Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Most Important Men In Rugby League History (2010)

They have never represented their country. They never played for their state. They never even played first grade rugby league. Yet they are definitely two of the most important men in Rugby League history.

In 2005, Shawn Dollin, a web developer and Rugby League history buff, decided to make his own website detailing match details of all first grade games played in Australia. From these humble beginnings the website has become a massive resource with limitless bounds.

Shawn spent several years scouring newspaper articles and archival video footage of games, while working in conjunction with fellow fans frustrated with the limited data available on their great game, in his quest to have the most accurate resource on rugby league history ever compiled. Some may well have though he was mad.

In 2008, the equally mad Andrew Ferguson asked Shawn if he could assist with his website. Shawn agreed and a magnificent partnership was born.

Both men’s passion for history and statistics started many years ago and oddly enough, in cricket, where both excelled as players. Andrew’s passion began the day his tiny rural village finally received television reception in 1988, and the first thing he saw on television was Balmain defeating Cronulla 9-2 in a semi-final.

In 1991, while watching Illawarra v Gold Coast on the ABC, Shawn recalls watching Allan McIndoe score five tries and pondered, “I wonder if that has ever happened before in a game.” And a lifelong purpose was born.

For both, they had always wanted to reveal more of the game’s history as they grew frustrated with the quality and quantity of data currently available. Andrew had begun compiling data for a book he hoped to publish when he stumbled across Shawn’s website. Instead, he found a man with a similar rationale and enthusiasm for recording the games history that it just made sense for them to work as a team.

Their passion wasn’t restricted just to the game in Australia either. The complete lack of information regarding first grade games played in England as well as international matches not including Australia, compelled them to expand the website further to include these matches. This addition lead to more additions, such as tour matches and interstate fixtures which weren’t recorded anywhere in any great detail either.

The more they researched, the more they learnt about other competitions as well, like mid-week cups, pre-season competitions and other such smaller competitions which have all but been forgotten in Australia and England.

The thirst for knowledge, genuine intrigue in the history of the game and the prospect of being involved with what could prove to be the best rugby league resource in the world, coupled with a belief that they can do a better job than many others have done in the past, is what drives this great team.

Shawn states that his only real hurdle is trying to find an effective and efficient way to enter the data into the website meaning he is constantly writing, tweaking and creating all sorts of different tools and scripts for the site. Their only other real issue is a lack of resources. Generally this forces them to a state library.

Unfortunately for the site, Shawn’s visits to the library have been less frequent since becoming a father in 2007. Shawn laments “Unfortunately for me, it’s not entirely appropriate to babysit in a library,” however given the opportunity, it wouldn’t be surprising if he chanced it at some stage.

Given the massive amount of data which these two plan to provide, they are realistic and understand that this would become a lifelong project, yet are not at all daunted by the prospect. The information is constantly being updated and improved on an almost daily basis, which keeps them believing that their goal is definitely achievable.

They regularly receive comments from players and officials, past and present, absolutely amazed and thrilled that they finally have an online record of their career.

The site has been referenced in a number of recent books, is a major source relied upon by Wikipedia and has also helped with family history requests. It is constantly evolving and is now more than just facts and figures, it’s the ultimate interactive resource.

Shawn and Andrew could thank many people for what they’ve achieved so far, but most importantly they thank the most important person of all.

Alan McIndoe.

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