RIP Arthur Beetson (1945 – 2011)

Arthur Beetson Rugby League great has died this morning after suffering a heart attack on the Gold Coast. Beetson, 66, was reported to be riding his bike at Paradise Point, when witnesses said he suffered severe chest pains and ambulance officers were called to treat him at the scene.

Arthur will be sorely missed in the Rugby League world and the staff at WA Rugby League are grateful we got the chance to work alongside him on multiple occasions, just recently in March and April 2011, at the Birth of Origin regional shows tour.

Beetson was Queensland’s first State of Origin captain in 1980, and coached the Maroons to series wins from 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1989. He was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2003. Born in Roma, he represented Queensland and Australia from 1964 to 1981. The first Indigenous Australian to captain his country, he went on to play 29 Tests between 1966 and 1977. He made his first grade debut with the Redcliffe in 1964 and after two seasons in the Brisbane competition he  joined the Balmain Tigers. He was instrumental in the Tigers run to the 1969 premiership, even though he did not play in the grand final against South Sydney due to suspension. After he left the Tigers in acrimonious circumstances in 1970 he linked with Eastern Suburbs, winning two premierships in 1974-75 before ending his Sydney career with Parramatta. He returned to end his playing career with Redcliffe in 1981. He later coached Australia, Queensland, the Roosters, Redcliffe and the Cronulla Sharks. In February 2008, Beetson was named in a list of Australia’s 100 Greatest Players (1908-2007) which was commissioned by the NRL and ARL to celebrate the code’s centenary year in Australia. Beetson went on to be named in the front-row in Australian Rugby League’s Team of the Century.

Beetson was one of just seven Immortals, alongside Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton, Reg Gasnier, Wally Lewis, Graeme Langlands and Johnny Raper. In recent years, he spent many years as a recruitment officer for sides in NSW and Queensland.

Our thoughts at the WA Rugby League go out to Beetson’s family and close friends.