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The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys will continue a proud tradition of supporting Indigenous rugby league when they host the third annual Reconciliation Cup between the Cowboys and Bulldogs at Dairy Farmers Stadium tomorrow night.

Coaches Neil Henry (Cowboys) and Kevin Moore (Bulldogs) will meet today with team captains Johnathan Thurston and Andrew Ryan to put aside their rivalry to launch this year’s Cup, which kicks off a round of Indigenous celebrations and activities as rugby league unites to help close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Rugby League is the first national sporting code to join the ‘Close the Gap’ campaign, which is Australia’s largest ever campaign to improve the life expectancy and health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Cowboys Executive Director Peter Parr is appealing to both Cowboys and Bulldogs fans alike to help celebrate rugby league’s proud Indigenous heritage and raise awareness of the challenges faced by Indigenous people growing up in Australia.

“While Indigenous players like Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Bowen and Willie Tonga have bright futures ahead of them, the situation is not the same for all Aboriginal Australians,” Parr says.

“The statistics show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die on average more than a decade before other Australians.

“Closing the Gap is a wonderful initiative and we encourage all rugby league fans and supporters to get behind the cause and give generously to Oxfam to really make a difference.

“It’s an honour and a privilege for the Cowboys to host this year’s Reconciliation Cup, and we’re working on a very special program of appearances and entertainment, as well as some great rugby league, to recognise this important occasion.”

The inaugural Reconciliation Cup was held in 2007 to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum when Australians voted to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Indigenous Australians.

The 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 North Queensland Toyota Cowboys defeated the Bulldogs in what was one of the most entertaining matches of the year, with Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen performing their special brand of rugby league magic.

Opposing them that night was team mate Willie Tonga, who will this week line up against a determined Bulldogs side looking to win the Reconciliation Cup for the first time.

Directly opposite Tonga will be Jamal Idris who, at nineteen years of age, is the latest in a long line of Indigenous athletes to grace the game.

For more information about ‘Close the Gap’, visit Click here to find out more about the Close the Gap Round

Click here to purchase tickets to the Cowboys v Bulldogs clash
Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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