THE success of the northern rugby breakaway was reflected in the 98-club league membership only three years after foundation.

Once professionalism had been adopted Northern Rugby Football Union players began to reap the rewards.

Northern Union players were better paid than soccer professionals with wages varying between 30 shillings (£1.50) and £4.

In 1903, Warrington's Jack Fish received £3 to sign on for the season while George Dickenson received £4 to sign on, plus 17s 6d for a win or 12s 6d for a loss or a draw.

Inevitably, in their search for good players and success, clubs began to look outside the traditional boundaries and to Rugby Union for major signings.

These signings were made under cloak and dagger secrecy and opposition to these moves was particularly bitter in the Union stronghold of South Wales. Anger exploded when a man with a strange accent was discovered in Penarth to be a Wigan scout. He was ducked in the sea and rolled in the sand!

The game was forever adapting to change in the early years with Warrington playing a major part in shaping the code towards the modern game.

After the first season two county leagues were set up, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Senior Competitions, but in 1901 14 top clubs, including Warrington, set up what must be regarded as the first Super League.

Then in 1902 they operated with two divisions and a rule change saw the 'punt out' from touch being scrapped and replaced by a scrum on the 10-yard line.

Further changes to the game came in 1904 when it was decided that no more than three men would be allowed to scrum down in the front row.

More re-structuring came in 1905 when one major league of 31 clubs was created. It was a complex system. League positions had to be decided on a percentage basis as not all the clubs played each other.

But the two division set-up had had to be replaced because the Second Division system was putting clubs close to the brink of bankruptcy.

It was not until the 1906/07 season that 13-a-side was brought in. It won approval of the NRFU after being proposed by Warrington and backed by Leigh.

For that same campaign a new method of playing the ball was used. Also, a penalty was awarded for touch kicking and that again was Warrington's suggestion.

Players and supporters on the 1905/06 New Zealand All Blacks Union tour of Great Britain were so impressed by the new rival northern code that on returning home they decided to sponsor a visit to England to play under League rules.

It was agreed that the New Zealand tourists would receive 70 per cent of gate receipts, with guarantees of £50 for a midweek game and £100 for a Saturday. The tour would also be insured against loss.

The proposed tour caused consternation in New Zealand and the All Blacks were stated to have signed assurances that they would do nothing 'contrary to the laws and the spirit of Rugby Union.' Baskervilles Team, the first Australasian tourists, arrived in Britain in October 1907. The 'All Golds' 35-match and three-Test tour was a huge success and their stop over in Australia en route to the Northern hemisphere gave vital impetus to a breakaway movement which was threatening to split the New South Wales Rugby Union over the issues of compensation payments.

In 1908 came the expected Australian breakaway and the NSW Rugby Union decided to set up their own set of rules and send a team to Britain. Proceeds of the tour would be used to set up a NSW Rugby League on the tourists return.