Saturday, 1 February 2014
A few people have asked me why I have photos of the great Australian Rugby league legend Artie Beetson posted. He was a very dear friend. I first met Artie about 22 years ago. He was visiting a mutual friend and I had the great honour of being introduced to him.
I was still getting over my car accident. He noticed my scars and said "Geez girl you've been through the wars". I told him my story.
Artie, being indigenous, had a soft spot for anyone who had suffered. He knew what it was like to be ridiculed over the way you looked.
We always stayed in touch. He would ring me and say "Where are you now kid?" When I was working in the mines he would say "That's good, you've got a home."
He was doing his legends of league tour with Tommy Raudonikis and they would tour the outback and we would meet up. From all of the shows they did the takings would go to charity or the footy clubs to buy sporting equipment and clothes for those who were were poor. He would also bring his framed photos of footy moments and auction them off with the proceeds going to the club. He was a generous man.
Artie always had a problem with his weight. He knew the strain on his heart carrying a big frame. He thought that he could die at any moment, so he decided that he would give it all away. "Can't take it with you kid", he would say. "Might as well help the kids."
He would always help anybody. Many times over the years I would stay with him. Whenever I was doing it tough, out of the blue he would ring and tell me to come and stay. When I would stay with him he would ride his bike to a marina and have his 2 poached eggs on toast. I would drive there and meet him. Part of what I'm doing here, writing to tell the world about homelessness, I'm sure Artie is guiding me. Angels are real.
Wherever Artie went people would be in awe. Autographs and photos - never ending. He would always oblige and tell a story.
I don't think he had an enemy in the world and if he did the person must have been a fool. Our days would be spent going to schools and footy clubs looking out for kids with talent. There are many out there who have Artie to thank. His eyes would light up if an aboriginal boy could run or kick. He knew the struggle they were going through in a white society. When we would show up there would be a hush. My god – that's Artie Beetson everyone was thinking. The parents would have hope that their kids might get a break in a career. The boys would walk up to him and use anything a shirt a hat their hands to get an autograph. Many a boy had dirty hands for a week. The parents, the principals and the presidents of clubs would thank him for attending. The fathers would say "I remember when you..." and Artie would tell the real story of that match. Everybody would be all ears. It was amazing to watch. I would always get a tear in my eye.
We would go to the pub for a counter meal and a game of pool. Once again every guy would walk up to him. He always had an audience. His place was full of memorabilia and he would say "Gotta get rid of this stuff kid." He was always sending stuff to charity auctions. As quick as he would get rid of it more would show up.
I was working the mines few years ago and had just finished night shift. I rang Artie that morning to say I was ok. He told me that he was going on his bike ride. I told him that I would keep in touch and went to sleep. That afternoon, after going to the mess, I turned the 5pm Channel 10 news on. I couldn't believe it - there was a photo of Artie. I thought what's he done now, thinking it was probably another charity. I turned the volume up. That morning on his bike ride he had suffered a massive heart attack. Passers by had tried to revive him. I thought, my god no, not Artie. I was devastated. I couldn't concentrate at work. In the mining game you have to concentrate, or it can be dangerous. So my workmates took me back to camp.
I was lucky as it was the last night of my 5 night stint. I stayed in my room for two days just purely devastated. He was the greatest man alive. I miss you Artie. And the photos and this post are in dedication to him.
Rest in peace my angel. X