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Cairns Museum has opened its latest exhibition, showcasing the diverse and rich history of rugby league in Far North Queensland.

“Played with Passion: Rugby League in the Far North” is a journey through 101 years of League in Cairns, including the history of the game in the tropics, tales of teams and players and an extraordinary selection of memorabilia sourced from the local community. 

Dr David Phoenix of Cairns Museum led the research for the exhibition, talking to players, supporters, local clubs and Cairns and District Rugby League (CDRL) members to trace memorabilia from clubhouses and private collections across Far North Queensland.

“Rugby league was first played in Cairns 101 years ago. Local games were fiercely contested and drew big crowds to the Parramatta Park showgrounds, but it was the Foley Shield games between Cairns and Townsville that were the most hotly contested.

“You have to remember that these games were played in September, when the heat and humidity have started to climb towards the build-up. It was a tough game’, he said.

Dr Phoenix says he hopes the exhibiton captured the passion and pride that went into those games and people enjoy seeing the collection on display.

“We’ve included the famous Foley Shield, as well as historic representative jerseys of Cairns, Australian and NAIDOC Week teams, all worn by local players,” Dr Phoenix said.

The exhibition also features trophies, cups and photographs from the very beginnings of League right through to current days. There’s even a collection of Footy trading cards featuring local players.

Suzanne Gibson, manager of Cairns Museum, said the major exhibition is expected to generate a lot of local and visitor interest.

 “Rugby league is synonymous with our region. The enthusiasm for the game ignited in 1918 here in the Far North and since then, League has remained Cairns’ most enduring and popular team sport”, she said.

The exhibition was supported through the Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF), a partnership between the Queensland Government and Cairns Regional Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

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