Artie Beetson dead at 66
RUGBY league great Arthur Beetson has died after suffering a heart attack.
He was 66-years-old.
Beetson represented both Queensland and Australia in a career spanning 17 years and was the first indigenous player to captain his country.
The Roma native also enjoyed a long stint on the sidelines as a coach, guiding the like of Eastern Suburbs, Queensland and Australia with mixed success.
Beetson began his playing days in Redcliffe before he moved to the Balmain Tigers in 1966.
However, it was with the Eastern Suburbs club where Beetson enjoyed his greatest success, captaining the side to the 1974 and 75 premierships.
He also led the side to victory in the unofficial 1976 World Club Challenge match.
Beetson also played for Parramatta and English club Hull.
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Premier Anna Bligh today said it was a sad day for Queensland and the nation with the passing of rugby league legend Arthur Beetson.
"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time as they deal with his sudden death - which has come as a shock to us all," Ms Bligh said.
"It would be an understatement to say Arthur Beetson was a favourite son in Queensland.
"The man fondly known as 'Big Artie' could walk into any pub in the Sunshine State and be mobbed - such was his status.
"Everyone wanted to shake his hand, pat him on the back, and hear his stories.
"Arthur Beetson notched up many firsts in his stellar career including first Indigenous Australian to captain an Australian representative sporting team (Kangaroos 1973), and first to captain a club in a major Australian sporting competition (Sydney Roosters 1974).
"But he will forever be most remembered for captaining Queensland in the first ever State of Origin Game in 1980.
"It was near the end of his career but he led from the front with aggression, passion and skill.
"NSW knew they were in a Game, and the legend of Origin and mate against mate was born.
"The pride that he helped restore in Queensland Rugby League with victory in that first Origin laid a foundation for success that continues to this day.
"The records show that Queensland has been the most dominant team in Origin," Ms Bligh said.
Sport Minister Phil Reeve said: "Arthur Beetson's football career is the stuff of legend - how Roma's teenage five-eighth became the greatest creative ball-playing front-rower in the history of the game.
"With a rare creative instinct, a free spirit, a desire to "play the game", Beetson knocked down the conventional role of the front rower, and re-built it to his own rules.
"His opposition team members knew he could make the big tackle, make the great run or unload a great ball, his talents were almost unlimited.
"Beetson's team mates said that to play with him they knew no matter how desperate the situation, he could break the game open by simply tapping into his diverse talents.
"He was instrumental in inspiring Queensland's performance in 1980 which ignited the phenomenon that is State of Origin.
"This larger than life character was a great supporter of the Indigenous All Stars and the recently instituted Queensland Murri Carnival.
"He recently assisted Brothers St Brendons in their bid to recover after this year's floods.
"I will never forget the day I went to the first state of origin with my father and was overwhelmed when I heard the heard the crowd cheering Artie Artie Artie," Mr Reeves said.
He played 56 games for Redcliffe and was in the team when they won their first Grand Final in 1965.
He moved to Sydney to play for Balmain, made the Test team in his first season as a second-rower and in 1971 switched to Eastern Suburbs (and the front row) where he would go on to lead one of the greatest club teams of all time to consecutive Premierships in 1974-75.
Playing in the twilight of his career at Parramatta he would change the face of interstate football forever as he returned to lead Queensland in the first ever State of Origin game in 1980.