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‘Watching dad play football, I loved watching him play the game’

Dear Queenslanders,

Being a Queenslander, it’s a great privilege.

Being born here and raised, I think it’s the greatest state in Australia. Just a beautiful place to live. A beautiful place filled with beautiful people.

I’m pretty lucky, I live on the Sunshine Coast. Coming from Roma, I love the diversity of the bush to the sea. The different landscapes we’ve got. And the different people. Queensland people just love having a sit down and having a yarn... they’re open. Being involved with football, The Arthur Beetson Foundation Murri Carnival and the Outback Challenge, I get to meet a lot of people and talk to a lot of people. It’s a really great part – the best part – of rugby league… the people.

Obviously, for me, someone raised around rugby league, and then being part of it myself, playing as a younger person, and having my father Arthur Beetson being an icon in rugby league, it’s a great thing for me and our family to be involved in and it’s something I’m very proud of.

Knowing what dad achieved in the game that I love, the legacy he left, is something special. Being able to help kids, give the love you have for the game to them, help them… that’s what it’s all about for me and my family.

1 - Artie runs out as a Queenslander

State of Origin, for me, as a kid, was pretty big obviously. I was 14 on the night dad led out the Queensland team in 1980. 

The night they retired dad’s jersey, my son and my brothers’ boys got to lead the team out. That was a truly special occasion. I think my son is probably starting now, to understand it. To understand what that means. He’s playing under 18s. Not at the moment, because of COVID-19, unfortunately, but he plays. He loves his football. That was a massive event for our family.

It’s a big event for our whole family, State of Origin. We all love football, us four boys, we all love it. And most of our kids love it as well.

Watching dad play football, I loved watching him play the game. I still do. It really reinforces to me how special dad was when people I admire and other legends of the game like Wally, Mal and Gene all hold dad in such high esteem.

Obviously I am very honoured to be his son. I’m very proud of what he achieved as a footballer… not only what he achieved as a footballer though. I think he understood the power of the game to help implement change in society.

As an Indigenous leader, he used the vehicle of rugby league to help our people. Obviously our whole family, myself and my brothers, we’re all very proud of what dad achieved.

Jack Beetson represented the Queensland Under 16 Murri team in 2018. Photo: NRL Images
Jack Beetson represented the Queensland Under 16 Murri team in 2018. Photo: NRL Images

We know how hard it was for him coming from the bush, being an Indigenous kid, back in the 60s, growing up in a western Queensland town in a different world than what we live today.

Roma is a rugby league-mad place and it’s not a bad place to grow up, but what he was able to achieve during the different attitudes of that day to what it is now... it would have been hard to open a few doors. But his talent and strength of mind to achieve what he did achieve, the drive it took him to get there, is something we’re all really proud of.

Rugby league, it teaches you great lessons… the self-discipline and toughness it takes to play the game, it teaches you about mateship and the qualities of people, working together for a common goal. It brings the best out in everyone, when you’re out there together. It teaches kids about mateship and the bonding. It’s not all about winning. It’s about the process of going through training and all the hard work you do to get out on the field. I think the longer you’re in the game, the more you realise that. Kids probably don’t realise, when they’re doing it, what it’s teaching them. It teaches lessons people don’t always get nowadays. It taught me a lot of stuff and helped me as a kid. Definitely.

Rugby league, it brings people and communities together. We run the Murri carnival through dad’s foundation, The Arthur Beetson Foundation and our partners The Institue of Urban Indigenous Health and Quiac and the QRL. That’s a full community process to get teams to the MRC. With communities right across Queensland, the whole community is involved in raising money to get the teams to come to the event.

They do something similar at my club at Nambour. I was president of Nambour for four years. Every year, I think they’ve been doing it for 28 years, they send a side to Sydney. An under 13 side. That’s a year-long process to get that team there, raising money. That’s all the parents getting in and doing car washes and barbecues at Bunnings. It’s a community event that touches a whole lot of people through town. It’s very good for small towns.

Presenting an award at the Queensland Murri Carnival in 2019. Photo: Jackson Canuto
Presenting an award at the Queensland Murri Carnival in 2019. Photo: Jackson Canuto

State of Origin brings all Queenslanders, all communities, together in this same way.

I was actually reading a thing about State of Origin the other day… just the process of Queensland getting beaten for I don’t know how many years it was, a long time, and not being able to win a game against New South Wales that was littered with Queensland players, and then the process of getting State of Origin together. And then the pride of the Queenslanders actually winning.

