Off the Wall

The death this morning of Arthur Beetson brings to an early and tragic end the career of one of rugby league's finest sons.

He was more than just an immortal; he was a distinguished test player, an outstanding club player, principally with the Roosters, and an Origin pioneer.

He was right to the very end one who put back into the game much more than he took out of it.

Over the last 15 to 20 years, Artie Beetson has joined with the Blues great Tommy Raudonikis to raise probably millions for worthy rugby league causes - for junior football, for retired players, and especially for players and former players suffering debilitating and terminal illness. And he raised a fortune for indigenous players and clubs.

Today and tomorrow his distinguished playing and coaching records will be rightly chronicled.

But I would like to focus on his outstanding charitable and community work, the like of which we may never see again.

The Artie and Tommy double act visited hundreds of communities right across our nation to promote the game and do good works.

He was passionate about the need to strengthen the game in the bush right to the very end.

And just a few months ago Artie and Tommy were in PNG promoting the game - and lapping up the hero status they rightly enjoyed.

The only quality I will remember Artie for was his inherent decency.

On the field, he was as tough as the game produced. He gave no quarter and asked for none.

But, both as a player and his long post-playing career service to the game, I cannot recall one off field blemish.

He held strong views, and he was forthright in expressing them.

He did not curry favor - but he was accorded the games highest status and accolades including Kangaroos Captain, and National Selector, and immortal - wholly on merit.

And, of course, he captained the Maroons with success in the first State of Origin game in 1980 - and then went on to coach the Maroons to Origin success in 1982, 1983, 1984.

He was made an immortal of the game in 2004.

Arthur had another record that won't ever be taken away - he was the first indigenous player in any code to captain the national team.

The game has lost one of its finest sons.

We mourn his passing - and we salute his service to the greatest game of all.

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