magpies were the laughing stock of the 1998-99 seasons despite suffering many of the same issues.
On win percentage alone, this Newcastle side is the worst since the 1984 Western Suburbs side, who won just one of their 24 games. It ranks the side at ninth for worst win percentage in a season. Their points difference is currently the fourth-worst in the game’s history, behind the 1999 Wests side (-659), the 1982 Canberra team (-593) and the 1935 Bulldogs (-510), but with a game still to play, this could change.
So just how bad, historically, is this Newcastle outfit?
When compared to every side since 1908 that won three games or less in a year and calculating the average points difference per game in conjunction with the win percentage, it is now possible to see.
There have been 108 sides since 1908 that have won three games or less in a season, with seven going through an entire year winless.
Let’s have a look at the top seven, worst of the worst.
1935 – University – Played 16, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 16, For 109, Against 529
The 1935 season is chiefly remembered as Eastern Suburbs superstar Dave Brown’s season. ‘The Bradman of League’ racked up pointscoring feats never seen before or since – and poor old University were on the receiving end of his magnificence. The season started promisingly with a tight five-point loss to Souths, but it was all downhill from there. The next week Balmain beat them 47-7, and two weeks later, the Dragons won 43-5. Round 5 saw the ‘Students’ square off against Easts, who won 61-5. Rod O’Loan scored 7 tries, Fred Tottey three and Dave Brown crossed twice. In Round 10 University lost 42-5 to Souths and their return match against Easts in Round 14 saw Dave Brown score 22 of his sides points from four tries and five goals in a 40-5 rout. The following week they lost 45-14 against Wests.
1937 – University – Played 8, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 8, For 41, Against 309
The Students’ last season was their worst. Thankfully for them, the shortened season only lasted only eight games. But those eight games probably felt like an eternity. They lost their first game to Souths 63-0 before having a bye. In Round 5, University lost 52-5 to the near-unbeatable Easts side and were probably lucky that score wasn’t vastly worse. They went down 48-3 against Newtown the next week and a fortnight later were thumped 65-5 by St.George.
1921 – University – Played 8, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 8, For 82, Against 292
The second season for the Students was just as bad as their first. They opened the season on the end of a 57-0 flogging from the champion Balmain side. In Round 4 they went down to Souths 45-7 and followed it up with a 45-16 loss to Glebe the following week. In the penultimate round, they lost 55-11 to Easts.
1920 – Annandale – Played 13, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 13, For 59, Against 382
The ’Dales last season in the top grade was their second winless season. They were kept scoreless in 3 of their opening 4 games and managed double figures just twice in their 13 games. They lost in Round 1 to Glebe 43-0 and after the opening five rounds had been played, they had scored just five points and conceded 118. In Round 6 they lost 42-10 against Easts before a return match against Glebe in Round 10 saw them thumped again 44-11. The following week Wests belted them 52-3 and their second-last game resulted in a Norths win by 44-3. Annandale’s last ever game was a 15-0 loss to Easts.
1918 – Annandale – Played 14, Won 0, Drew 0, For 73, Against 316
Annandale’s first winless season wasn’t one full of blowout scorelines, but it was one where the club averaged barely over one try a game and exactly one goal per game. In Round 2 they lost 36-15 to Souths and in Round 4 they lost 21-0 to Newtown before Balmain belted them 43-0 the following week. A fortnight later they lost 42-3 against Wests, followed by a 29-0 loss to Glebe. This horror period destroyed their season and was the beginning of the end for the club, who would be dead in two years’ time.
2016 – Newcastle – Played 24, Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 22, For 305, Against 800
Newcastle has conceded 33.33 points per game, the worst since Souths’ 33.83 in 2004. The Knights have conceded 40 points or more seven times so far, including two 50-plus totals and a season-high 62 points. They have been held to nil three times and failed to reach double figures a further four times. The modern game is a vastly more even competition than those of the past, so to be this far behind the field is truly woeful.
1966 – Easts – Played 18, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 18, For 147, Against 346
The last team to go through a season winless, but despite that, the Tricolours were rarely disgraced by blowout score-lines. A Round 14 loss to Manly by 53-0 was the only time they conceded more than 35 in a game. Seven of their 18 games had a margin of less than 10 – but they did lose all 18 games.
1946 – South Sydney – Played 14, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 14, For 124, Against 353: One of the lowest ebbs for the ‘Pride of the League’, the Rabbitohs were the first of only two sides to go winless in the post-WWII era.
1984 – Western Suburbs – Played 24, Won 1, Drew 0, Lost 23, For 244, Against 620: Given a stay of execution by the NSWRL to remain in the premiership, the Ken Gentle-coached Magpies’ only win was a 13-10 defeat of fellow strugglers Illawarra. Wests leaked 40-plus points on four occasions.
1993 – Gold Coast – Played 22, Won 1, Drew 0, Lost 21, For 229, Against 572: The last team to win only one game in a season, Wally Lewis’ Seagulls side managed an upset of Newcastle in Round 6 before losing 16 straight. A 46-0 loss to Manly and a 50-6 defeat in the return clash with the Knights in the latter rounds capped a diabolical campaign that saw ‘The King’ abdicate.
Worst Points difference in a year
1999 – Wests (-659)
1982 – Canberra (-593)
1935 – Canterbury (-510)
2016 – Newcastle (-495)
2002 – Souths (-432)
1998 – Wests (-431)
1935 – University (-420)
2013 – Parramatta (-414)
Worst Win % in a year
1966 – Easts 0% (18 games)
1935 – University 0% (16 games)
1918 – Annandale 0% (14 games)
1946 – Souths 0% (14 games)
1920 – Annandale 0% (13 games)
1937 – University 0% (8 games)
1921 – University 0% (8 games)
1984 – Wests 4.17% (24 games)
2016 – Newcastle 4.17% (24 games)
1993 – Gold Coast 4.55% (22 games)
**This article appeared on the Commentary Box Sports website**