Our History

Cairns Brothers has a deep-rooted sporting history in Cairns and Far North Queensland, dating all the way back to 1926 when the Cairns Past Brothers Rugby Leagues Club was founded.

Brothers, as sporting organisations, started popping up throughout Queensland from around 1919. They were formed independent of each other by past students of Christian and Marist Brothers Colleges located throughout the State, hence many adopted the term “Past Brothers” in naming their Clubs.  The close friendships formed by those whilst attending the Catholic colleges was the common bond that underpinned these fledgling Clubs and which resulted in them being referred to as, “the Brethren” and/or ‘Fish Eaters’, the latter reflecting the Catholic Church’s requirements at the time for devotees to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Whilst over time the Brothers Clubs became more and more inclusive of the whole community these nicknames including ‘the Fish’ have stuck.

Traditionally, the Clubs wears a predominantly navy or light blue jersey with white butcher stripes (irregular hoops), and the numbers on the backs of the players’ jerseys are normally red or blue on a white background. The Leprechaun mascot is also common to the Brothers Clubs and was chosen to reflect the fact that, initially, most of the Religious Orders teachers (“Brothers”) came from Ireland.

It took until 1975 for the individual Brothers Clubs to decide to form a mutual association which was named the “Brothers Confraternity”.  The inaugural meeting was held at Brisbane Brothers and the second at Cairns Brothers. The Confraternity meets bi-annually with the aim of exchanging knowledge and ideas amongst the various Brothers Clubs throughout the State and its membership today includes:

  • Brisbane Brothers (formed 1929)
  • Bundaberg Brothers (formed 1947)
  • Cairns Brothers (formed 1926)
  • Darwin Brothers (formed 1930)
  • Gladstone Brothers (formed 1930)
  • Innisfail Brothers (formed 1929)
  • Ipswich Brothers (formed 1920)
  • Logan Brothers (formed 1976)
  • Mackay Brothers (formed 1920)
  • Maryborough Brothers (formed 1911)
  • Mt Isa Brothers (formed 1929)
  • Rockhampton Brothers (formed 1918)
  • Toowoomba Brothers (1942)
  • Townsville Brothers (formed 1919)

The Brothers Confraternity boasts some 38 Junior and Senior Clubs with over 7,000 registered rugby league players which demonstrates the significant opportunity and responsibility that Brothers Clubs have in developing the next generation of your Australians.

The Club’s first Premiership winning A Grade side,
then known as Seniors Grade.
The Under 20’s side, known as Junior Grade, won consecutive premierships from 1930-34.
The victorius 1950 Juniors (Under 20’s) team.

Since 1926 Cairns Brothers has played and trained at many and varied sites in the area including the Cairns Showgrounds at Parramatta Park, St Augustine’s Sports Grounds which for many years was located in Lyons Street, and the Cairns Cycle Drome, in Manunda.  In the early days of the Cairns rugby league competition the football clubs held their meetings at cafes in the city, whereas local hotels were the venue for players and supporters to socialise and fundraise for their Clubs. As a result, many publicans played a prominent role on the various Club committees and often this relationship determined which pub the players and their committees would favour.

Brothers created a milestone in CDRL history in 1954 when it became the first of the Cairns football clubs to build its own clubhouse. The White House, as it was known, would be the social home for Brothers players and supporters for another 40 years. The site of that first clubhouse, on the corner of Anderson and English Streets, remains the home of Brothers Cairns to this day, the original white weatherboard building was located in front of the current porte cochère on the English Street side of Brothers World of Entertainment.

In the late 1970’s, the Cairns competition started to expand with Clubs from the regional towns of Atherton, Mareeba, Babinda, Yarrabah, Tully and Innisfail joining the competition.  This expansion led to the introduction of home and away games.  Brothers at that time did not have its own sporting fields to train or play on, so in 1974 it was decided to establish a licensed club for the purpose of raising funds to obtain and develop the required sporting facilities.  Initially known as Brothers Social Club, it became incorporated in 1977 and changed its name to Brothers Leagues Club (Cairns) Ltd.

From very humble beginnings the Club steadily grew and carried out a number of renovations to its Anderson Street premises.  By 1981, the Leagues Club was in a sound financial position and was successful in obtaining from Council the lease of 10 acres of land in Behan Street (an old dump site) for the purpose of developing rugby league sporting fields and amenities.  These facilities comprising 2 full sized rugby league fields, gym, canteen and toilets were completed at a cost of over $600,000 in April 1983 and were named after club stalwart and builder of the complex, Stan Williams.

During this period another significant milestone was achieved in the formation of Brothers Junior Rugby League Football Club (in July 1980).  The fledgling Club fielded 7 teams in 1981 but has today grown to around 300 players between the ages of 5 and 17, making it one of the largest Junior Rugby League Clubs in Cairns and District.

Brothers would become part of Club industry history on 11 February 1992 when it, together with a small number of Brisbane Clubs, became the first to operate poker machines in Queensland.  This would become a real game changer for the Club, resulting in a number of upgrades and property acquisitions adjacent to the licensed facilities in Anderson Street, and eventually culminating in a complete new Club facility opened by the Queensland State Treasurer (at that time), Keith De Lacy, on October 21, 1995.

There have been many challenges faced in the Club’s history to date but these have always been overcome by the dedication and foresight of those involved at each step of the way.  These attributes have been the corner stone of the Club’s past success and are still being demonstrated today as it fast approaches 100 years of involvement in the promotion and development of Rugby League.  

A more detailed history of the Club is available in the publication “Earning Our Stripes – 90 years of Cairns Brothers Rugby League” which covers all facets of the Club’s development between 1926 and 2016.