One of North Queensland’s most loved competitions is back this weekend as the Foley Shield kicks off in Townsville.
Named in honour of Arch Foley – a member of the 1918 Townsville representative team who founded Townsville Souths rugby league club and formed North Queensland Rugby League in 1919 – the inter-region competition began in 1948 after the Carlton Cup was revamped to include more teams; including Cairns, Mackay and the Mid-West (including Mount Isa).
Over the years, it has seen many format changes; including a brief hiatus when the Intrust Super Cup began in 1996, but the highly anticipated event is now played between community league representative teams from Cairns, Townsville and Mackay in a round-robin format, with the winner determined at the end of the long weekend.
New in 2021, the winning region will not only lift the prestigious Shield at the end of the weekend, but they’ll also qualify for the next stage of the XXXX A Grade League Championship – playing off against Central’s 47th Battalion champions in mid-June.
The tradition is always hotly-contested, with plenty of passion and prestige in playing off to be North Queensland’s top rugby league, and despite being put on ice in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an unofficial Foley Shield rivalry was still able to be found in last year’s shortened Rugby League Mackay and District when Townsville Brothers played off against Wests Mackay in the grand final.
The Tigers prevailed, which has no doubt lit the fire in the belly of Townsville Blackhawks coach Roy Baira - who was also in charge of last year's losing Brethren side.
Mackay will head into the contest with a new coach in Steve Jackson after 2019 Foley Shield-winning coach Wayne Barnett relocated to Brisbane to take up the head coaching job at the Normanby Hounds, but despite the change at the helm, the defending champions will be hoping the success continues under the former NRL prop.
Northern Pride representatives Jordan Biondi-Odo and Aidan Day will co-captain the Cairns side when they take to the field for their first match on Saturday, hoping to lean on their Intrust Super Cup experience to upset rivals Mackay and Townsville.
Action commences on Friday night from 7pm with the Mackay Cutters taking on Townsville Blackhawks.
Foley Shield Day 1
2021 Foley Shield Draw
Friday, April 30
7pm: Townsville v Mackay
Saturday, May 1
4.30pm: Cairns v Mackay
Sunday, May 2
12.30pm: Townsville v Cairns (women's development game)
2pm: Townsville v Cairns
Main image: Cairns the Foley Shield. File photo: Maria Girgenti