Treasures of the game
Over the past 100 years, rugby league teams have been united by a common goal: the desire to bring home the trophy. Awards including the Winfield cups and the State of Origin shield inspire players and fans, capturing the competitive spirit of the game.
These trophies, along with treasured caps, footballs and other memorabilia on show in the original League of Legends exhibition are a link to the great moments and personalities of the past 100 years.
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Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield, 1908-13
Photo: Dragi Markovic.
The Royal Agricultural Society Challenge Shield was the first premiership shield of the New South Wales Rugby League.
A beautiful black mahogany shield embossed with silver, it was won by South Sydney, Newtown and Eastern Suburbs. It was presented to star Easts captain Herbert 'Dally' Messenger in 1913, after his club won the trophy three years running.
The shield is now part of the National Museum of Australia's National Historical Collection. Its association with the genesis of rugby league in Australia, and its connection to the game's first great star, make it one of the most important rugby league treasures held in a public collection in Australia.
Representative cap, 1906-07
Courtesy Canterbury Bulldogs. Photo: Lannon Harley.
New South Wales Rugby Union representative cap presented to Dally Messenger, 1906–07.
In the early days of rugby league, players selected for state and national teams received embroidered and tasselled caps, hence the term being 'capped'. This tradition was born of other colonial sports such as cricket and rugby union.
A player only received one cap for their career with a particular side. This cap reflects Dally Messenger's earlier career, before he switched from union to league.
Winfield Cup, 1982–95
Courtesy Australian and New South Wales Rugby League. Photo: Lannon Harley.
One of the most recognisable league trophies is the New South Wales version of the Winfield Cup. It was the premiership trophy for the New South Wales Rugby League from 1982 to 1994 and for the Australian Rubgy League in 1995.
The trophy was inspired by John O'Gready's classic photograph of Arthur Summons and Norm Provan, taken after the muddy 1963 grand final between Western Suburbs and St George.
The post-match embrace of the two football warriors has become a symbol of the rugby league code and inspired the design of the two subsequent premiership trophies, the Optus Cup and the Telstra Premiership Trophy. The Winfield Cup was replaced following legislation outlawing tobacco company sponsorship of sport.
Winfield State of Origin Shield, 1980–91
Courtesy Queensland Rugby League.
The start of State of Origin football in 1980 ushered in a new era in rugby league history. New life was injected into the game during an experiment in the third match of the 1980 series. It was decided players would represent their state of origin, rather than where they were playing at the time. The result was a sensational Queensland victory, after years of dominance by New South Wales.
This trophy, 'for rugby league supremacy between New South Wales and Queensland', depicts two legends of the game, Wally Lewis (Queensland), left, and Brett Kenny (New South Wales), locked in a fierce arm wrestle.
State of Origin jerseys, 1980
Courtesy Australian and New South Wales Rugby League.
Winfield Cup, 1982–95
Courtesy Queensland Rugby League. Photo: Lannon Harley.