Dennis Tutty hailed 50 years after the fight for players’ rights

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The match pays homage to former Balmain second rower Dennis Tutty on Monday, December 13 as it marks the 50th anniversary of the day he gave birth to player rights with a victory over Rugby League powerbrokers.

In a landmark decision of December 13, 1971, the High Court of Australia declared the NSWRL transfer system invalid.

The system had been challenged by Tutty, who showed considerable courage to continue the action that cost him two years of his career and a prime ministerial post with Balmain in 1969.

“He faced Goliath so to speak, and he won,” RLPA boss Clint Newton told nswrl.com.

“Fortunately for all Australian sports it did – not just for the athletes but also for the codes, because in my opinion there is no way sport in this country could be what it is today without Dennis gets up and confronts the regime.

“He did it on the principle of fairness and that is the raison d’être of sport. This paved the way for codes to have greater equalization of competitions through freedom of choice. “

NSWRL Managing Director Dave Trodden applauded Tutty’s stance born from a “strong personal perspective.”

“He had been wronged, and in his opinion – no doubt because of the strong morals of his working-class background – you stand up for yourself and you fight for your rights,” Trodden said.

“He unlocked appropriate compensation for all players in the rugby league. He asserted the rights of the individual player over the collective rights of the game. “

An Australian test player in 1967 in his fourth year with Balmain, Tutty wanted to be placed on the club’s transfer list in 1968, when his contract expired.

But under NSWRL rules at the time, a player was linked to his club and could not sign elsewhere unless released by transfer or by the club removing him from their list of registered players.

Even if a player was out of contract, a club simply had to register him as a “retained” player and he could not play for a rival club – as Tutty, Laurie Moraschi and Peter Jones discovered.

While all three players have stepped down, Tutty was the only one to take legal action against the NSW governing body.

He missed the 1969 and 1970 seasons, returning to play in 1971 for match payments while his case was in the High Court.

“It was probably the best years of my life, but I had to wait until the third year and return to play, which I was allowed to do game by game, so it was almost three years for the winnings of my life.” , Tutty told NRL.com in 2018.

The RLPA introduced the Dennis Tutty Award in 2008 for his leadership, service and dedication to the rugby league.

Newton is a former winner (2013) with the 2021 honor going to Melbourne Storm mainstay Christian Welch.

“What Tutty has done is far from insignificant. He created the generational change. And to be honest, the annual RLPA award is the least we can do for a man to ensure his legacy lives on through the years. Next 50 years and beyond, ”Newton said.

“I can’t talk enough about Dennis. He didn’t just waste two years of his career, I would say he lost a bit of his soul during that time.

“When there’s something you believe deeply in and the other side just doesn’t see this injustice, that’s the part that would have hurt.”

Tutty moved to Penrith for three seasons in 1972, before a year with Eastern Suburbs (1975) and a final stint at Balmain (1976).

He now lives in Yamba, loves his surf boat competition, watching football and having a beer.


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