Complete History of CDRL


REVIEWED & UPDATED  - 26th March 2006

Compiled and written by Martin Hurst – Treasurer of the Cairns District Rugby League


The switch: Union to League.

While we can safely make the claim that Rugby League is without doubt the most successful and the most soundly established of all the organised sports in the Cairns District today - it is also the most professional administered sport in the region.

Since the Cairns District Rugby League’s humble and official beginnings in Cairns in 1918, there are many reasons as to why Rugby League has attained this enviable status. The success of the new game was due to the untiring and dedicated efforts of so many dedicated voluntary officials. Alternatively, we could claim Rugby Leagues successful development was due to the way the new game was played, enhancing the spectator appeal that League possesses.

In the early days of Leagues founding in Cairns and District, League emerged as a clean break away from Rugby Union – or as the Australian Rugby League Captain, Darren Lockyer, stated in 2004, “from the dark side”. People moved from the slow moving Union of fifteen men per team to the faster game of League, where it’s more open techniques and style of play required men who were able to exploit it full potential for speed and spectacle.

This is what the new game of League had to offer its followers when it made its bold bid for support almost ninety years ago. The first men who played Rugby League in Cairns set a standard of play and established precedents in both capacity and performance that created their own inspiring tradition.

Those pioneers of Rugby League in the Cairns district handled their new code of football so brilliantly that in their first years they were beating most of the best teams sent against them – including Townsville with its record of achievement over representative sides from the more formidable southern Leagues.

Big names in the game had caught the fancy of the public and thousands were beginning to acclaim the new idols. As such, the enthusiasm the game ignited in 1918 has never been allowed to burn low. Rather, that flame has become a ‘flame of remembrance’, with today’s game and players still drawing its enthusiasm and standards from the rich traditions of the pioneering era of our sport.

Formation of Rugby League in North Queensland.

The scene was set in Northern England in 1895 when Union players met to discuss the lack of expenses paid to players when they had to forfeited shift work to play football, and so they voted themselves a regular form of reimbursement. As a result, English Rugby Union swiftly disowned them.

Just as Rugby League had its origins in Northern England at the close of the nineteenth century (1895) through a number of “breakaway” movements from Rugby Union, so it began in Far North Queensland.

The initiative in 1918 came from an energetic Honorary Secretary of the Townsville League (which had been formed some three years earlier) – and was the only official body at the time evidencing interest in furthering Rugby League throughout North Queensland.

The person in question, Bob ‘Runger’ Aitcheson, circularised Union administrators, suggesting that they “instruct” their Players to switch to League - which he asserted was “more modern” and the dominant code in Sydney and Brisbane.

When Bob Aitcheson raised the age-old argument regarding reimbursement for players who had lost wages because of injury, or when playing commitments conflicted with their employment, he received only scorn from the masters of Rugby Union. The Australian Rugby Union had already expressed its  “dim” view  of players abandoning their amateur status – yet in Far North Queensland, especially in areas where players employment involved shift work, the concept of reimbursement had instant appeal with players – but not with their officials.               

Cairns & Innisfail switch to Rugby League.

It was not surprising that Rugby Union Players in both Cairns and Innisfail warmly received Aitcheson’s proposal. Initially, Cairns and Innisfail agreed the “new” Rugby League code had to be adopted for an inter-city game scheduled for the 29th June 1918 – with a view to implementing the code for Club games in both Cairns and Innisfail for the 1919 Season.

The Innisfail officials, it seems, were not entirely convinced of the scheme’s merits, and sought the postponement of one season so they might give the whole matter “further consideration”. However, the South Johnstone Club delegate persisted with Aitcheson’s plan, and eventually persuaded the Innisfail administrators to authorise a switch of codes for inter-club competition at the commencement of the third round of inter-club fixtures. The Clubs involved were Innisfail, South Johnstone and Mourilyan.

It’s worth noting that some non-competitive scratch matches were already being played in the region, and it is known that one Cairns side travelled to Innisfail in a League match as early as 1917.

Cairns Rugby Union switched to Rugby League at the same time as Innisfail and this signalled a period of inter-city rivalry between Cairns and Innisfail that has continued and intensified for almost ninety years.

Formation of a Governing Body for the Cairns Rugby League.

Not all Union officials in both towns were pleased by the changes to Rugby League. As a result, a meeting was advertised and called to form an “authority” to govern and develop Rugby League in the area.

At a meeting to formalise the establishment of Rugby League in Cairns on the 5th August 1918, Bill Moody was elected as President, Jim McGrath as Secretary and Alf Able as Treasurer. Other official office bearers were Committeemen Ted Blackmore, George Griffiths, Sid Self, Mark Poulsen, Jack Loomas, Jack Lavin, Jim Beattie, Tom Wise and Chas. Reice.

 The first Patron of the new League was Percy Pearce however when he was later elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly, he was compelled to resign and Arthur McManus became Patron. The first Referees for the Cairns League were Ted Blackmore and George Griffiths.

While the official formation of Rugby League occurred in August 1918, there is evidence that quality Rugby League was being played in Cairns much earlier than 1918. The Program for the Queensland FNQ game in 1924 tells us that in August 1910, Cairns hosted a team from Newtown – and Cairns had glorified themselves by scoring the only try of the match against Newtown. While acknowledging that 1910 was the era of Rugby Union, 1918 was now the era of Rugby League.

Formation Clubs in Cairns.

Following the formation of the Cairns District Rugby League (C.D.R.L.) in 1918, Rugby League became a regular fixture on the sporting calendar in Cairns following the mid-season switch from Union.

The first line-up of Clubs in the new Rugby League code comprised Rainbows, Natives, Kennedys, Carltons, and Gordonvale. By the mid-twenties, there had been a complete reshuffle of Clubs. Reports of these Clubs appeared in the Cairns Post as early as 1910 and 1911, so these were Clubs that were originally part of the Rugby Union stable and ‘converted’ to Rugby League. Another Club that formed and soon fell by the wayside was Kia Ora.  

