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Arthur Beetson: The Entertainer

Arthur Beetson: The Entertainer

An entertainer both on and off the field, Arthur Beetson - affectionately known as 'Big Artie' - was a catalyst for the Club's turnaround in fortunes in the 1970s, and is revered as one of the greatest players of them all. 

Growing up in Roma, Queensland, Beetson developed his ball-playing craft as a five-eighth in his teenage years, making his first-grade debut at Redcliffe in the Brisbane Rugby League scene and successfully transitioning to the forwards after claiming the Premiership.

Making his name in Sydney soon after, Beetson became an Australian representative but was known for his poor training ethic, and while his ability at times sparked memorable victories for the Kangaroos, a controversial ending to his time at Balmain saw the future Immortal's career at a crossroads in 1970.

Name: Arthur Henry Beetson
Nickname: Artie
DOB: 22/01/1945
Club Debut: Round 2, 1971 vs Manly-Warringah
Roosters Player No. 615
First-Grade Games for Club: 131 (1971-1978)
First-Grade Points for Club: 51 from 17 tries
Premierships: 2 (1974, 1975)
Representative Career: 7 games for City Firsts
1 game for City Seconds
2 games for City vs Country
2 games for Combined Brisbane
1 game for Sydney
17 games for NSW Interstate Series
1 game for NSW Touring Sides
3 games for Queensland State of Origin
28 Tests and World Cup matches for Australia
19 Tour Matches for Australia
Individual Accolades: First Indigenous Player to Captain Australia in Any Sport (1973)
Clive Churchill Medal (1974)
RLW Player of the Year (1974)
NSW Sports Star of the Year (1975)
NSWRL Player of the Year (1976)
NSWRL Coach of the Year (1987)
No.16 Ranked Rugby League Week's Top 100 Players (1992)
Australian Sports Medal (2000)
Centenary Medal (2001)
Australian Hall of Fame (2003)
Rugby League Immortal (2003)
Rugby League International Hall of Fame (2003)
NRL Team of the 1970s (2005)
NRL Team of the 1960s (2006)
Australian Rugby League's 100 Greatest Players (2007)
Queensland Team of the Century (2008)
Australian Rugby League Team of the Century (2008)
Indigenous Rugby League Team of the Century (2008)
Queensland Sports Hall of Fame (2009)
Sydney Roosters Hall of Fame (2010)
Arthur Beetson Medal (2012-present)

But a swift call from then-Roosters Head Coach Don Furner sparked a move to Easts, making his intentions clear as he demanded to Easts secretary Ron Jones - 'I want Beetson!'

Furner would get his wish as the Club tied up a 3-year deal worth $15,000, sparking the beginning of what would be a beautiful friendship between Beetson and the Roosters. 

However, it would be a slow start to his career in the Tricolours, recalling his early days at the Club:

"Since my stink with Kevin Humphreys (Balmain Secretary) I hadn't done an ounce of training. I was out of condition and disgracefully so."

He could do it all on a football field and he could sell season tickets. He was an entertainer and a great player. With Beetson, things came so naturally to him that we had to restrict him. There just weren't the people who could match his skills.

Jack Gibson Former Roosters Head Coach and Player

After missing selection in the Round 1 team, the hulking forward scored a try in his first match for the Club the week after, coming in as a late replacement in the no.39 jersey to kick-start his career at Bondi.

From there, Beetson's Roosters career was in full swing as he heavily contributed to the charge to the 1972 Grand Final, and by the mid-70s the Tricolours would be a powerhouse of the NSWRL. His achievements at Club level were replicated on the rep scene, creating history by becoming the first Indigenous person in any sport to captain Australia in the second Test against France in 1973. 

As both a captain and colossus, Beetson would feature in 42 of the 50 games played in the 1974-75 seasons, with the Jack Gibson-coached Roosters winning 43 of those matches as the Club claimed back-to-back Premierships. A try-scorer in both victories, Beetson was named Man of the Match in the 1974 decider and was retrospectively awarded the Clive Churchill Medal in 2008.

The 1976 World Club Challenge also remains a highlight in his career in the Red, White and Blue, and his transition from player to mentor would begin after being appointed Captain-Coach in 1977 with the departure of Gibson.

At the end of his final season with the Club in 1978, Beetson had played 131 matches for the Club, scoring 17 tries, winning 2 Premierships and numerous other trophies, etching his name into Roosters history.

He would also shine on the representative stage, playing a pivotal role in Queensland's inaugural State of Origin victory, while also playing 28 Tests and World Cup matches for Australia as well as 19 Tour Matches amongst a number of other representative accolades. 

But 'Big Artie' would prove his credentials off the field as well, returning as Head Coach from 1985-1988, taking Easts to within a game of the Grand Final as he looked to rejuvenate the fortunes of the Club through the mid-80s.

Hall Of Fame | Arthur Beetson

Despite continuing his coaching career elsewhere, Beetson returned once again to the Club - as if guided by an invisible force - this time as a talent scout in 1994, using his charisma and passion to recruit future Club legends including Anthony Minichiello and Mitchell Aubusson.

Tragically, Beetson passed away after suffering a heart attack on the Gold Coast in 2011, with the Rugby League world in shock at the loss of one of the code's most talented and loveable characters. Honouring his legacy, the Arthur Beetson Medal was introduced, awarded to the man of the match for the annual Indigenous All Stars match. 

To this day, Beeton's legacy is stronger than ever and immortalised within the Eastern Suburbs community, featuring on the famous Legends Mural in Bondi, as well as Artie's Sports Bar at Easts Leagues. 

A Rugby League Immortal, a Roosters Hall of Fame Member, and a beloved character - Arthur Beetson truly is The Entertainer.