100 Years of Yarns

His own man
It’s almost unthinkable that a club would exclusively own players in the NRL era, but a modern star’s ability to test the market is largely thanks to one man’s selfless efforts.

DENNIS Tutty was in the prime of his career when he stood – alone – against the selfish power of rugby league authority with the silent support of a generation of players.
He had no idea his stand would cost him two years of his career, his marriage, give him a stomach ulcer and almost send him broke. Yet his stance in taking the league to court and overturning the model of club ‘ownership’ of individual players sees him remain a champion of athlete’s rights.
There was no players’ association in March, 1968, when Tutty fronted Balmain Tigers boss Kevin Humphreys and asked for a pay rise as his £500 ($1,000) a year contract had expired.
The rule at the time was that a player ‘signed-on’ for a club at the start of his career and was virtually the property of that club until it agreed to release him for a transfer fee – paid to the club, not the player.
His request was refused, and his appeal to the NSWRL failed, so he played the 1968 season on match payments alone and worked as a cleaner at Balmain Leagues Club after leaving his job as a clerk. However, relations between him and the club had deteriorated, so he again approached Humphreys, seeking a release.

Humphreys’ reply was to not only refuse, but to arrogantly poke Tutty in the chest and declare “if you don’t play for us under what we tell you then you don’t play at all”.
Three Balmain team-mates also approached Humphreys for pay increases or releases – future Immortal Arthur Beetson, former Wallaby Peter Jones and utility back Laurie Moraschi – but their requests were also denied and they were given the same ultimatum. Beetson stood down for a few matches but returned, while Tutty, Jones and Moraschi sat out the 1969 season, missing the chance to play in Balmain’s last premiership victory.
Moraschi was released to North Sydney at the end of the season for a $3,500 fee and Jones returned briefly in 1970 but never played first grade again. Beetson was eventually released to the Roosters (for a $15,000 fee) where he won two premierships.
Tutty, then 23 and approaching what should have been his best years, refused to bow to Balmain’s rigid attitude and the league’s rule of exclusive possession. He was introduced to a Sydney solicitor, David McKenzie, who felt there was a strong case to challenge rugby league’s employment rules as a ‘restraint of trade’.

Tutty, with no financial backing or public support from other players, took on the challenge single-handedly at great personal cost. He presented his affidavit to court in May 1969, waited a year for the case to be heard and it was October 1970 before the Supreme Court found in his favour.
However, the NSW Rugby League immediately appealed to the High Court. Short on money as legal fees increased, Tutty, after missing the 1969-70 seasons, was forced to play for Balmain on match payments only in 1971.
In December 1971 the appeal was dismissed and the ‘retain and transfer’ system was overturned. The legal case archived as ‘Tutty v Buckley’ (the NSWRL president was Bill Buckley) was over. David had slayed Goliath – and several other sports used his victory as a legal precedent.
It led to a flood of players becoming free agents and saw the likes of John O’Neill, Ray Branighan (Manly) and Ron Coote (Roosters) leave South Sydney, Parramatta favourite sons Dick Thornett (Easts) and Ron Lynch (Penrith) depart, and Max Brown (Manly) and John Armstrong (Easts) leave Canterbury before the 1972 season.
In essence, Tutty had paid exclusively for their new freedom and wealth – in dollars, exclusion and his own career development.

Tutty played with Penrith for three seasons from 1972 and the Roosters in 1975, but was injured and missed their grand final victory. He had a farewell season, when still a very fit 30, with Balmain in 1976 (with Humphreys having moved on to be the NSWRL and ARL boss in 1973). Tutty then coached the Tigers’ lower grades and had one season with the first grade side in 1980.
For many years Tutty has lived at Forster on the NSW north coast and in 2008 the Rugby League Players Association honoured his selfless defiance via an annual award for a player who displays leadership and a major contribution to the game.
Each week of our 100th year, Big League will reflect on the stories that have captivated and impacted on the great game of rugby league.

@Tigerlily Dennis was a terrific footballer and an even better man i always enjoyed watching him play.He sacrificed himself to get a better deal for his fellow players at the time which continues to this day.Kevin Humphreys was a narrow minded CEO of Balmain at the time and was typical of the heirrarchy at all every club and the administrators of the game.
Players owe a lot to Dennis Tutty

Simply the best
Anyone over 30 will clearly remember the game’s most iconic and successful marketing campaign – but few know of the effort and logistics that went into making it a reality.

