A celebration of Indigenous Australia will be at the heart of festivities during Thursday’s bumper Round 20 NRL clash between the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys and the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs at 1300SMILES Stadium.
While a vital two competition points will be up for grabs as team three and team four do battle, another prize will be on the line as the Cowboys and Bulldogs contest the 10th annual Reconciliation Cup.
The competition was founded in 2007 to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum when Australians voted to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous Australians.
The inaugural match was part of rugby league’s commitment to Indigenous communities through its Reconciliation Action Plan, with the game being the first sport to make this formal commitment.
The Reconciliation Cup is currently held by the Cowboys, but the Bulldogs have the overall edge, five wins to four.
Continuing the Indigenous theme, the Cowboys will wear specially designed jerseys, with Torres Strait artist Sharon Phineasa responsible for the stunning design, which the artist explained "reflects strongly on the Cowboys’ battle for success in the NRL".
“It’s very colourful and I love the design of the jersey,” said Cowboys five-eighth Michael Morgan.
“I know everyone in the team will be very proud to wear this kit."
While the Cowboys look to maintain their perfect record at home this year, the build-up to the game will feature some special moments recognising Indigenous Australians.
The pre-game show from 7pm will include a Welcome to Country after the National Anthem, followed by traditional Torres Strait Island and Aboriginal dance performances by students from St Teresa's College, Abergowrie and Kirwan State High School respectively.
At NRL half time, match day sponsor Dreamtime Training will feature in an on-field interview and activation, while the Reconciliation Cup presentation will be made on-field at full time.
Gates open at 4.45pm ahead of the Aaron Payne Cup final between Kirwan State High School and Ignatius Park College from 5pm, with the Cowboys-Bulldogs game kicking off at 7.50pm.
The Round 20 NYC game will be played on Saturday 23 July at Jack Manski Oval in Townsville – kick off at 3.30pm.