Rugby league Immortal Arthur Beetson.
Rugby league Immortal Arthur Beetson. Bill Counsell

Artie remains Immortal

BOTH men had stories to tell about the immortal Arthur Beetson, personal accounts that served as a testament to the impact he had on them and the game he loved right up until his last breath.

For Sunshine Coast-based former league stars Dan Stains and Billy Moore, Beetson was an iconic figure who inspired and amazed them.

Beetson, who single-handedly revolutionised forward play with his sublime ball skills, died of a heart attack while riding a bike on the Gold Coast yesterday morning. He was 66.

The legendary front-rower - an Australian rugby league Team of the Century member and the ageing captain of the Queensland side that shocked NSW in the first State of Origin match in 1980 - is gone, but his legacy will live on in perpetuity.

Like numerous youngsters, Stains was drawn to league after watching Beetson play - seeing him hit the line and somehow pop the ball up for a charging teammate to swoop on and race through a gap.

Stains, who played 135 games for Cronulla, made his Origin debut for Queensland in 1989 when Beetson was the coach.

The Maroons won that series, as they did in 1983 and 1984 when Beetson was in charge.

Big Artie, an Australian representative 29 times, also coached Stains for two seasons at the Sharks.

"I'm devastated. He was my hero," Stains said of the man who was the first indigenous Australian to captain a national team in any sport.

"I idolised him as a kid. He was my first introduction to the game when I was 10 years old. I became a Roosters fan because of him."

Stains admitted that he cried when the Roma native left the Roosters to play with Parramatta in 1979. Once he got to know Beetson on a personal level, he was struck by his magnanimity.

"He was such a generous man," he said. "He didn't worship money. He didn't worship goods. He respected all people. He could walk with the wealthy and he could walk with the commoner."

Moore was part of the famous Queensland "unknowns" team that went into the 1995 Origin series a heavy underdog and emerged victorious.

Beetson, Moore remembered, was one of the few big-name former Queensland players who gave of themselves freely to help the Maroons during that series.

"He stuck rock solid and said, 'Boys, you can win this'," he said.

"At no stage did he retain the thought that we could do anything other than win that."

Moore described the official league Immortal as the "father" of Origin football - "the man".

"Once they (Queenslanders) saw him run out in 1980 in the Maroon jersey, all of Queensland knew that Origin was special," he said.

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