Later, Rainbows and Kennedies disbanded while Brothers, Carlton’s, Gordonvale, All Blacks and Ivanhoes had formed. Trinities’ played as a Club for a while in the 1920’s but disbanded in 1930.

Trinities’ senior players along with players from Kangaroos’ Juniors combined to form the new Kangaroos Football Club in 1931 under the guidance and leadership of Bill Headrick and Harold Burns – with assistance from Les Davie and Bill Fulton (later Mayor of Cairns and Member for Leichhardt).  Harold Burns was already, at this stage, a dedicated Brothers supporter, however, he took a leave of absence from Brothers to ensure the new Club of Kangaroos didn’t disappear into oblivion as had Trinities, Rainbows and Kennedies.

Once Kangaroos was established, Harold Burns returned to his beloved Club of Brothers, and continued to play up to 1933. His influence on the game was such that this period was often referred to as the “Burns Era”.

It was an exceptionally prosperous time for Cairns League – and it was a happy coincidence that there were so many outstanding Players supporting Harold Burns, and to fill the ranks behind him.

Major Crisis for fledgling League Organisation.

Within twenty years of its formation, the Cairns Rugby League experienced its first major crisis. In April 1937, a dispute arose between Past Brothers and the other Clubs in the Cairns Rugby League over the method of choosing and appointing officials to control the local League.


According to reports in the Cairns Post, unrest, discontent and division consumed the Delegates to the CRL. The Cairns Post further reported that the usual fortnightly meeting of the League was thrown into disarray when the Executive, with one exception, resigned and left the meeting.

The division between the Clubs was further widened when on Sunday, 25th July 1937, the Past Brothers side, led by League Legend, Harold Burns, boycotted the game against Gordonvale (at Gordonvale) which resulted in a forfeit by Brothers as the Club had failed to advise the C.R.L. of their intentions not to play. As a result, the C.R.L. attempted to fine Past Brothers eight pounds but the Club refused to pay the fine. This decision by the Club saw all three teams from Past Brothers disqualified from participating in any competition games.

Past Brothers subsequently appealed to the North Queensland League who upheld the decision of the Cairns Rugby League. Past Brothers still refused to pay the fine resulting in the Club’s expulsion from involvement in Rugby League for 10 years. Past Brothers remained expelled until the suspension of the Cairns Competition at the end of the 1941 Season due to World War II.

Inconsistencies and selectiveness by the Delegates who comprised the Cairns Rugby League highlighted the divisions that were in existence in the Cairns League. Past Brothers were expelled – yet the person who organised the boycott by the Past Brothers team of the Gordonvale game, Harold Burns, was invited by the C.R.L. to be the Captain/Coach of the Senior Grade in the Representative games that were held.

In a further turnabout, the C.R.L. reinstated the Past Brothers Junior and Minor Junior teams at the beginning of the 1938 Season – and the Minor Junior Team went on to win the Premiership in that year.


First Inter-City Matches.

Even before the official formation of Rugby League in Cairns there had been some “scratch” match played in the new code. The first League match between Cairns and Innisfail was played in Innisfail in 1917. This game was followed by another staged at Norman Park (now known as Munro Martin Park) on the 29th June 1918. Cairns defeated Innisfail, 21 – 0. The Cairns Junior side also recorded a win of 9 – 6 over the Innisfail Juniors.


The return game was to be played at Innisfail on the 29th July for which a boat excursion from Cairns had been planned for patrons at a cost of pounds 2/4/-. Unfortunately, the trip and game had to be cancelled due to a shipping strike and there was no other means of transport available.

The excitement generated by this first venture into inter-city games prompted movement between other centres in the North. Babinda issued a challenge to South Johnstone (the then dominant team in Innisfail and this game eventuated on Sunday, 1st September 1918 – which South Johnstone won: 14 – nil. The players and supporters travelled from South Johnstone to Babinda (and home again) by horseback which was an epic trip in 1918.

Elsewhere up and down the coast – and points west – League was being adopted by a host of Union clubs, and new League clubs were being established. On the 16th September 1919, a visiting Townsville side came to Cairns by sea, which resulted in the first official Cairns – Townsville representative game. Cairns defeated Townsville 8 – 7.


Shortly after this victory, the Cairns City Council approved plans to erect seating “stands” around the “number 1 field” at the Minnie Street end of Norman Park. The “stands”, personally erected by committee members and volunteers, were completed in time for a major inter-city match between Cairns and Toowoomba, which occurred on the 2nd September 1921. The victory of the Cairns Team (over Toowoomba 19 – 5), led by Bob Miebusch, must have been Cairns’ proudest League achievement of the early years.

On the 29th June 1918, an agreement was reached to adopt an inter-city competition and this was the birth of the North Queensland “A” Grade Premiership between the Rugby League centres, which realised the following Premierships for the centres:

1918 to 1920               Townsville

1921                            Cairns

1922                            Innisfail

1923                            Cairns                                                                         

In 1923, Cairns edged towards Championship honours, and adopted the name of the “North Queensland Laurels”. They drew eight all with Townsville at Railway Estate and nine all at Norman Park. Cairns defeated Innisfail in their 1923 game, but sustained a 14 – 5 loss to Innisfail in the return match before a hostile crowd in Innisfail.


In the Souvenir Program printed for the game between Queensland and Far Northern Queensland, played at Norman Park on Tuesday, 19th August 1924, we see that the number of Affiliated Leagues to the Far Northern Rugby League was growing. It comprised the following Leagues: Cairns, Mareeba, Babinda, Mossman, Eacham, Upper Tableland, and Chillagoe. 

Pricing Control on Admission to League Games in Cairns.