NOT only did rock and roll and rugby league converge for the first time in a marketing revolution, the involvement of the iconic Tina Turner and the effect the 1989-95 campaign had on the game’s image is still seen as the greatest sports advertising coup in Australian history.
It all came from a notion by then-league boss John Quayle after he left a Turner concert in Sydney in early 1988, at which her opening song on her ‘Break Every World Tour’ was What You Get Is What You See.
Quayle inquired with the league’s advertising agency, Hertz Walpole, about using the song for the next season’s TV advertising campaign. While discussing with his personal assistant (the late) Micki Braithwaite – the former wife of Sherbet lead singer Darryl Braithwaite – he was told she was a good friend of Turner’s manager, Australian Roger Davies.
Davies had cut his teeth as Sherbet’s manager in Australia in the 1970s before heading to Los Angeles, where he went on to manage Turner, Janet Jackson, Joe Cocker, Olivia Newton-John and Pink.
The ambition then shifted to Turner actually performing in the campaign. Quayle was told he was dreaming, but within months the greatest shift in sports promotion had come to fruition.
Start with Turner’s enthusiasm, a $4.5 million budget, filming the pop icon in London – which was cut into clips of teams’ summer training plus action footage – then add the brilliant touch of Terry Walpole and his team on a two-minute commercial (unheard of on TV), and magic was made.
While the 1990-93 versions of Simply The Best are best remembered as league’s greatest anthems, the real story involves the breakthrough of 1988-89.
Davies and Turner offered two days for filming in London. With dozens of Aussie players plying their trade with English clubs during our off-season, it was arranged for the game’s heartthrob of the time, Andrew Ettingshausen, and fellow Leeds import Cliff Lyons to head to London to take part.
Days before the shoot, ‘ET’ was injured and couldn’t make the trip – so Quayle hastily arranged for Gavin Miller, playing at Hull KR but (with due respect) at the other end of the glamour spectrum, as a replacement.
Quayle took a bag of footballs, goalpost pads and other gear to London and filming was done in Fulham and at Tottenham Hotspur’s former home ground White Hart Lane. Turner’s vocals were laid down at Mayfair Studios in London.
The result was an iconic breakthrough for sports marketing, not just rugby league. Turner belted out her soulful sound as images of players running through waves, sweating, winking, training and relaxing, Noel Cleal picking up an adoring daughter, fans in the stands and cheer girls were spliced with action footage.
The timing could not have been better. After the game’s violence has been cleaned up since Jim Comans’ judiciary era, and following the introduction of Newcastle, Brisbane and Gold Coast for the ’88 competition, the league’s hierarchy was determined to make league’s image fresh and sexy and tap into new markets.
The mission was accomplished, with crowds and TV viewing soaring in what became known as the ‘Tina Turn-around’.
After just one year, Simply The Best became the replacement anthem. A second two-minute clip (pictured), much of it filmed in Australia with Turner mixing with the likes of Wayne Pearce, Ettingshausen, Greg Alexander, Paul Sironen, Mario Fenech and many others, was a massive hit.
In 1992, with the song gaining a second life in Australia through the campaign, Turner recorded a new version with Jimmy Barnes, and was she coaxed to perform at the Brisbane v St George ’93 Grand Final (and present the trophy) during another tour. A cocktail party was even organised in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens in Turner’s honour.
With the Super League war erupting, the last version of the Turner genre of advertising came in 1995, which included glimpses of her singing from atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge, shot during her 1993 visit.

Each week of our 100th year, Big League will reflect on the stories that have captivated and impacted on the great game of rugby league.

“What You Get Is What You See” Would have to be the best Rugby League, if not sport in general, campaign of all time. It made you sit up and take notice and had just about universal appeal.

@mike said in 100 Years of Yarns:

“What You Get Is What You See” Would have to be the best Rugby League, if not sport in general, campaign of all time. It made you sit up and take notice and had just about universal appeal.

Agreed, much better than simply the best

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