Maurice Lindsay, the man who changed rugby league forever, passed away at the age of 81 and left a legacy.
Without it, there may be no Summer Games, no Super League, no high professional level, and no multimillion-dollar investment.
Even those who ended up opposing him in court admit that he did it all with the sport’s best interest at heart.
A visionary, he led the President Wigan Division II to an eight-time champion from 1987 to 1996, winning the Challenge Cup nine times, including eight in a row, and a three-time club world champion.
“The biggest excitement of my life was at that club,” said Lindsey, who saw them for the first time after hearing about legend Billy Boston.
“But the best advice I ever received was: If you think it’s right, do it.”
The visionary Lindsay was seen 31 years ago when she announced that Wigan would be working full time.
He said, “If you are looking to have a professional vision in life, whether it is in sports, work or in your home, why are you drawn to that? We believe we will set a standard that others can follow.”
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Lindsey then allowed others to follow him as chief executive of rugby league football by brokering a deal with Rupert Murdoch in 1995 for an investment of £87m, meaning all the major clubs were able to operate full time.
He was also on the other side of current Leeds CEO Gary Hetherington in a lawsuit against Bruce McGuire, who wanted to play for the Sheffield Eagles.
Authorities in both the UK and Australia thought he shouldn’t have played, but a district court judge ruled he could play in 1994.
Now, 28 years later, Sheffield chairman Hetherington told Sun Sport: “Canterbury asked for a transfer fee and found myself in the courts opposing Morris on that.
“I did a few things, but in the end he always wanted the best in the game. You might have had a fight with Morris, but he wasn’t someone you fought with for long.
“Morris announced the introduction of Rupert Murdoch and the birth of the Premier League. He did a good job at the time, increasing his contribution to £87m, which the game had never seen before.
“You have to give Maurice credit for engineering and we should remember him fondly. It is a loss for the game, she has lost one of her legendary characters.”
And the man he described as his biggest purchase ever, Ellery Hanley, who said, “Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are now,” admitted that Lindsey’s vision was paramount.
Lindsey said of him: “It went beyond what we had in the sport. She was very special. Since then, I’ve seen players – like Jason Robinson – but none of them have lived up to Ellery’s standards.”
“Morris came in and talked about the future,” Hanley said. “His vision was fantastic.”
“Maurice Lindsay will be remembered as one of the most important leaders in the history of the sport,” said Ralph Reimer, current CEO of the RFL.
“Rugby league wouldn’t be what it is today without him.”
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