Cairns Rugby League committee members in 1923 had their share of problems. The Cairns City Council of the day was empowered to limit the amount charged to League patrons through the Norman Park gate – and the League sought unsuccessfully to increase the admission costs, as the League needed extra funding to meet the travelling costs of visiting teams. The request to increase admission fess was rejected by the Cairns City Council, which insisted that sport was “an entertainment” governed by its jurisdiction over theatres, dance halls and similar venues.                                                                                                                           

Status as Top League Team.

Committee members of the day explored the possibility of forming a Far North Queensland Rugby League, consisting of Leagues from Tully to Mossman and the Cairns Hinterland. Proponents of the proposal stated the area administered by the N.Q. R. L. was too vast and isolated for the Townsville based League’s resources – an argument one occasionally hears even today. The proposal for divided control was not surprisingly rejected.

The N.Q.R.L., however did allow Far Northern football officials and followers one important concession: in 1924, the Cairns and Innisfail competitions were declared to be “Top Grade Leagues” – a status which ensured that both centres would be included in the itineraries of touring interstate and international teams, providing the schedules of touring teams permitted a journey to the Far North.

The “catch” to this arrangement was that few touring schedules would allow for the two-day boat voyage or rail trek to Cairns – assuming that Townsville itself was included in the tour.


The Maroons vs Far North Queensland – July 1924

The Queensland Rugby League decided to tour its State team, known as the Maroons in 1924, the N.Q.R.L.

advised that a Cairns game was impractical and “out of the question”. Nevertheless, Cairns League Officials lobbied the Maroons Management team of Harry Sunderland and Jim Tennison while they were in Townsville – which resulted in a unanimous decision to ignore the QRL decision and to journey onto Cairns and play a representative Far Northern team.

The Maroons decided - after defeating Townsville’s North Queensland team on Saturday afternoon – to play a representative Far Northern team in Cairns the following Tuesday. So with only two and a

half days to select a Far Northern team, arrange for players to secure “time off” from their employers, print suitable souvenir programs, dress up the Norman Park venue, arrange for refreshment stands, travel and

accommodation and a myriad of other arrangements, Officials of the Cairns Rugby League set about staging the “biggest match Cairns had ever seen”.

All schools, both public and private, were granted a half-day holiday for the big match. Business houses released not only players from their work commitments but their entire staff. Most in fact closed down for the afternoon to enable their management to see the match!


Transport firms provided motor lorries to move additional seating, stalls and fencing. The Fire Brigade sent in fire engines to water the dusty Norman Park field, and Police volunteered (at no cost) to supervise pedestrian traffic around the grounds and to provide security. Even the town band showed up to provide a free musical entertainment at half time.               

Dozens of citizens who had never seen a game of Rugby League offered assistance of every kind: ticket selling, fence patrolling, preparing food and refreshments. There were even volunteers for ‘ball boys’ duties.

By three o’clock on that Tuesday afternoon in July 1924, several thousand people had gathered in and around Norman Park. Youngsters scaled the mammoth mango trees that provided a grandstand view of the field. The raised verandas of surrounding homes were packed – as well as the roofs of homes further away.

The fenced area of the ground proved to be totally inadequate for the crowd that streamed in from all points. The crowd was dramatically increased when businesses closed just before kick-off time. As a result, the crowd was      

hopelessly beyond the control of officials and confusion reigned supreme at the very small entrance gates, where hard-pressed volunteers attempted to take four pence (the Cairns City Council’s limit on admission) from the huge throng.

Far North Queensland lost the encounter with the Maroons but few of the crowd went away disappointed. Cairns had achieved its baptism of big-time football, and Norman Park had proven totally inadequate as a venue.                                                                                                                                                        

Those players included some of the greats of Southern and Far Northern Rugby League:

            The Queensland Maroons:

Erick Fraunfalder (Full-back), C. Aynesyl (Wing Three-quarter), Bill Spencer (Wing Three-quarter), Bill Paten (Wing Three-quarter), Tom Gorman (Centre Three-quarter), Jim Craig (Half-back & Captain), A. Edwards (Half-back), Jim McBrien (Centre Three-quarter), B. McCreedy (5/8), Jim Cunneen (Centre Three-quarter), - and the forwards were Norm Potter, Jack Purcell, Bert Parcells, Vic Armbruster, H. Reddington, Arthur Henderson, Herb Steinhardt, H. Liebke, and J. Allamn.


            Far North Queensland:

Henry Blucher (Full-back), Mick Considine (Wing three-quarter), Jim Burman (Centre three-quarter), Bernie Brown (Centre three-quarter), Jim Cronin (Wing three-quarter), Arthur “Budged” Lyons (5/8 & Captain), and Len Rogers as Half-back. The Forwards positions were filled by Vic Bente, Monte Smith, Charlie Christensen, Ned Mullins, Ernie Coleman. The Reserve Forwards were D. Morgan, W. Hanny, and A. Lewis. The Reserve Backs were A. Stokes, A. Dixon and E. McWilliams.

Referee & Linesmen:                                                                        

The Referee was Jack (Hunger) Bradley with Geo Griffiths and Bill Kimmins as Linesmen.

A curious aspect of this game was the Queensland Team was referred to as “The Maroons” but they played in Black and White jerseys. Queensland won the match 27 to 12.


Arthur Lyons captained the Far North Queensland team – and Lyons had the distinct honour of Captainening both the Far North Queensland team and the Cairns teams for a number of years.

Previously, Arthur Lyons had been a member of the A.I.F. Rugby Union team that toured Australia after World War I, and his activities with that team while on tour, earned for him considerable distinction as a player of remarkable ability. Prior to World War I when Rugby Union held sway in Cairns, he captioned the Kennedy Club Team – and on returning to Cairns after the Australian tour, he again assumed control of that team which had reformed under the banner of Rugby League.

