Prior to 1948 an inter-town competition known as the Carlton Cup was contested in North Queensland. This was revamped, and renamed in honour of Arch Foley, a member of the 1918 Townsville representative team that travelled north to Cairns, and south throughout Central Queensland. He was a founding member of the Townsville Souths rugby league club, and with later Australian Prime Minister Arthur Fadden formed the North Queensland Rugby League in 1919.
In 1948 the competition was structured into a Northern Zone (Cairns, Babinda, Tully and Eacham) and a Southern Zone (Mackay, Ayr and Townsville). The following year, a Central Zone (Herbert River, Charters Towers and Home Hill) was added. The grand final was played in Townsville, and was a highlight of the rugby league calendar.
The Foley Shield continued to be held annually until the introduction of the state-wide Queensland Cup competition in 1996. In 2000 the competition was reinstated, and was contested by Cairns, Mackay and Townsville.
In an attempt to re-invent the competition and renew the tradition and passion in the shield, Mount Isa, with the Mid-West league, (Mount Isa-Mid West) and Innisfail-Eacham returned to the competition and Cape York/Torres Strait joined the competition, and the Shield was played as a round robin at the Townsville Sports Reserve over the Easter weekend in 2009. In 2010, the competition was moved to the Labour Day Long Weekend, with a preliminary round played in regional centres over the Anzac Day Long Weekend.
In 2011, the competition moved to the 20th to 22 May to be played in Townsville, with no preliminary round played. Townsville will split into two zones, Townsville City and Townsville Country. This brings the Townsville district in line with their Juniors, who found the move successful. This has followed the lead of Cairns who split. into Cairns and Innisfail-Eacham. Also, the re-introduction of Bowen to the Foley Shield (Formerly part of Whitsunday) who will combine with Palm Island, who play a 7 team A-Grade Competition. They will be known as Bowen-Palm Island. Mount Isa-Mid West will be known as Northern Outback, and Cape-Torres will be known as Remote Areas Rugby League. (RARL)