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From the iconic bronze statue outside Suncorp Stadium to the echoes of his epic Origin deeds inside, Arthur Beetson’s legacy will loom large on Sunday as the Dolphins take their first steps onto rugby league’s biggest stage.

Almost 43 years have passed since Big Artie led the Maroons into the Lang Park cauldron for the first ever State of Origin clash, but memories of that night live on for all those who witnessed it live, watched in on TV or have heard the tales retold of Arthur riding roughshod over the Blues.

The most wondrous of all one-game wonders, Beetson ensured Origin would be no flash in the pan as he delivered a masterclass in passion to the young Queenslanders lucky enough to share the field with him on July 8, 1980.

A year later, Beetson captain-coached Redcliffe Dolphins to the Brisbane Rugby League grand final against Souths on that same sacred patch of turf.

Looking to deliver his Dophins their first premiership since 1965 in his last match, 36-year-old Beetson was denied the fairtyale by a miraculous late try to Souths winger Mick Reardon, but he would no doubt have revelled in the BRL titles that would come Redcliffe’s way in 1994, ’96 and ’97.

Since 1998 when the competition became known as the Queensland Cup, the Dolphins have been a powerhouse winning six premierships, the most recent coming in 2018.

Remembering an Immortal: Arthur Beetson

For Chris ‘Choppy’ Close, who ran out alongside Beetson for the inaugural Origin match and was part of the 1981 Dolphins team, memories of the Immortal and his ability to motivate his men will never fade.

From a few carefully chosen words to his young charges before Origin One to some unorthodox training methods at Redcliffe, Beetson had an aura reserved for a special few in the game’s history.

“Arthur gathered us all in a circle and he looked us all in the eye. He spoke purposefully and he said, ‘Put your hand up if you think you can’t beat these guys [New South Wales]. They’ve got two arms and two legs exactly the same as you. If you don’t think you can win, then I don’t think you need to stay here’,” Close recalled in Rugby League Week’s special tribute to Beetson after his passing in 2011.

“He was 35 and I was 21 at the time. When he said those words something struck deep inside me. I thought: ‘I’m not going to let you down’. That is where the platform was laid.”

History shows Close let no one down in a man of the match performance in Queensland’s historic 20-10 victory over Tommy Raudonikis’ Blues, a feat he repeated in the second Origin match a year later, won 22-15 by the Maroons under Beetson’s coaching.

Footballing educations don’t come much better than having an Immortal mentor you at club and interstate level and that’s where Close found himself in 1981.

Artie Legacy Medal to honour the late Arthur Beetson

“I couldn’t get enough of Arthur Beetson. He was just a person that I wanted to be around,” Close continued in Rugby League Week.

“He took us from being boys to being men and he had a unique way about him.

“He did things that nobody would have the courage to even attempt and that would be frowned upon today.

“We’d train on a Saturday morning for our last session of the week [for the Dolphins]… and we’d all go back to the Moreton Bay Hotel which he owned. He had a table tennis table in the beer garden and he had an enormous caterers pot that he’d make up full of tea.

Dolphins v Roosters: Round 1

“He’d send two or three of us down to the bakehouse to get cream buns and cakes and we’d have a morning tea party while we had a round robin of table tennis. These things just don’t happen now but everybody wanted to be with him and around him.”

It’s a fair bet cream buns and cups of tea won’t be part of Wayne Bennett’s training sessions this week for the Dolphins’ NRL debut, but the nods to Beetson are sure to be many.

In his autobiography ‘Big Artie’, written in conjunction with renowned journalist and author Ian Heads, Beetson revealed it was his dream to see the Dolphins play the Roosters in the NRL.

After launching his career with five seasons at Balmain it was the Bondi club where Beetson joined forces with Jack Gibson to mastermind back-to-back premierships in 1974-75.

Widely regarded as one of the finest club teams ever assembled, the Roosters side included Ron Coote, Russell Fairfax, Ian Schubert, John Brass, John Peard, Mark Harris and Bill Mullins.

All match-winners in their own right, all moulded into an unstoppable machine by Artie and the Supercoach, putting an exclamation mark on two seasons of dominance with a stunning 35-0 demolition of the Dragons in the ’75 decider.

Beetson’s lifelong devotion to Eastern Suburbs included stints as captain-coach and coach, as well as a talent scout of the highest order, discovering Justin Hodges, Chris Flannery, Michael Crocker, Shannon Hegarty and Anthony Minichiello to name a few.

Artie Beetson crashes over for a try during his playing days at Redcliffe.
Artie Beetson crashes over for a try during his playing days at Redcliffe.

Just as wide-eyed youngsters like Meninga, Close and Lewis had thrived under his tutelage back in Queensland, so too a generation of rookie Roosters would hang every word delivered by the first Indigenous Australian to captain Australia in any sport.

“My life changed forever when I was lucky enough to be discovered by Arthur Beetson, who invited me to trial for the Roosters,” Minichiello said.

“I was playing footy for East Valley United when a scout came up to my mum and asked if she had any tapes of me and another kid in our team.

“Mum used to film every game so she said, ‘One of them is my son and I have heaps of tapes’. She gave a tape to the scout and he gave it to Artie and I was asked to join a two-day camp at Narrabeen, where players from around NSW were having a crack.

Arthur Beetson tribute

“I was lucky enough to be offered a two-year contract at the Roosters and that was the start of a wonderful friendship with Artie. He was a great man and he just had an aura about him when he spoke.

“In my first season back in 1997, Artie became a really good mate of mine and I could go to him for advice and other things.

“He’s ingrained in the DNA here at the Roosters without a doubt.”

Like so many who knew Artie personally and so many more who marvelled at his achievements, Minichiello will turn his attention to Suncorp Stadium on Sunday when Beetson’s dream is realised and the Dolphins and Roosters clash, with the player of the match to be awarded the inaugural Artie Legacy Medal.

The Beetson family will take centre stage ahead of kick-off to talk about Artie's legacy, his grandchildren will deliver the match ball ahead of kick-off and the family will also present the medal.

“We believe this player of the match award will become an honour that will be sought by those on the field, and recognizes all of the amazing things that Arthur did for not only the game of rugby league, but as a role model for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples," said Dolphins chief executive Terry Reader.

For Dolphins skipper Jesse Bromwich, the chance to be part of making Beetson’s dream a reality looms as another magic moment in a stellar 295-game career.

“I know how much he means to the rugby league community and especially the Indigenous boys, he’s super special to them, so I’d love to go out there and play the game in a way that he would be proud,” Bromwich said.

It’s a sentiment that will be shared by players and coaches from both sides as the NRL showcases its future and honours its past at the home of Queensland rugby league on a very special Sunday afternoon.


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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