Under his guidance, Kennedy’s secured Premiership honours for three years in succession. In 1924 he Captioned the Carltons, and for the first time in history, the Carltons annexed the Premiership. At the end of the 1924 Season, Arthur Lyons retired from competitive games – and Cairns lost a Captain of outstanding ability both on and off the field.

Brisbane vs Cairns  -  August 1925.

Once again, Arthur Lyons was selected to Captain the Cairns team that played the visiting Brisbane team at Norman Park on Saturday, 22nd August 1925. Members of the participating teams were:

Brisbane  (Colors: Red, White and Blue):

1.  E. Silverton,  2.  HHarold Horder (Captain),  3. J. Woodward,   4. C. Creedy,  5. V. Tardy,  6. J. Bryce,           7. G.Allman,  8. J. Pearson,  9. W. Brereton,  10. H. Purcell,  11. W. Holohan,  12. E. Rippinen,                             13. K. McCormack,  14. W. Kavanagh,  15. J. Jones,  16. E. Eldridge,  17. L. Sellers,   18. J.Gaffney,         

19.  W. McCook,  20. H. Hamalainen,  21. W. Ryan,  and  22. M. Burke.

Cairns  (Colors:  Black):

1. B. Brown,  2. A. Cleary,  3. Arthur Lyons (Captain),  4. G. Sam,  5. T. Cronin,  6. J. Lynch,                      7. C.Meredith,  8.  W. Smith,  9. L. Howard,  10. G. Howden,  11. G. McClymont,  12. P. Smith,                                  13. W. Mills,  14. W. Treacy,  15.  E. McMahon,  16. J. Cranney,  and  17. P. Northage.

             Referee & Touch Judges:                                                                

The Referee was Geo Griffiths with V. Pyne and I. Foster as the Touch Judges.

Parramatta Park Grounds.

Immediately after the Maroons – Far North Queensland game, Cairns Rugby League officials commenced negotiations to use the facilities at Parramatta Park. In 1927, the Cairns Showgrounds became the official venue

for inter-city, inter-district, and eventually, international matches.


Parramatta Park at this time had no caretaker or other supervision to prevent entry from a small number of the unemployed – eventually their numbers grew approximately 700 when the first game against Great Britain (in 1932) was due to be played.

Efforts were made by the civic authorities and by the Showground and Football authorities to get the men to vacate the grounds, but negotiations proved futile. The unemployed men were offered alternative shelter as a solution to vacating the grounds, but this was rejected.

The squatters did agree to be passive and not to demonstrate during the game providing no effort was made to evict them – if that occurred they would then resist eviction. It was believed this decision would necessitate the cancellation of the game or the relocation of the game to an alternative venue, but following discussions between the local officials and the English Managers, it was decided to play the game at Parramatta Park and leave the squatters where they were.

This decision was unfortunate from the aspect of gate receipts as many refrained from attending the game due to

the fear that there was a possibility  of violence being directed to the trespassers.                                          


The Show Association subsequently forcibly evicted the men from the ground in a violent mêlée prior to the Show and which was known, for a long time, as Parramatta Park’s Black Sunday. In the fracas that ensured, numerous people on both sides received injuries and resulted in action taken by the Police and the subsequent trial of offenders that took place at a venue on the Tablelands.

The Cairns then used Parramatta Park as its “home-ground venue” right up to 1989 when games were moved to its current home-grounds of Barlow Park – which was named after long time Cairns City Council Alderman and Cairns District Rugby League Official – Jim Barlow.

                                                                                                                                                            The last C.D.R.L. Grand Final series played at Parramatta Park was in 1988. The teams that played in the 1988 Grands Finals were:

            Under 18’s:                  Atherton vs Kangaroos

“C” Grade:                   Mareeba vs Brothers

            “ B” Grade:                  Kangaroos vs Ivanhoes

            “A” Grade:                  Kangaroos vs Brothers

Similarly, the last major International Game controlled by the C.D.R.L. played at Parramatta Park was between Great Britain and North Queensland on the 27th May 1988. The result was Great Britain 66 defeated North Queensland 16.

First International Match for Cairns.

The first international match occurred at Parramatta Park in 1932, when Jim Sullivan’s Great Brittain’s side wrapped up Far North Queensland by a whopping 53 – 8. The gate takings were 508 pounds. Few – if any – of the estimated fifteen hundred people who paid six pence each to see the game expected the home side to win. They were content to watch the “world’s greatest team” in action.                                                               

Far North Queensland Team:

Harry (Bat) Mitchell (Full-back), Jim O’Brien (3/4), Harold Burns (Capt), Bernie Brown, Bert Williams, D. O’Brien (5/8), Toby Ross (1/2), and Forwards – Harold Tracey, Jack Greenwood, Bert Steel, George Richardson, Bert Howard and Jack Culhane.

Great Britain Team:

Jim Sullivan (Full-back & Capt), Alf Ellerby (3/4), Arthur Risman, George Robinson, Stan Smith, Stan Bragden, (5/8), Bert Evans (1/2), and Forwards – Norm Fender, Arthur Fildes, Martin Hodgson, Bill Williams, Joe Wright and Jim Thompson. Managers: Bob Andertyon and Fred Hutchins.



Chris Thompson.

Touring Great Britain Teams.

Great Brittan has played on a number of occasions against Far North Queensland teams between   1954 and 1988. The score-lines for those games were:

            1932                            Great Britain  53          Far North Queensland  8

            1954                            Great Britain  39          Far North Queensland  18

            1958    28th June          Great Britain  78          Far North Queensland  8                                              1962    23rd June     Great Britain  33          Far North Queensland  31

1966    4th June                        Great Britain  48          Far North Queensland  7

            1974    30th May          Great Britain  XX         Far North Queensland  XXXX

            1988    27th May          Great Britain  66          North Queensland  16                         


As in the first game in 1932, patrons to all of these games were largely content to watch the sheer skill of the Englishmen – but in 1962 they got more than their money’s worth when incredibly, Far North Queensland came within three points of beating the “Poms”. The score-line was a remarkable achievement when one considers that no fewer than eight of Far North Queensland’s top players were unable to play in this game due to team and playing commitments in Townsville against the Lions in the North Queensland team scheduled after the Cairns game.

