Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Vale: Arthur Beetson (2011)

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.

Mad Monday - Players taking a dive (2008)

The NRL is to blame for all of the dives and ‘cat’ like behaviour seen in the game today.


Because they’ve made an abomination of the games rules. The rules were once clear cut, black and white. There was no conjecture over their interpretations. In fact, there were no interpretations, they were that clear cut.

Nowadays they’ve taken well defined rules, made them guidelines; took all of the black and white and made it all grey. This overwhelming mass of grey area has left the door wide open for every player, coach, man and dog to complain about some aspect of the game, which in turn leads to the NRL adding another rule with several variations and interpretations.

The governing body of this game seems to have forgotten that Rugby League is a contact sport. People will get hurt, accidents do happen. As it stands, accidents are outlawed, unless they were unintentional accidents, but that depends entirely upon what day of the week the incident happened and whether the player being charged is in line for rep duties or not.

Consequently, players are taking dives and milking penalties, not because they are soft, but because they can due to the amount of infringements in the game. Rugby League has always been the faster, more free-flowing version of Rugby; however all of these constant additions and tweaking of rules is making the game so technical that it will soon be like watching American Football. Stop. Start. Stop. Start. Everyone run off and discuss the next tactic. Start. Stop. Let’s all have an expensive ad break.

This is not what people want. They want their game. A fast game where the better team that wins is the team with more skill, not the team that knows the rule book and how to execute dives at the right time to get match changing penalties and the like.

At the end of this season, the rules, especially regarding tackling, should get a complete overhaul.

Presently, the International Laws of Rugby League has seven pages of laws dedicated to tackling, more than any other section.

These should be replaced by the following:
Rule 1: There are 6 tackles to each set. When you tackle, you are not allowed to strike an opponent in the head. At all. EVER.
Rule 2: You must not ‘spear’ a player into the ground head first.
Rule 3: You may strip the ball in a one-on-one tackle.

This will soon sort out the men from the boys and will get rid of stupid penalties which do nothing but slow the game down and allow diving to creep into the game. It’s up to the NRL and its head honcho’s to do the right thing by our game for once.

Mad Monday - The Independent Commission (2012)

In February this year, after 18 months of negotiating, Rugby League in Australia finally got itself an Independent Commission to govern the game.

The committee is set to be the new governing body as the marriage between the NRL (the former governing body) and News Ltd (The parasites whose disregard for the game saw a bastardised version of it created, all but decimating near 90 years of hard work) comes to an end.

Its sole purpose is to be ideally, separate from the main competition, the media outlets and every other aspect of the game. A level headed adjudicator essentially.

And so we say adios to a bunch of newspaper businessmen running the game and move into a new era, where the game is governed by the following people:

- Company owner of Data#3 and 1972 Australian World Cup player, John Grant
- Company founder and chairperson of Harris Farm markets, Catherine Harris
- Company chairman of CSR, Jeremy Sutcliffe
- Chief Financial officer and executive director of Leighton Holdings, Peter Gregg
- Former Chairman of QANTAS and the Sydney Olympic Games Committee, Gary Pemberton
- Commentator, former test-player and owner of his own Management Consultancy Company, Wayne Pearce
- Brand Strategist, Ian Elliott
- Indigenous education leader, Dr Chris Sarra

Now I say this with absolutely no disrespect to the people listed above, but how much different is this new committee from that which previously ran the NRL?

6 Business owners/executives, a doctor and a brand strategist.

Another issue with this committee is the guidelines already put in place. Every NRL team has a voice in how the game is run, and rightfully so.

However, the CRL, NSWRL and QRL only have one voice each. These three organizations govern umpteen more teams and players at grassroots level than the 16 NRL clubs do. Essentially what we have here is the NRL clubs dictating how the game is run.

Over the past 14 years the NRL has failed to stand up and defend the game against the media, the disgraceful handling of the game by the primary broadcaster channel 9 and the AFL encroaching into Rugby League's heartland. Some NRL Clubs are struggling financially, players jumping codes for unheard of wages in Australian sport and players moving to England to compete in the Super League.

The whole time, the NRL was focused solely on business and how to make money while doing little listening at all to the hordes of complaints from clubs, players and most importantly, the fans.

The structure of the Independent commission appears to be following a similar path.

Just one simple example is the disregard for people who don't live near their teams' home ground.

A Melbourne Storm fan, living in Melbourne can buy a General Admission membership for $130, giving them access to 12 home games and the usual merchandise.

A Wests Tigers ‘Out-of-towners' membership is $110 and has the same quantity of merchandise and one home game ticket.

Yet the NRL and now the Independent commission has kept silent about this.

In Melbourne last year, channel 9 showed one Melbourne Storm regular season game, two Origin games, Melbourne Storm's finals appearances and a shortened screening of the Grand Final live (no pre-match or post-match shows, no telecast even of the awards ceremony). Every other game and every episode of the Thursday night Footy Show were shown near to midnight and went on through til the early hours of the morning.

The NRL did nothing about this.

And in Round 1, 2012, it happened again. And again nothing was said or done.

This Independent Commission is taking the game further away from the fans and grassroots rugby league.

At least it was possible to contact the NRL. Try and find contact details for the 8 commissioners above other than via their individual companies.

There needs to be a lot of work done and quickly by this new mob, otherwise the game will continue to be mismanaged by business people who have no idea how to govern a sporting organization.

Mad Monday - The Draft Debate (2012)

This week saw the signing of current Dragons player Beau Scott by Newcastle for 4 years, commencing in 2013.

This absurd signing is made less so by the fact that the Roosters last year signed James Maloney from the Warriors, effective in 2013 as well.

These are a string of mid-season signings that have brought about the ire of many a league fan over many years of late, so much so that it has raised the old issue as to whether there should be a draft.
Talks of a draft in Rugby League have always been quickly stopped by the NRL who simply say "Terry Hill", which has always been met with the same eerie silence as the term "Superleague".

In 1991, Terry Hill was drafted by Easts. He didn't like the decision and contested it in court, and won. The draft in Rugby League died and has never been back.

However the time is now right. The climate for a draft in 1991 was not right. Player wages back then were not that good, unless you were one of the few elite players. Everyone else had to have jobs outside of Rugby League. Just recently I saw an old game on TV between Norths and Wests in 1991. When they focussed on a player they had the usual player career stats as well as that players occupation.

An argument made today about the draft concept and why it shouldn't be introduced is because it means players won't be allowed to play for the team in the area they played their junior footy, or where they grew up.

At first look, its a fair call. But when you look a little deeper, you soon see that it is absurd.

Only 5 of the 16 teams have at least half of their 25-man NRL squads who played junior footy in the area of the NRL team they currently represent. Approximately 38% of NRL players are juniors of the team they currently represent.

Thus putting an end to that nonsense argument.

The NRL needs a draft. Player contracts were once iron clad, not so much legally, but because players were not interested in changing clubs that often. Now its such a frequent occurrence that it no longer matters to fans where a player comes from. Loyalty is a dying tradition which is why its celebrated so much more passionately now.

Bring in the draft, players are happily changing clubs all the time, even a year before their current contract ends. It will be better for the game and it would also help further even out the competition and make the most of all of the games juniors nurseries.