The powerful legacy of rugby league Immortal Arthur Beetson on and off the field was driven home at the launch of the 2020 Murri Carnival in Brisbane.
The carnival, now in its 10th year, will be played at Redcliffe's Dolphin Stadium over six days from September 28. Senior men's and women's teams will take part and this year boys will play in under 13, 15 and 17 age divisions and girls in under 15 and 17 age groups.
Purga Wagtails won the senior men's division at last year's carnival and star player Dan West-Pes was on hand at Tuesday's launch next to the Arthur Beetson statue at Suncorp Stadium where he described what the Beetson legacy meant to him. When West-Pes was at school he was a participant in the FOGS ARTIE program which promotes positive outcomes for students by encouraging school attendance and commitment to education.
"I first met Arthur through rugby league carnivals and we were meant to meet him again on the day that he passed away," West-Pes told NRL.com.
"It was a very sad day for all of us but it was good to then be able to celebrate his life and what he did for our people.
"I feel as though he would be really proud of what the Murri Carnival is today. The fact that our people are now all having health checks, I feel as though he would be exceptionally proud of us.
"To win the carnival last year with the Purga Wagtails on behalf of the big fella and on behalf of our mob was a huge honour
"Closing the gap has been one of the biggest things for our mob and the last few carnivals we've been able to learn more about our culture, health and increasing our life expectancy by providing a better lifestyle for our people."
The Murri Carnival is sponsored by the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) and Deadly Choices and is a smoke, alcohol and sugar free event where each participant must undergo a health check to participate.
The carnival was the brainchild of Maroons legend Tony Currie and Beetson and was set up in 2011 to give Indigenous people in Queensland their own carnival after previously teams had to travel to NSW to attend the Koori Knockout.
"The first carnival was held in 2011 and started by Tony Currie when Arthur was alive and involved in it," Arthur Beetson Foundation chairman Steve Johnson told NRL.com.
"TC was in my office in 2011 when we were planning for the coming year when we got word of Arthur's passing... and we couldn't believe it.
"Then the Foundation started and we put the carnival under the name of the Arthur Beetson Foundation and this will be the ninth year under that banner. It gave the Indigenous game the respect it deserved."
The carnivals are fully sanctioned and supported by the Queensland Rugby League so that players have insurance, qualified referees and are conducted in a safe environment.
"It is a good gathering of our mob and in Queensland there is a flow-on effect in the health area," Deadly Choices ambassador Steve Renouf said.
"Because Deadly Choices is involved every participant has to get a health check to play and there have been multiple occasions where people with heart and health problems have been saved.
"We used to send teams to the Koori Knockout but it is good to now have our own carnival. We'd love to have more teams and that is one of the reasons we are launching early."
Current NRL players such as Ash Taylor, Brenko Lee and David Fifita have all played in the carnival and come to prominence through selection in the Under 16 Murri team.
"David Fifita made the Under 16s Murri team twice through the carnival," Renouf said.
"You can see how he has developed since. He was always going to be a really good football player but this carnival has helped him on the way."