FNQ was trailing at half time (17 – 8) but hit back in the second half, and with only minutes remaining, FNQ was leading the “Poms” (31 – 28). Great Brittan then scored beside the goalposts and the subsequent conversion gave the tourists a skinny 33 – 31 win. Even during that Australian tour, no other team – including the Australian Kangaroos – came so close to beating the Great Brittan team as Far North Queensland.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The “scratch side”, actually billed as “FNQ’s No. 2 Team” included several future stars – Brian Fitzsimmons, “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Neil Gil and Bobby Cook. All thirteen Far Northerners played their hearts out, and only a last minute try by Englishman Gerry Round saved Great Brittan’s bacon.

It was without question Far North Queensland’s greatest moment in Rugby League and it is appropriate to record the home team here:

Far North Queensland Team:

“Sugar” Ray Robinson (Fullback – Tully), John Hastie(Wing – Innisfail), Centres - Alan Eaton (Eacham) & Neil Gil (Cairns), Wing -  G. Weatherly (Eacham), Halves - Bobby Cook (Eacham) & Ron  Lesina Cairns), with Forwards: B. Teigs, Artie Belbin (Innisfail), N. McFadden (Eacham), Danny Clifford (Tully), John Eaton (Capt. - Cairns), Brian Fitzsimmons (Cairns). The Reserves were D. Campbell of Cairns and J. James of Innisfail.


            Referee & Linesmen:

            The Referee was R. Neary of Tully while the Linesmen were A. Stanley and Gordon “Froggy” Dillon of             Cairns.

Other International Games.

            1953    24th June          American All Star 17               Far North Queensland 17 

            1955    25th June          France  66                                Far North Queensland 15

            1955    25th June          Papua New Guinea                  Cairns              (curtain raiser0

            1960    19th June          Papua New Guinea                  Cairns

1960    25th June          France  26                                Far North Queensland 15

            1960###                      Papua New Guinea 15             Cairns 18

            1962                            Papua New Guinea 20             Cairns 21         (Played at Pt. Moresby)

            1963###                      Papua New Guinea 20             Cairns 32

            1964                            Papua New Guinea 12             Cairns 32         (Played at Pt. Moresby)

            1965###                      Papua New Guinea 8               Cairns 20                                

1966                            Papua New Guinea XXX         Cairns XXX     (Played at Pt. Moresby)

            1979    17th August      Papua New Guinea                  Northern Zone

1990    14th June          France                                      Queensland Country

            1994    2nd July                        France                                      Cairns Marlins

            1994    Oct                   New Zealand 44                      Cairns Connections 16

Major Domestic Games Played in Cairns.

            1918                            Cairns     8       defeated           Townsville     7

            1919                            Cairns     21     defeated           Townsville     Nil

            1920                            Cairns     20     defeated           Innisfail     Nil

            1921                            Cairns     13     defeated           Innisfail     2

            1921    2nd Sept            .           Cairns     19     defeated           Toowoomba     5

            1921                            Cairns     16     defeated           Townsville     8

            1922                            Townsville  13 defeated           Cairns     10

1923                            Cairns     9       Draw                Townsville     9

            1923                            Cairns     4       defeated           Townsville     3

            1924                            Cairns     27     defeated           Innisfail     Nil

            1924    19th August      Queensland                              Far North Queensland

            1925                            Cairns     14     defeated           Mackay     8

            1925                            Cairns     24     defeated           Charters Towers     Nil

            1925                            Cairns     3       Draw                Townsville     3

            1925                            Cairns     17     defeated           Townsville     15         

            1925    22nd August      Brisbane                                  Cairns

            1954    27th August      Toowoomba                            Far North Queensland                                     

1962    26th August      South Sydney                          Cairns

            1964    27th Sept.         St. George                                Cairns

            1966    25th Sept.         Balmain                                   Cairns

            1973    27th June          Queensland                              Far North Queensland

            1990    17th February   Brisbane Broncos                    Cairns Connection

            1991    23rd February   Brisbane Broncos                    Cairns Connection

            1993    30th January     Western Suburbs                      Cairns Connection

            2003    28th February   Newcastle Knights                   NQ Cowboys

            2004    20th February   Manly Sea Eagles                     NQ Cowboys

            2005    25th February   Melbourne Storm                     NQ Cowboys

            2006    18th February   New Zealand Warriors             NQ Cowboys

Fore-runner Competitions to the Foley Shield.

At the end of the 1924 Season, the North Queensland “A” Grade Premiership was superseded in 1925 by the Crowley Cup Competition, which resulted in the following centres winning that Competition:

                        1925                            Cairns

1926 to 1929               Townsville

1930                            Cairns

1931                            Townsville                  

In turn, the Crowley Cup (which had been won outright by Townsville Rugby League in 1931), gave way to the Carlton Shield in 1932 which had been presented to the N.Q.R.L. by the Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne, for the annual competition between “A” Grade Leagues.


Eight Leagues competed for the Carlton Shield that had been split into two zones, with the winner of each zone moving into the final to play off for the Shield. The Carlton Shield was finalised in 1947 and then followed by the Foley Shield that commenced in 1948.

Winners of the Carlton Shield were as follows:

                        1932                            Townsville

                        1933                            Cairns

                        1934 & 1935               Mackay

                        1936                            Innisfail

                        1937                            Mackay

                        1938                            Draw between Cairns & Townsville

                        1939                            Townsville

                        1940 & 1941               Cairns

                        1942 to 1945               Games abandoned due to World War II

                        1946                            Townsville

                        1947                            Babinda

It’s worth noting that Babinda was the last winner of the Carlton Shield in 1947 and the first winner of the Foley Shield in 1948.                                                                      


Arch Foley and the Foley Shield.

