Rugby football was played in Manilla in the late 1890s, Manilla District Football Club being founded in 1899. Permission was sought from the cricket club for use of their ground. Local businessmen donated the necessaries of a set of guernseys, a football and the use of a four-in-hand drag for transportation of players to away games.
The Manilla District Football Club became affiliated with New England Rugby Union that year and participated in the Tamworth series of the junior competition. The club reformed on May 12 1900 at its adjourned first AGM. Prior to the 1st World War three local clubs fielded teams, the Standard, The Imperial and The Country Party clubs. During the war, the three amalgamated as the Patriotic Football Club. In November 1918, the members began organising a footballers' honour roll which became the centre of dispute in 1919. The Patriotic Football Club Honour Roll has since passed into the Community Collection and can now found in the Military room at Manilla Heritage Museum.
In 1917, football legend H.H. "Dally" Messenger come to Manilla to take up the licence of the Royal Hotel. He had switched to the new code of Rugby League football at the end of his illustrious career and soon after his arrival in Manilla, introduced the new code to our local Union stalwarts. Dally M. was instrumental in the formation of the Manilla Tigers Football Club which continues on today.
MANILLA TIGERS 1954
Excellence in performance of the game of Rugby League is celebrated annually by NSW Rugby League in the form of the 'Dally M. Awards'. In 2017 The Men of League (Manilla Sub-Branch) commissioned a commemorative panel for display on the Royal Hotel exterior, honouring Mr Messenger's contribution to the town. The Messenger family performed the unveiling.