From Annie Messenger to a 15-year-old trailblazer: We celebrate four amazing ladies in NRL Women in League round



This week we celebrate the achievements and the role women play in the greatest game of all.

It’s the Women in League round and to show our support – we’re inducting four amazing women into The81stMinute Hall of Fame.


If it was not for Annie Messenger – rugby league may not be the sport it is in Australia today.

For rugby union superstar Dally left the decision whether to switch to the new professional league in 1907 to his dear mother.

James Giltinan and Victor Trumper knocked on the door of the Messenger family home at 16B Transvaal Ave, Double Bay knowing that Messenger’s signature was pivotal to the NSWRL’s success.

Messenger was a legitimate draw card. Thousands of rugby fans would come along just to see him play.

His play was “was full of surprises, unorthodox, flash,” Paddy Morgan wrote in 1906.

Messenger’s “instinct enabled him to see and take an opening in that operative second which is all-important.”

If it wasn’t for Annie Messenger, we never would have had Dally.

Annie is the First Lady of rugby league.


In early 1921, two young ladies named Nellie Doherty and Mollie Cane put a proposal forward to the NSWRL at the game’s famous old headquarters on Philip Street. They wanted their own premiership.

Just a few short months later, NSWRL officially announced plans to run a women’s competition which would consist of five teams. These clubs were: Eastern Suburbs, North Sydney, Newtown-South Sydney and Western Suburbs-St George-University and Glebe-Balmain.

Cane was nominated president and Doherty the competition’s first treasurer.

While public outcry would soon see the concept disbanded, there was still time for an historic exhibition match at the Agricultural Ground. A match that would be dominated by one young lady…


If Dally Messenger was the first male superstar of the game, Maggie Maloney was the first female star.

Maloney mesmerised a 34,000-strong crowd at the Agricultural Ground with a blistering performance that would see Maloney score four amazing tries.

Lining up for Metropolitan against Sydney, Maloney’s four tries helped Metro to a 21-11 victory.

Pre-game entertainment was a sprint race held between the players – Maloney won that too.

“Thirty-four thousand people stood up at the Agricultural Ground on Saturday and cheered, says the Sydney ” Daily Telegraph ” of the 19th instant,” Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin reported the following Monday.

“It was Maggie Moloney in a saxe blue jersey that they cheered. It was the day of Maggie’s triumph.”

Maggie would score her fourth and final try right on full-time.

“Play had started again when she took the ball in her own 25, and like a radiant racehorse….., she put a brilliant finish to a wonderful game and scored as the final whistle blew. Then it was that the densely packed crowd stood up and cheered her to the end. Maggie remained still while cartoonists sketched hurried outlines of her pretty face, told her age unhesitatingly, smiled prettily and walked off a happy girl for Surry Hills and home.”

And the best part of it all?

She was only 15-years-old.


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