The Foley Shield, which commenced in 1948, was named after Arch Foley, a likeable dedicated man whose family saw fit to honour his memory with what is now know as one of Queensland’s best known sporting trophies.

Richard Archibald (Arch) Foley was born in Townsville and one of eleven children of Elizabeth and Thomas Foley – who was the Labor Member for Townsville (from October 1909 to April 1912) and then Mundingburra (from April 1912 to October 1920).

Arch Foley first played Rugby Union but in 1914 became involved with the fledgling Rugby League when his beloved Club of Souths switched from Union to League. Throughout his career, Arch Foley never left his Souths Club, and he maintained his involvement with League until his death in 1947 at the age of 59.

Arch played in – and Captained – the South’s winning premiership sides of 1917, 1918 and 1919. In addition, he Captained the touring North Queensland side of 1920 – and then Captained the Townsville team in 1921 in their win over the touring Toowoomba side.

Foley retired as a player in 1922 to Coach – and led the Souths’ Club to its Premiership as Coach in 1922. This was followed up by the Club’s first “clean sweep” of all three grades in the 1923 competition as a non-playing Coach. At the same time, Arch had taken over the Club’s Presidency – which was the start of an illustrious career as an administrator.

In addition to his involvement with Souths, Arch Foley was also President of the Townsville Rugby League in 1927 when the decision was made to build a Grandstand at the Sports Reserve. Together with his brother-in-law Charlie Stone, Foley mortgaged his home to finance the project. Talk about dedication and commitment. The Following year, 1929, saw Arch Foley take on the role of President of the North Queensland Rugby League – a position he held until 1934.

Such was the dedication of Arch Foley that the Queensland Rugby League, the North Queensland Rugby League, the Townsville Rugby League, South’s Rugby League Club and the Townsville Sports Reserve Management Committee all awarded Life Membership to him. Since 1948, the Townsville Rugby League has awarded the Arch Foley Memorial Trophy to the winners of the Townsville Competition.

The Foley Shield Competition that started in 1948, was played until 1995 when it was suspended for four years (1996 to 1999) and then recommenced in 2000. During that time, 54 Foley Shield Finals have been played (1948 to 1995 and 2000 to 2005) with the following results:

            Clubs   /                                    Number of Times                               Number of Times       

Centres                                   Won the Foley Shield                          Played in Foley Shield Finals        

            AYR                                                    2                      up to 2005 (inc)                       4

            BABINDA                                           2                                                          3

            BURDEKIN                                         0                                                          3

            CAIRNS         ##                                14                                                        29

            EACHAM                                            1                                                          2

            HERBERT RIVER  ++                                   4                                                          5

            INNISFAIL                                          4                                                          7

            MACKAY                                           6                                                          15

            MT. ISA                                               9                                                          13

            TULLY                                                1                                                          1

            TOWNSVILLE   ++                          11                                                        23

            WHITSUNDAY                                   1                                                          2

            Totals                                                  55                                                       108                                                                   (54  Finals + Draw in 1982)                    (54  Finals X 2)       


 ##     In 1988, 1989, 1990 & 1991, the Cairns District Rugby League placed two Teams in the Foley Shield Competition following the withdrawal of one of the other regions in the Competition. The INNISFAIL-EACHAM TEAM became the second C.D.R.L. Team in the Foley Shield Competition.

The Innisfail-Eacham Team won the Foley Shield Final in both 1989 and 1990. In addition, it is worth noting a quirky incident that occurred in 1988.  The Cairns team could not make the Final, but the

            Innisfail-Eacham team could do so IF it defeated Cairns in the last competition game of the season.

            If the Innisfail-Eacham team defeated Cairns, it would knock Mt. Isa out of the final – but as it happened, the Cairns Team defeated Innisfail-Eacham, thereby allowing Mt. Isa into the Final. Mt. Isa went on to defeat Mackay 22 – 18.

            Since its inception in 1948, the Cairns Team has won the Foley Shield on 12 occasions with the C.D.R.L. team of Innisfail-Eacham winning the Foley Shield on 2 occasions. This has resulted in teams from the Cairns District Rugby League winning the Foley Shield on 14 occasions and has played in the Foley Shield Grand Final on 31 occasions. (includes 2005)

   ++  In 1982, a DRAW occurred in the Foley Shield Final between Townsville and Herbert River. The score at the end of the game was Townsville 25 – Herbert River 25.


Expansions and Contractions in the C.D.R.L.

Over the years, a number of Club have come together to form the Cairns District Rugby League. Since the inception of the Cairns District Rugby League, a variety of Clubs were formed, joined the Cairns Competition, and then some fell by the wayside for varied reasons.

The Early Years

Post World War II

Following the end of World War II, the C.D.R.L. Competition was reformed. Clubs in attendance at the C.D.R.L.’s A.G.M. on the 25th February 1946 were Ivanhoes, Kangaroos, Marist Brothers Old Boys (Brothers), Gordonvale

 and Edmonton. The existence of five Clubs resulted in a bye each week League was played for one Club on a rotational basis.                                                                                                                                                           

The grades played were:          Minor Juniors  - up to 18 years of age;

                                                Juniors             - aged from 18 to 20; and

                                                Seniors             - aged 21 and over – although players are 21 could play Seniors.


Colts Club:  In an attempt to avoid the bye ever time League was played, a sixth Club – Colts – was formed in Cairns, and it only existed for the 1947 Season. The President of the new Club was Gus Arnold, and it was formed at a Meeting convened at the Newmarket  Hotel (which was located on the Corner of Grafton and Spence Streets in Cairns). 

