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7 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 tomorrow.

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.

National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop will speak at tomorrow's event, along with Dally Messenger III, grandson of the legendary player. Canberra Raiders captain Simon Woolford and several other players will also attend.

WHAT: Historic rugby league shield unveiling

WHEN: 11am, Tuesday, March 8, 2005

WHERE: Hall, National Museum of Australia, Canberra

'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.

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.

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.

The shield will be displayed in the Museum's Hall for the next three weeks.

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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