The whole state has got behind it. Everyone is really proud of the Queensland rugby league side. The whole state is proud.

I think Kevie and the guys that do bush tours, I think that’s a great thing for the bush. The bush loves rugby league. Everyone does, but especially out there.

Queenslanders… we’re passionate and one-eyed. One-eyed and passionate. One of my brothers works for New South Wales Rugby League. It’s awkward, but fun… there is plenty of banter and sledging come Origin time. We love it.

My brother, he was born down there. Born in Balmain, so born and bred in Balmain when dad was down there. He’s a mad Balmain supporter. The other three of us are all Roosters and Queensland supporters.

Arthur Beetson with Mal Meninga. Photo: QRL archives
Arthur Beetson with Mal Meninga. Photo: QRL archives

The grandkids are split – New South Wales supporters and some Queensland supporters. It can be funny during games. FOG #1 has grandkids that wear blue come Origin time… it’s funny. I think one of the grandkids has converted.

My son, he’s a Queenslander. Obviously he knew dad pretty well because we used to go and see him a fair bit. Yeah, he knows how big of a deal dad was. Dad is.

It’s pretty hard being in rugby league and not knowing who Arthur Beetson is in Queensland. And even in New South Wales. He’s held in equal reverence down there because of what he did with the Roosters and Balmain and Australia. He’s not only just in Queensland.

I can remember being in Tasmania and getting a cab there, handing the credit card over and the bloke said ‘oh Beetson… are you related to Artie?’ In Tasmania. Of all places.

I think rugby league, for dad, was something he was very proud of. I think it was a great honour for him to lead Queensland on that night. I know when you’re that proud about something, it shows.

The people that played with him that day, obviously they all knew about that. Their legacy, dad’s legacy, has been passed down through those guys that were his team mates.

I was only 14. I’d like to say I wasn’t drinking but I was probably having a few beers. I have been to a lot of games over the years. For me, being someone who loves rugby league, being his son, and the availability of being able to get to games, has been something else.

David Fifita joined with Keiron Lander to present Queensland Under 16 Murri player Brayden Duffy with his jersey in 2019. Photo: QRL
David Fifita joined with Keiron Lander to present Queensland Under 16 Murri player Brayden Duffy with his jersey in 2019. Photo: QRL

I think the future of Queensland is looking pretty rosy with guys like David Fifita. I know David is a big fan of dad. I showed David a lot of videos of dad when he was a young fella, when he was 14. He’s a great talent. Other guys coming through, young Tino and guys like that…there’s a great future for Queensland rugby league.

As a state, we love rugby league. I think it’s the home of rugby league, Queensland. Origin is not quite a religion, but it’s almost there.

It’s part of Australian culture now, State of Origin. It’s up there with the Melbourne Cup and things like that, Australia Day. State of Origin is at that level. The game has done a great job of promoting it. And getting it to that level. We, as a people, really bought into the process of Origin and what it’s all about.

You can never sit on the fence with Origin. I always say ‘you can’t change sides’. If NSW, you can’t change… we don’t want you.

I think Origin this year will be massive. Going through what the country, and the world, has gone through, I think Origin will be a massive thing for this country. Hopefully restrictions will be lifted and it can be what it is, fully. It would be sad to reduce Origin to a game without a big crowd. It deserves more than that.

I want to say a big thank you to the QRL and all Queenslanders. As a family, we’re just really proud of what dad achieved. Thanks to all Queenslanders for supporting him throughout his life. And to everyone, who throughout his life, who helped him. And to those who continue to support the game. Rugby league is playing a big part in people’s lives at the moment because there’s not a lot going on.

Arthur Beetson congratulates Darren Lockyer. Photo: QRL archives
Arthur Beetson congratulates Darren Lockyer. Photo: QRL archives

For dad, rugby league was all about the people who supported the game and the love he had for the contest. I have been lucky enough to meet Wally, Mal, Gene, Choppy  and guys like that. I think they were all really close, those guys. He meant a lot to those guys and they all meant a lot to him.

In 1980, they were doing something that hadn’t been done before. So when you’re doing something that hasn’t been done, you’re creating a pathway. It’s a big thing dad was proud of. That all of those players should be proud of.

From this Queenslander to all other Queenslanders… up the mighty Maroons.

Kind regards,

Brad Beetson

Son of FOG #1 Arthur Beetson  

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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