A GROUP of rugby league's most respected historians has urged the ARL Commission to rule on whether Glebe or Newtown were the game's first club.
Ian Heads, David Middleton, Geoff Armstrong, Gary Lester and Sean Fagan, who individually and collectively had spent hundreds of hours researching the game's beginnings in 1908, were unanimous in their verdict that Glebe, formed on January 9, 1908, were the first club to commit to the breakaway league.
Heads, a respected league writer and historian, has long believed the controversy that surrounded the code's first club ought to have been officially laid to rest by the league long ago.
''The league, under its various leaderships, has maintained a disinterested silence,'' he said of the debate. ''The issue has always been something very long ago and far away in a now-focused game - and not rated of much account apparently.
''But as a wiser head, Aristotle, declared even far longer ago, 'If you would understand anything, observe its beginnings'. It's timely as rugby league heads into a new era under new leadership that the game does just that - and at last affords long-forgotten Glebe its rightful place in history.''
The debate was revived in last week's Sun-Herald when the call was made for Newtown to acknowledge once and for all that Glebe was the first. The January 8 date which appears on the minutes of the inaugural meeting is believed to have been added at a later date. An email from one supporter admitted it was a ''touchy subject'' and he considered the question an attempt to rewrite history on the basis of a newspaper report and suggestions the January 8 date was a later addition was a slight on the character of the men who attended that meeting at Newtown Town Hall.
However, Heads who wrote an article 33 years ago headlined ''Long-lost Glebe started League'', pointed out that Glebe (January 9, 1908) was the first club formed, as faithfully reported at the time in The Sydney Morning Herald and the sporting bible of early days, The Referee.
He noted the birth of Newtown was recorded in both papers and confirmed five days later, (January 14). Added to that, Heads found the first meetings of all the foundation clubs were reported in some detail by the newspapers of the day, from Glebe on January 9 to North Sydney on February 7. However, there was no coverage of a meeting at Newtown on January 8.
In 2009, Middleton uncovered a box of letters written by the game's founding father James J. Giltinan to a football colleague, and held by a Brisbane library. In a letter dated January 10, 1908, Giltinan mentioned Glebe's foundation meeting (the previous night) but made no mention of Newtown.
''Had a meeting been held at Newtown before January 10, it is inconceivable that Giltinan would not have mentioned it,'' Middleton said. ''I am convinced the notation in the Newtown minutes is incorrect.''