After the establishment of Rugby League in Sydney in 1909, the game slowly made its way south, reaching the Canberra District in the late 1910’s. During those years and into the 1920’s and 30’s Challenge Cup football was the most popular form of competition, with a cup being donated as a prize for a game between 2 teams. The winning team would then have to defend the cup against all challengers. The most notable Challenge Cups in the Canberra region at the time were the Massey and Carr Cups which began in 1930 and 1933 respectively.
The first organised round robin competition was run in 1928 by Federal Capital Territory and District Rugby League. The winners of inaugural competition were the Acton Rovers and the next four years saw four different winners. The competition ran through until 1937 when interest in League began to dwindle.
The Group 8 Premiership began in 1932 and was strong enough to continue while interest in the game waned. Teams from Canberra, Yass, Queanbeyan and Goulburn competed for the title of premiers up until 1941, when all League competitions in the region were suspended due to the war. Competition resumed in 1946, with the Massey and Carr Cups only lasting the one season before being retired, while the Group 8 Premiership continued on strongly and was duly supported by ACT District Rugby League who ran a second division competition.
Some of the teams to compete during this period included Captains Flat, Crookwell, Braidwood, Goulburn Workers, Goulburn United, Queanbeyan and Yass in the Group 8 Competition while in the ACTDRL Second Division competition there were teams such as Ainslie, Causeway, Eastlake, Hall, R.A.A.F, R.M.C, South City and West City.
It was through the Second Division competition that the Molonglo Shield was established, first being played for in 1964 with Harman/NAVY taking out the inaugural title over the Canberra Rovers.
In 1967 Group 8 joined with part of Group 9 to form Group 8/9 or Zone 2. This was due to a CRL boundaries dispute in the Riverina, and saw Harden, Young and Wyangala Dam join the district competition. The Zone 2 format lasted until 1970 when CRL returned the boundaries in the Riverina to their original positions and Group 8 was restored.
In 1974 CRL officially recognised the Molonglo Shield as its own competition and gave it a Group number, Group 19. It was at this point in time that both Group 8 and Group 19 were strong enough to run first and second division competitions. The first division clubs ran firsts, reserves and Under 18’s while the second division sides ran just one team.
Group 8 First Division was comprised mainly of the teams which play Canberra Raiders Cup today, with the addition of Crookwell and Goulburn United. Group 8 Second Division was primarily for towns from around the Goulburn District including Taralga, Marulan, Bigga and Argyle. Braidwood also fielded a side in the competition.
Group 19 First Division comprised teams from around Canberra including Kambah, South Woden, Belconnen United and North Canberra. Batemans Bay also competed in Group 19 until 1977. Second Division was much like George Tooke Shield is today, with teams from Harman, Bungendore, Weston Creek and Captains Flat all competing for the title.
In 1980 Group 19 changed its name to ACTRL while in 1981 Group 8 changed to CDRL. In 1982 CDRL was granted entry into the NSWRL as the Canberra Raiders so the ACTRL took over the running of senior league in the district, combining the two groups to form 3 new competitions. The premier division still played for the Molonglo Shield, while the second division competition was split into North and South according to location within the District. In 1986 the two second division competitions were merged to form the Canberra Cup, which ran through until 1998.
In the meantime, a move by regional towns saw the establishment of the George Tooke Shield in 1995, which was aimed at clubs that wished to field firsts and under 18s but were not competitive enough for Molonglo Shield. In its first year 5 teams competed: East Canberra, Braidwood, Yass, Crookwell and Goulburn Exchange. While the Under 18s side of the competition only lasted 2 years, the George Tooke Shield has continued to expand, 10 clubs now competing for the title.
In 1998, after 35 years, the Molonglo Shield was retired and the Canberra Raiders Cup became the prize the first grade clubs fought for over a season. It is still that way today and the Shield still has its place in the game, awarded to the First Grade Minor Premiers.
Federal Capital Territory and District Rugby League: 1928 – 1937
Group 8 Massey Cup: 1930 – 1946 (No Comp ’41-’45)
Group 8 Carr Cup: 1933 – 1946 (No Comp ’41-’45)
Group 8 Premiership: 1932 – 1966 & 1971 – 1981
Group 8/9 Premiership (Zone 2): 1967 – 1970
ACT District Rugby League: 1946 – 1975
– Played for the Molonglo Shield from 1964
Group 19: 1976 – 1979
– Played for the Molonglo Shield
ACTRL Second Division: 1980 – 1985
– Played for the Molonglo Shield until 1981
Molonglo Shield Premiership: 1982 – 1997
ACTRL ‘D’ Grade: 1982 – 1986
Canberra Cup: 1986 – 1998
George Tooke Shield: 1995 –
Canberra Raiders Cup: 1998 –
Katrina Fanning Shield: 2017 –