Many of the stalwarts of Rugby League in Cairns started their playing career in Cairns with Colts. Some of those “greats” were Gordon “Froggy” Dillon, Kev Woodward and Frank Gil – to mention but a few.

Gordon “Froggy” Dillon – whose Rugby League career spanned some 24 years – started by playing for Colts in 1947, and after the Club closed at the end of that Season, he moved to Kangaroos in 1948, and then Brothers from 1949 to 1954. At the end of his playing career, he was then a Referee from 1955 to 1970.                                                                                                                                                    

Kev Woodward moved from the Atherton Tablelands and played “minor juniors” for Colts in 1947. He then played in the “minor juniors” and “juniors” grades for Kangaroos from 1948 to 1951 and then moved to Uniteds, playing with that Club from 1952 to the end of the Club in 1957.

Following the “demise” of Colts at the end of 1947, both of these Players, as well as Frank Gil, Joe Hickey, Ron Lesina, Ron Beechino and others moved to Kangaroos with some going to Ivanhoes and Brothers.

Later, Kev and Albert Boundy were instrumental in forming the Past High Sporting Club (1958 to 1963), which was comprised mostly of students from Trinity Bay High School or Cairns High School. Albert was the founding President-Secretary-Treasurer for 1958 and 1959 – and when he was transferred to Toowoomba with his employment, Kev stepped into multi-functional roles for the remainder of the Club’s existence.


As Colts was only in existence for the 1947 Season, its worth noting the Players that basically comprised the Club.

                   Seniors                                            Juniors                                    Minor Juniors

1.         Harold Greenwood                              V. Manly                                 Frank Gil

2.         Ross Jenkins                                        P. Barrett                                  Bob Allyson

3.         E. Miller                                               Bill Leisena                              Neville Jacobs

4.         D. McKinnon                                       S. Bourke                                 Alan Peever

5.         Graham Swan                                      Len McKinnon                                    Roy Peever

6.         Kevin Tiers                                          Tom Dillon                              A. Sivyer

7.         Sid Lisha                                              T. Owens                                 Kev Woodward

8.         K. Jorgenson                                        E. Shelback                              Ted Dore

9.         Jack Parks                                            Tom Renton                             Ron Beecheno

10.       A. Arnold  (Gus ??)                             Danny Jackson                                    Warren McIntyre

11.       Don Carr                                              P. Howard                                D. Solinos

12.       Jack Clark                                            Peter Poullis                             Norm James

13.       Alan Schmidt                                       Tom Anderson                         Alan Hudson

14.       Jack Kelly                                            C. Anderson                            N. Horsman

15.       Tom (Hank) McGeeghan                     J. Ireland                                  Joe Hickey

16.                                                                                                                   Errol Hopper

17.                                                                                                                   Max Kelly                                                       

Uniteds: In 1951 / 1952, the Cairns Competition was expanded to include Uniteds and Mossman.

Gordon “Froggy” Dillon recalls that to form the new Club, the existing Clubs were required to release some of their Players to make up the numbers. The Brother’s Club at the time were allowed to keep only 19 1st Grade Players and had to release   

The first Coach of Uniteds was Bill Sullivan.

Southern Suburbs Football Club:  The Southern Suburbs Rugby League Football Club was a combination of the Gordonvale and Edmonton Football Clubs, which combined and played as Southern Suburbs in both 1948 and 1949.


Gordonvale Club to Southern Suburbs Club:  The Gordonvale Club played in the C.D.R.L. Competition from 1919 to 1924 and then left to join the Babinda Competition, only to rejoin the C.D.R.L. again in 1927 – but had its affiliation cancelled later when Cairns joined the Brisbane Rugby League Group.

Gordonvale re-affiliated with the C.D.R.L. in 1937 but moved once again to the Babinda League in 1950. By 1956, the Gordonvale Club had under gone a name change and re-joined the Cairns Competition under the name of Southern Suburbs Rugby League Football Club.

General:   From 1950 to 1977, the Cairns District Rugby League had been comprised mostly of the three core Clubs – with a variety of Clubs joining those Clubs over the years. The three core Clubs were Ivanhoes, who came into existence in 1923; Brothers, (previously called Past Brothers and Marist Brothers) ,founded in 1926; and Kangaroos, founded in 1931. In 1956, Gordonvale changed it name to Southern Suburbs Rugby League Football Club and rejoined the Cairns League – and in doing so, became the fourth core Club in the Cairns League.


The Competition comprising the four Clubs was upgraded to six Clubs in 1978 when the Babinda Colts Rugby League Football Club and the Mossman Sharks Football Club joined the Cairns District Competition. The Competition was further upgraded to an 8 Club Competition in 1981 after the demise of the Eacham League and the addition of both Atherton Roosters and the Mareeba Gladiators to the Cairns District Competition.

The Cairns District Competition was further upgraded to a 10 team Competition in 1988 when both the existing

Clubs from Innisfail – Brothers and Uniteds – joined the Competition. Later, in an effort to avoid confusion between Cairns Brothers and Innisfail Brothers in the Competition, Innisfail became to be known as the

Leprechauns – and they changed their blue and white butcher stripes to avoid confusion with Cairns Brothers.

In Innisfail, they rightfully retain their proud and honoured name of Brothers – especially where their Leagues Club is concerned.


The Cairns Competition retained this 10 Club Competition until the end of the 1993 Season with the Innisfail Uniteds Club folded as they were unable to maintain their numbers. As a result, members and players joined ranks with Innisfail Brothers.

The 10 team Competition was maintained with the entry of the Tully Tigers Rugby League Club joining in the 1994 Competition.

A similar fate befell the Babinda Colts Club at the end of the 1999 Season when they too were unable to maintain their player numbers. The Babinda Colts had a high number of players in their teams from the Yarrabah Aboriginal Community – and once the Babinda Colts indicated they would not participate in the 2000 Season, the Yarrabah Community worked on establishing a team, and the Yarrabah Seahawks were accepted into the 2000 Cairns District Competition.

