EletiofeRugby league great Arthur Summons dies aged 84

Rugby league great Arthur Summons dies aged 84


- Advertisment -

Arthur Summons was never too bothered that he would be remembered better as a mud-covered figure in a famous photograph than as the very good rugby league player he undoubtedly was.

In fact, he quite liked the idea.

Summons, who has died aged 84, had a celebrated football career representing Australia in rugby union and captaining and coaching his country in rugby league.

He is among the official list of the 100 greatest players of last century, he was a member of the first Australian rugby league team to win the Ashes in Great Britain and he is remembered as one the best to have played the game during a golden era at Sydney club Western Suburbs.

Summons, of course, is also the short bloke in that wonderful, muddy portrait of he and rival captain Norm Provan at the end of the 1963 Sydney rugby league grand final between St George and Western Suburbs at the SCG.

It is an image so evocative that it is has been reproduced as a sculpture awarded each year to Australia’s rugby league premiers and is held, under its official name of The Gladiators in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

And the story behind it may well be more myth than fact.

Arthur James Summons was born in Paddington, NSW on 13 December 1935.

He attended Homebush Boys High School, captaining their First XV and winning selection in the Combined High Schools rugby union team.

Summons also played for Gordon in the Sydney grade competition, and at the age of 21 he played his first international for the Wallabies against South Africa.

Like so many players of that amateur era of rugby, Summons found it impossible to give up so much time without reward, and after earning 10 Wallaby caps, he switched to rugby league, signing with Sydney club Western Suburbs in 1960.

The same skills that had earned him Wallaby selection soon won the halfback a place in the Kangaroo squad to tour New Zealand in 1961 and so began a long and successful career as a player, captain and coach of Australia.

As captain-coach of the Kangaroos in 1963, Summons led Australia to its first series on British soil.

Summons played five seasons at Wests before finishing his playing career with three seasons with the Wagga Magpies, during which time he also represented Country against City.

He also played in Wests’ three consecutive grand final losses to St George.

It was in the last of them, in 1963, that the moment that was to characterise Summons’ sporting life was captured by Sydney Sun-Herald photographer John O’Gready.

In a torrid duel played on a quagmire at the SCG, St George won 8-3 and as the players were leaving the ground O’Gready snapped his momentous shot.

NRL premerstrophy
‘The mud helped make it, we look like statues, and a statue they made from it,’ says Arthur Summons of the NRL’s Provan-Summons Trophy. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The pose in which Summons, covered from head to toe in SCG mud, is looking up at Provan as the two players embrace has mostly been regarded as a symbol of Australian mateship: gladiators sharing a moment as friends after their battle.

An alternative story later emerged which maintains that Summons was going crook about the referee who had been rumoured to have had a big bet on St George.

It is also said that Summons wanted to swap jerseys with Provan, who refused.

The NSWRL re-staged the pose at the SCG in 2013 when they announced the sculpture depicting the two men would be known as the Provan-Summons Trophy and be awarded to the premiers.

“It’s surreal, what happened from that photo being taken,” Summons said at the time.

“Images being used for the premiership trophy … it’s beyond my ability to explain it.

“The mud helped make it, we look like statues, and a statue they made from it.

“We’re epitomised for as long as they play for that trophy. We’ll be long gone and they’ll still be playing for it because it is rugby league.”

On the two stories behind the pose, neither player has elaborated. But they remained close friends.

“I’ve been blessed in life to have an association and a friendship with Norm,” Summons said.

Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys said: “Arthur epitomised everything that rugby league stands for – he was a talented player, a fierce competitor, a wonderful character and extremely popular with everyone.”

“His importance to the game continued – and was immortalised – after his retirement as a player when he became the face of our premiership, along with Norm Provan, and he embraced the responsibility which came with that.

“Arthur’s memory and legacy will live on in bronze for all of us to celebrate.”

Wests Tigers also paid tribute.

“On behalf of all at Wests Tigers, I’d like to send my condolences to Arthur’s family. We have lost a true giant of rugby league,” Tigers boss Justin Pascoe said.

“Arthur was a wonderful man and player in his time and helped us all celebrate our great game for what makes it the best.

“He epitomises the importance what our game expects on and off the field and he will be remembered for that.”

In retirement, Summons ran a local leagues club with wife Pam in Wagga Wagga, where they raised their children, David, Gillian, Janine and Kellie.

A private service for Summons will be held in Wagga Wagga this week.

Latest news

A Far-Right Indian News Site Posts Racist Conspiracies. US Tech Companies Keep Platforming It

“The goal is to amplify this disinformation, and you have BJP leaders sharing this, so people think it’s authentic,”...

Neuralink’s First User Is ‘Constantly Multitasking’ With His Brain Implant

In 2016, Noland Arbaugh suffered a spinal cord injury while swimming in a lake. The details are fuzzy, but...

The 36 Best Shows on Hulu Right Now (May 2024)

While Netflix seemingly led the way for other streaming networks to create compelling original programming, Hulu actually beat them...

Google Taps AI to Show Shoppers How Clothes Fit Different Bodies

One of the worst parts of online shopping is trying to figure out whether an item of clothing will...
- Advertisement -

Google Search’s New AI Overviews Will Soon Have Ads

Last week Google introduced a radical shake-up of search that presents users with AI-generated answers to their queries. Now...

AI Is a Black Box. Anthropic Figured Out a Way to Look Inside

For the past decade, AI researcher Chris Olah has been obsessed with artificial neural networks. One question in particular...

Must read

A Far-Right Indian News Site Posts Racist Conspiracies. US Tech Companies Keep Platforming It

“The goal is to amplify this disinformation, and you...

Neuralink’s First User Is ‘Constantly Multitasking’ With His Brain Implant

In 2016, Noland Arbaugh suffered a spinal cord injury...
- Advertisement -

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you