How the Wests Tigers would love to have Artie and Tommy playing today

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Wests Tigers will honour Arthur Beetson on Saturday when they host the Dolphins, the Redcliffe-based club where the Immortal began his professional career.

Beetson’s first Sydney club was Balmain, now in a joint venture with Western Suburbs, the club once led by Tommy Raudonikis. The two internationals formed a great friendship and captained Queensland and NSW respectively in the inaugural State of Origin match.

Beetson died in 2011 at Paradise Point on the Gold Coast, less than a kilometre from the home of Raudonikis who followed a decade later.

Both played 29 Tests for Australia.

While the CommBank stadium match is Arthur Beetson Day, it also doubles as Reunification Day insofar as all former Tigers, Magpies and Wests Tigers players have been invited.

Both foundation clubs hold separate reunions and the Wests Tigers board is anxious to see past players of both Balmain and Wests unite with a new generation who have played only for the joint venture.

Arthur Beetson and Tommy Raudonikis in the dressing room after a game in 1974.Credit: John O’Gready

Beetson’s legacy to the Dolphins is recorded in both the history books and in bricks and mortar. His Redcliffe team defeated Valleys 15-2 in the 1965 Brisbane grand final and, along with Kevin Yow Yeh, who scored two tries, they joined Balmain the following year. Their transfer fees (£1500 each) helped build Redcliffe’s first clubhouse. Arthur ended his playing days at Redcliffe in 1981/82, playing 16 games and coaching for 38 games.

Arthur and Tommy were a popular duo on the speaking circuit, particularly in mining areas.

John “Canon” Quayle, a former international teammate of both, recalls an evening in the Hunter Valley when a mining executive asked the pair to speak ahead of a State of Origin match.

“The Denman Bowling Club was rocking,” Quayle recalls. “A capacity crowd.

Arthur Beetson, former Newcastle player Matt Hilder and Tom Raudonikis at one of their speaking arrangements in 2009. Credit: Ryan Osland

“I asked Tommy to moderate the language because there were ladies present.

“He assured me he would but after I finished my emcee duties, he told the audience, ‘It’s great to see the Canon here. He has this image as the son of a Church of England minister but wait till I tell you a few f—— stories about him.’”

Quayle said he glanced in horror in the direction of his wife Diane and other women but, as he says, “They were all killing themselves laughing.”

Arthur responded with his familiar soft giggle and the pair then engaged in their loveable banter.

Neither age nor head knocks dulled their minds, although Tommy was more donor than recipient with the latter. Arthur drove the car on their long journeys to speaking engagements, while Tom did the crossword, engaging Arthur on difficult clues.

Many of the former players attending Wests Tigers’ tribute to Arthur are alarmed at the prospect of dementia, but it obscures their attention to other factors, such as 10 schooners a day. Perhaps Arthur’s legacy is also a reminder that in the key causes of dementia – A for Age, G for Genetics, the E for Environment embraces lifestyle.

Arthur avoided walking. As Tom’s partner, Trish Brown, says, “Arthur would pull into our driveway and beep the horn for Tom to come out. We’d invite him in but he always beckoned Tom to sit beside him and natter. Even when we were sitting at ‘Tommy’s Table’ in the park, Arthur would park the car and beep for Tommy to walk over.

“When Tom would leave home for a walk, he’d phone Arthur to meet us halfway. He never answered the phone. He knew we wanted to walk. Arthur would even drive to Sydney to play cards.”

Arthur began riding a bike towards the end, just as Tom led a healthy life after diagnosis with cancer. However, Tom had taken a blowtorch to the candle, burning it at each end.

Raudonikis’ love of a beer was almost as legendary as his on-field toughness.Credit: Sun Herald

As Quayle says, “They’d get on the drink on tour but they’d be first up to train. No matter how much they played up, the football field was important to them.”

Trish recalls the day Arthur died. “John Sattler called and said he’d heard Arthur fell off his bike, I said, ‘He’s a big boy. He can get back on it.’

“Then I saw Tommy coming into the driveway, with tears streaming down his face and I knew.”

How dearly Wests Tigers would love to have a cross between them playing on Saturday: one who combined “half-a-game Artie’s” leg speed and deft hands with a man who had no known pain threshold, doubling as a back and a seventh forward.

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