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6 March 2005

The historic Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Challenge Shield, presented to winners of the premiership in the first six years of first-grade rugby league competition in Australia - from 1908 to 1913 - will be unveiled at the National Museum of Australia on Tuesday.

The Challenge Shield has recently been acquired from the family of Dally Messenger, one of the early stars of the game whose name is recognised today in the "Dally M" award for rugby league player of the year.

'The Shield is one of the icons of Australian sporting history. It provides a tangible reminder of the establishment of rugby league in Australia - one of the most popular football codes in the country today,' said Craddock Morton, National Museum director.

'I'm sure it will find an honoured place in the new Australian Sporting History exhibition now being developed for the Museum's Nation gallery.'

The Shield will be handed over in the Hall of the National Museum in Canberra at 11am, Tuesday, March 8. It will be displayed in the Hall for the next three weeks.

Special guests Dally Messenger III - grandson of the legendary player - and David Gallop, chief executive of the National Rugby League, will speak at the event.

'We're delighted that this important piece of rugby league history will be on display for everyone to see,' said Mr Gallop.

A number of players from the Canberra Raiders team will also attend the event.

The first-grade rugby league competition was established in Sydney in 1908 as a breakaway competition from rugby union. Rugby league broke with tradition by paying its players, making it more attractive to working-class players.

Dally Messenger was one of the leading players who defected from rugby union. Many sports historians argue that his popularity helped to ensure the success of the new game.

Messenger's name is inscribed on the highly ornate Challenge Shield itself, as captain of the Eastern Suburbs team which won the Shield from 1911 to 1913. After winning the Shield permanently in 1913 the Eastern Suburbs team then presented the award to their star captain.

For interviews, images or more information please contact Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or or Sandy Forbes on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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