A partnership that has stood the test of time

It's plastered on corner posts, goalposts pads, behind bars and on fences around the state of Queensland.

The XXXX logo is as equally synonymous with rugby league as it is with Queensland.

Whether it's coach Kevin Walters holding a can in his hand after a gruelling State of Origin contest, or a player from the back of Mount Isa being funded to attend a rural carnival, XXXX's involvement in the sport is all-pervasive.

Inaugural Origin mentor and former Queensland Rugby League chairman John McDonald remembers the early years when the partnership with XXXX first came into effect.

"Particularly at that time, we needed sponsors," the man known fondly as 'Cracker' says.

"You needed the support of a big organisation such as theirs or events simply didn't happen.

"Many of the regional competitions or events you see today became possible or sustainable through the involvement of XXXX.

"More than this being just about signage or money though, it was their willingness to be hands-on and display a genuine interest in how the sport grew that set them apart."

Since 1990, XXXX has invested to the tune of more than $20 million into Queensland Rugby League.

This week the beloved beverage turns 140 years old.

You'll still see the iconic logo on the sleeves of the Maroons' jerseys as they stride into battle, just as you will on hundreds of suburban and regional teams throughout Queensland.

"I guess the real story is the opportunities they provided for rugby league players at all levels of the sport," says McDonald.

"The sport and XXXX have been through some pretty challenging times together.

"Transporting players across a state as large as Queensland is not the cheapest or easiest thing to do, and they've made the vastness of the state seem less than what it really is.

"XXXX has always wanted to be heavily involved and, if you look at Origin, they don't just support the team on the night; It's the functions and activities they help organise before and after that make the team and their families so close-knit."

A central figure in the relationship between XXXX and the QRL has been Peter 'PK' Kirkwood, the omnipresent sponsorship executive who helped prepare the Maroons' dressing rooms for 19 straight years.

PK's 57 Origins is more than any player has managed on the field.

"I've been involved with XXXX for 35 years altogether now, and rugby league has been right at the pulse of our sponsorship," Kirkwood says.

"Rugby league is a big part of being a Queenslander.

"The great synergy between XXXX and Queensland Rugby League is passion. Queenslanders are very passionate about their rugby league in the same way they are passionate about our product."

Kirkwood has some ripping yarns from his time in the Maroons' inner sanctum.

Unsurprisingly they heavily feature the names Lewis and Langer.

"We were in Melbourne in 2006 and had just won the game 16-14, and the team was still making their way off the field," Kirkwood recalls.

"Prime Minister John Howard and his security team walked in and, ever the opportunist and entrepreneur, Allan Langer grabbed a few cold XXXX cans.

"He waltzed over to the PM and gave him a beer and said 'Why don't you celebrate with the team?'.

"There were a few photographers around and they snapped John drinking a XXXX and it ended up going viral."

Kirkwood says he formed a "special relationship" with the Maroons' management staff, but also several players, both former and current.

He says the key was keeping quiet and letting the players focus on the task at hand, while also making sure they were comfortable and not left wanting for anything.

"Another favourite memory of mine was how we would hang the Queensland flag in a special part of the dressing shed each game," says Kirkwood.

"After he retired from playing, Wally Lewis was in the dressing shed as part of his media duties and he saw me taking the Queensland flag down as we cleaned the sheds.

"He came over to help me and I watched the way he held the flag and folded it.

"It was incredibly respectful.

"Through his actions, you could just tell his respect for the flag and the state.

"It triggered something very proud inside of me."

In 2008 Kirkwood also found himself alone with Lewis and Scott Prince in the dressing sheds after Prince had left the field because of a broken arm.

Lewis found a towel and fashioned it into a sling for Prince, while Kirkwood stood by to assist in any way he could.

"The Channel 9 camera in the dressing shed captured the vision and the commentators said something like 'Well, at least the doctor is now attending to him'," reveals Kirkwood.

"They thought I was the team doctor!"

Humorous accounts aside, the relationship between XXXX and the QRL is one that has certainly been through thick and thin.

When the Super League war split allegiances and when the Brisbane Broncos entered the NSWRL, XXXX chose to stick solid with their local leagues.

Rob Moore has been QRL Managing Director since 2011, but also played during the era when XXXX sponsored the Brisbane Rugby League.

He says the ongoing relationship helped forge a greater sense of community in Queensland.

"It is a long association and the length of that arrangement has enabled their support to be spread across Queensland to achieve meaningful progress," says Moore.

"The investment in grassroots rugby league in regional Queensland is what really pleases me most.

"If you look at what we identify with as Queenslanders, rugby league and XXXX are quite central to that.

"Anytime you can help communities feel more connected and inclusive, you're adding to the social fabric."