Museum mounts heritage display for rugby league fans 120 years after sport was founded

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On August 19, 1895, 22 northern rugby clubs broke away from the English Rugby Union in a bid to go professional.

They formed the Northern Rugby Football Union and within years, changed the rules of the game to create rugby league as we know it today.

1/8/15  David Hinchliffe Chairman of the Trustees for the National Coal Mining Museum looking at the   rugby boots of  Brian Bevan an Australian player in the 1950's  part of  the Rugby League Cares Heritage Tour  which was at The National Mining Museum near Wakefield over the weekend. (GL1006/73f)

1/8/15 David Hinchliffe Chairman of the Trustees for the National Coal Mining Museum looking at the rugby boots of Brian Bevan an Australian player in the 1950's part of the Rugby League Cares Heritage Tour which was at The National Mining Museum near Wakefield over the weekend. (GL1006/73f)

Nearly 120 years on, the sport is one of the most popular in the country.

To mark the anniversary, a rugby league heritage exhibition has gone on display at the National Coal Mining Museum for England.

It delves into the origins of the sport, beginning with its birth at The George Hotel in Huddersfield, when the founding clubs announced their split.

Organised by charity Rugby League Cares, it explores themes including links between the sport and coal mining, the world cup, rugby league abroad and the sport’s fans.

It also examines the sport’s first female and black players.

Among its impressive collection of memorabilia are Brian Bevan’s boots and the ball from the 1954 Challenge Cup replay final. Visitors can also watch footage of key games from across the decades.

Former Wakefield MP, museum trustee and lifelong rugby league fan David Hinchliffe officially opened the exhibition on Saturday, with the sport’s all time record scorer Neil Fox and rugby league historian Professor Tony Collins.

Darran Crowd, collections’ officer at the museum said: “The links between coal mining and sport are many and varied. The museum is proud to be a partner of Rugby League Cares, uniting the history of coal mining and rugby league.”

The display will run until August 21.