Following a vote of the full Board of the Cairns District Rugby League, the Yarrabah Seahawks were accepted in the CDRL Competition for 2000. As their proposed grounds – Jilara Oval – was not ready, Yarrabah would travel to Barlow Park to host all their home games during 2000. The foundation President of the Yarrabah Seahawks was James Canuto.

Barlow Park

Cairns Leagues Club

Everything was going so well for the C.D.R.L. at the beginning of the 1990’s that they looked to stretch their “corporate” wings and to fill a “void” in the Cairns market. As a result, the Cairns Leagues Club was established in Grafton Street, Cairns. With a flourish, John McDonald, the Chairman of the Queensland Rugby League on Thursday, 2nd September 1993, opened the Leagues Club.

The C.D.R.L. established a separate entity and Board to run the day-to-day operations of the Club. The Chairman of the C.D.R.L. Board became the Chairman of the Cairns Leagues Club Board. The other Members of the Leagues Club Board were not involved with the C.D.R.L. Board, and they were Brian McAtee, Kevin Maher, John O’Brien, Greg Lennon, Rob White and Ross Seabrook as Secretary / Manager.

The first two years of the Club’s operations were fruitful and reasonably profitable. Then the success the Club had enjoyed came to a halt due to the opening of the new Casino in Cairns. The effect on trading not only affected the Cairns Leagues Club but all the Clubs in Cairns.

Timeline of Clubs in the C.D.R.L.

5 Clubs                        1946    Ivanhoes, Kangaroos, Marist Brothers Old Boys (Brothers), Edmonton &     


6 Clubs                        1947    Ivanhoes, Kangaroos, Marist Brothers Old Boys (Brothers), Edmonton,

Gordonvale & Colts.


4 Clubs                        1949    Ivanhoes, Kangaroos, Marist Brothers Old Boys (Brothers) & Southern Suburbs

4 Club              1950    Ivanhoes, Kangaroos, Marist Brothers Old Boys (Brothers) & Uniteds.

(Southern Suburbs OUT  – Uniteds IN)




4 Clubs                        1953 & 1954   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos & Uniteds.

6 Clubs                        1955    Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Uniteds, Edmonton & Mossman.

(Edmonton and Mossman – IN)

6 Clubs                        1956    Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Uniteds, Southern Suburbs & Mossman.

(Edmonton OUT – Southern Suburbs  - IN)


4 Clubs                        1958 to 1977   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos & Southern Suburbs.


6 Clubs                        1978 to 1982   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Babinda & Mossman                               (Babinda & Mossman -  IN)

8 Clubs                        1983 to 1987   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Babinda, Mossman,                                                                     Atherton & Mareeba  

(Atherton & Mareeba  - IN)

10 Clubs          1988 to 1993   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Babinda, Mossman,                                                                    Atherton, Mareeba, Innisfail Brothers & Innisfail Uniteds. 

(Innisfail Brothers & Innisfail Uniteds – IN)


10 Clubs          1994 to 1999   Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Babinda, Mossman,                                                                     Atherton, Mareeba, Innisfail Brothers & Tully. 

(Innisfail Uniteds OUT  - Tully  IN)

10 Clubs          2000                Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Mossman, Atherton,                                                                   Mareeba, Innisfail Brothers (Leprechauns), Tully & Yarrabah. 

(Babinda  OUT  - Yarrabah  IN)

11 Clubs          2006                Ivanhoes, Brothers, Kangaroos, Southern Suburbs, Mossman, Atherton,                                                                   Mareeba, Innisfail Brothers (Leprechauns), Tully, Yarrabah & Edmonton Storm. 

(Edmonton Storm IN )


1.       “Up North – the Foley Shield Story” by Graham Stockwell.  Published by G & P Stockwell 1996

2.       Cairns District Rugby League – Year Book 1979. Published by Dale Publishing Company, Spring Hill.

3.       C.D.R.L.  – 1981 Year Book. Published by Sportsline Promotions, Cairns.

4.       Cairns Rugby Football League – Year Book 1966. Published by John Bell Booth, Townsville.

5.       Rugby League in the Far North – 1962.  Edited & Compiled by Alan Hudson

6.       Rugby League in the Far North – 1961.  Edited and Compiled by Alan Hudson.

7.       The Cairns District Rugby League – Rules, Constitution and General Information – Season 1968.     Published by Apollo Publishing Company.

8.       The Early Years of Rugby League in Cairns.  Written and typed by Mr. Joe Williams.

9.       Review of Microfilm of the Cairns Post  (located at the Cairns City Council Library, Abbott Street, Cairns. )

10.    Interviews with numerous former Rugby League Players and Administrators.


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2018 A Grade

2018 A GRADE
1 Brothers 31
2 Atherton 30
3 Mossman Port Douglas 23
4 Tully 22
5 Brothers Innisfail 21
6 Southern Suburbs 20
7 Kangaroos 18
8 Ivanhoes 16
9 Yarrabah 11
10 Mareeba 6
11 Edmonton 0

2018 Reserve Grade

2018 Reserve Grade
1 Yarrabah 27
2 Mareeba 26
3 Southern Suburbs 26
4 Brothers 24
5 Mossman Port Douglas 24
6 Brothers Innisfail 18
7 Tully 16
8 Kangaroos 15
9 Ivanhoes 14
10 Atherton 8
11 Edmonton 0

2018 U20's

2018 U19
1 Brothers Innisfail 33
2 Brothers 28
3 Atherton 28
4 Ivanhoes 24
5 Kangaroos 21
6 Tully 20
7 Mareeba 20
8 Southern Suburbs 10
9 Edmonton 8
10 Mossman Port Douglas 0
11 Yarrabah 0

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