Newly-minted Queensland Under 19 captain Xavier Va’a will wear the number ‘11’ stitched on his jersey in tonight’s showdown with New South Wales in honour of inaugural Queensland Maroons skipper Arthur Beetson.
The Queensland camp has had a 1980 theme to recognise the successful 1980 Maroons State of Origin side which ensured the prosperity of Origin football with a 20-10 win at Lang Park.
Va’a, signed to the Sydney Roosters, was named as captain on Wednesday night and presented with his special jersey in camp.
Each Queensland player has researched a player from their position in the 1980 Maroons side and each has got up in front of the group to discuss their findings. Va’a was given Beetson to research.
Queensland Under 19 coach Kurt Richards said it was fitting that 18-year-old Va’a be named skipper.
“Xavier is a big presence of a player. He plays tough and will lead from the front at prop,” Richards said.
“He has been diligently researching Arthur Beetson.
“We have had the number ‘11’ stitched on his jersey. It won’t be on his back, but we have arranged for it to be around the Queensland logo, because that is the number Arthur wore in 1980 with the different numbering system they had back then.
“Xavier is a prop and a Rooster, like Arthur was, and a great kid.”
Va'a: ‘We’re going to have to turn up for each other and really rip in’
Va’a, speaking on the weekend before he knew he was to be made skipper, said it was “a massive honour” to be given the assignment of researching Beetson.
“Arthur is a Roosters legend. He was the founding Queensland Origin captain and the first Indigenous captain of a national team in any sport, which was amazing for him and his people,” Va’a said.
“He was a Roma boy, so he represented south-west Queensland. I lived in Toowoomba and Dalby so I know what it is like to represent those proud rugby league people.
“I also found out Arthur was a five-eighth in his younger days before making his way into the front-row. I was also a back when I was younger, before I moved to the front row.”
Richards said the 1980 theme evolved over time. The squad got together for a day a month ago and had Kevin Walters come in and speak to the group.
“Kev was important because he was at the first Origin as a young spectator, he played Origin and he coached Origin,” Richards said.
“The theme of the camp, based around the 1980 team, also explains our captain’s run at Davies Park.
“Not only was Davies Park the first ground rugby league was played in Queensland and the 1980 team trained there as well.
“Wally Lewis spoke about that at the Arthur Beetson statue [in front of Suncorp Stadium] where we first met as a squad. He spoke about who played, what it meant to him and about what Artie did for Origin.
“Our lock forward Luke Jack researched Wally as part of his assignment, and his uncle Greg Vincent played with Wally at Valleys. It is amazing the connections formed through those activities.”
The squad also had Justin Hodges and Greg Inglis come in and talk about the Queensland way.
Va’a said it was “awesome” to hear from Lewis at the start of camp.
“Wally and all those 1980 guys paved the way for what Queensland rugby league is now. We all look up to them,” Va'a said.
“We wear the Queensland jersey with pride and hopefully we will leave it in a better place on Thursday night.”
Va’a was born in American Samoa, before moving to New Zealand when he was two and then to Australia, living initially at Bribie Island before moving to Dalby and Toowoomba.
“I am excited to get out there and represent the people back home on the Sunshine Coast and south-west Queensland,” Va'a said.
“I have a lot of love for those people and I value all the support the community has given me. Now I want to pay them back.”
Va’a is signed at the Roosters until the end of 2024. He is currently playing Jersey Flegg but aims to soon get a run with the North Sydney Bears as part of his development.
“I am loving training with first grade full-time, alongside top-class forwards like Siosiua Taukeiaho, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Lindsay Collins," Va'a said.
“I watched Game One of this Origin series and in my opinion Lindsay was a big key to Queensland’s success.
“I learn so much from him. His principles are always on-point.”
Meanwhile, boom Queensland forward Jack Howarth has also been inspired by the 1980s theme in camp.
“I am researching Rod Reddy,” Howarth said.
“He was from Rockhampton, and I’m from Rocky as well. He was a back-rower like me. He was quick-as. I did a bit of research on him and they called him the ‘Rockhampton Rocket’.
“Looking back at 1980 has been great for us. It ties it all back to where it began and the history of what Queensland is.
“GI [Greg Inglis] came into camp and spoke to us about Queensland and you could tell that he really hates NSW. That’s the mentality you’ve got to have when you are versing them.”
Match: NSW U19s v QLD U19s
Round 1 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval, Sydney