Arch Foley and the Foley Shield
Notable North Queensland Firsts
1915 First time the majority of Queensland team from North Queensland – nine players chosen
1920 First North Queensland player to be picked for a Test match – Harry ‘Mucker’ Fewin (playing for Brisbane Carltons at the time)
1921 First time the reigning Bulimba Cup champions beaten by a team from North Queensland – Townsville defeated Toowoomba twice
1928 First Great Britain side touring side to play North Queensland
1950 First Test player to coach in the Foley Shield competition – Pat McMahon, Babinda, 1950
1963 – 1965 First hat-trick of Queensland State Championships – North Queensland
Arch Foley, the man whom the Foley Shield is named after, was born in Townsville. In 1914, his club, Souths (Townsville), switched from rugby union to rugby league and was one of the teams in the first game ever played in the Townsville rugby league competition. Career highlights were captaining his club team to three premierships and representing Queensland.
After Arch retired as a player in 1922 he continued to be involved in the game he loved. In 1927 he made the incredibly magnanimous decision to mortgage his home to help build a grandstand at the Townsville Sports Reserve, and was also instrumental in helping to arrange a match between North Queensland and the visiting 1928 Great Britain team, the first time that Great Britain had ventured that far north.
Due to his outstanding contribution and service to rugby league as a player, coach and administrator, the trophy for the North Queensland inter-town annual competition changed from the Carlton Cup to the Arch Foley Shield in 1948.
Playing in the Arch Foley Shield
It can be argued that North Queensland rugby league players and fans are the most passionate in the world. The North Queensland Rugby League covers about one-third of the State and they often had to travel hundreds of kilometres to play in or watch a game.
In the early days, travelling to games on long-distance ‘excursion trains’ was an event in itself, and it was common for hundreds of supporters to travel with their team overnight. The return journey was scheduled to get the travellers home in time for breakfast.
Up until 1993, teams played the final of the Arch Foley Shield at the Townsville Sports Reserve and there was always a carnival-like atmosphere. Each district would nominate their fastest runners for the $100 sprint race and there was also the ‘Magic Mile’. The passion that the public developed for the Foley Shield competition ensured rugby league became the number one sport in North Queensland.