Today saw the passing of one of Rugby League's ‘Immortals' and arguably the greatest attacking forward the game has produced Arthur Beetson at just 66 years of age.
Arthur Beetson's Rugby League career began in Roma as a winger and centre. He was spotted by Henry Holloway who quickly moved him to Redcliffe where he was graded at just 16 years old. Beetson was quickly moved into the forwards where he starred in Redcliffe's 1965 Grand Final win. Balmain were quick to sign him up for the 1966 season.
In his first year at Balmain, Beetson earned a place in the deciding Third Test against Great Britain, where he turned in a stellar performance in the first half, setting up two tries and helping Australia to win the Ashes.
In 1967, Beetson was tipped to be a certain selection for the Kangaroo tour, but he was sent off in a City vs Country match and was omitted from the touring squad.
Beetson was one of the best players in the successful World Cup campaign of 1968. At club level he was just as devastating, but was also a constant target which often landed him in trouble on the field. He was pivotal in Balmain's charge to the 1969 premiership, however he was sent off in the Major Semi-Final and his suspension subsequently saw him miss the Grand Final victory.
He played in all three Tests against Great Britain in 1970 but was surprisingly overlooked for the World Cup in England. Beetson's stint at Balmain concluded at the end of the 1970 season and his legendary tenure at Easts began in 1971.
Under the tuteledge of Don Furner, Beetson worked tirelessly on improving his fitness, effectively resurrecting his career. After regaining his place in Australia's World Cup squad in 1972, he toured with the 1973 Kangaroos.
He captained Australia in France in 1973 and against Great Britain in the Second Test in 1974. The transformation from 'lazy forward' to brilliant leader was completed with Easts' consecutive premiership wins in 1974‑75 as well as Australia's ‘World Series' (in 1975) and ‘World Cup' (in 1977) titles.
It was during the 1977 World Cup that Beetson was involved in a controversy when he was omitted from the side to play New Zealand. ARL Chairman Kevin Humphreys refused to accept the squad without Beetson and he was re‑instated. However Beetson chose to follow his conscience and stand down from the match.
After a time as Easts captain‑coach (1977‑78) Beetson left the club to play for Parramatta but his two seasons there were affected by injury. In 1980, at age 35, he captained Queensland in the inaugural State of Origin match. Beetson turned back the clock to lead his home state to victory. Beetson returned to Brisbane to captain-coach Redcliffe in 1981, before taking on coaching duties for the Queensland Origin team, leading them to success in 1981‑84.
Beetson's short time as Australian coach (2 Tests) ended with the loss to NZ in Brisbane at Lang Park in 1983. He continued coaching at Easts (1986‑89) and Cronulla (1992-93) with mixed fortune.
In 1987, Beetson was awarded the Dally M Coach of the Year title. He also received an OAM that year for services to the game.
After he was sacked as coach from Cronulla in 1993, Beetson hung up his coaching duties and moved into player recruitment at Easts. He had one last brief stint as coach at the Roosters, when he took over as caretaker coach after the resignation of Mark Murray.
In 2002, Arthur Beetson was named Australian Rugby League's seventh ‘Immortal'. He was named captain of the Indigenous Rugby League Team Of The Century in 2002, inducted into the ARL Hall of Fame in 2003, was named as one of the 100 greatest players in the Australian game and listed at Prop in the Australian, Queensland, Balmain and Easts teams of the century in 2008.
In fact, the list of accolades accredited to Beetson is much longer, but if you were one of the fortunate people to ever have a chat with Artie, you'd know that he loved the game and while the accolades and awards were always nice, it was his mates he played for.
He was a great contributor to the Aboriginal community, as well as to grassroots Rugby League. He was never afraid to speak his mind and take an unpopular stance for the betterment of the game. His work in helping establish State of Origin is a testament to his passion for the game and its future. The fact it succeeded so quickly and so enormously shows he wasn't all brawn either, he was also a very astute man.
Arthur Beetson, you were a man with a heart of gold, who was equally amazing as a footballer as he was a human. You will be sorely lost, but you will, and can never be forgotten.