Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield. The almost-oval mahogany backboard is painted with black enamel paint and it has three decorative semi-circular recesses in the top and bottom edges. An irregularly-shaped Sterling silver plate forms its centrepiece, and it bears the maker's mark 'STG.SIL W&H'. The plate has classical scrolled edges that grasp an encompassing laurel wreath. Near the top of the plate, 'PRESENTED / BY / ROYAL AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY OF N.S.W' is cast in a scroll above a silver cartouche that frames a low relief scene from a rugby match. A gilded kangaroo and an emu flank a gilded waratah wreath below the cartouche. 'NSW RUGBY FOOTBALL LEAGUE / 1908' is cast in a blue enamel garter ring that is cradled by the wreath. 'CHALLENGE SHIELD' is cast in a separate silver scroll that forms the bottom edge to the Sterling silver plate. The scroll arches over two smaller separate plates that are mounted to the backboard. One of them is engraved 'Presented to H. H. Messenger by the Eastern Suburbs District Rugby Football Club as a token of appreciation of his captaincy'. Twenty-four shield-shaped engraved silver plaques are also mounted to the backboard around the edges of the centrepiece.
Dally Messenger collection
The shield's significance stems from its association with the establishment of a professional rugby league competition in Sydney in 1908. Rugby League is one of the dominant football codes on the east coast of Australia. The shield is also associated with one the "greats" of the game Dally Messenger. Messenger was one of the leading players who defected from Rugby Union upon the establishment of the new professional competition in 1908. Many league historians argue that his popularity as a player helped ensure the success of the new code. His contribution to the sport is still recognised today in the 'Dally M' Award for player of the year.
Wood, Sterling silver, Gilded metal - non specific, Enamel paint