While it’s tricky comparing rugby legends throughout the generations, Arthur Beetson should be considered the greatest


Comparisons are odious. Or odorous if you prefer Shakespeare’s take on the old saying.

And we all know you can’t compare players from different eras when looking for the GOAT.

Dribbling old timers peering through their rose-coloured glasses can’t see anyone who played later than Johnny Raper – and what’s the point anyway?

For the record, Johnny Raper played at 75 kgs, 20 kgs less than an elite contemporary workaholic small forward like Cameron Murray.

The 19-year-old half-back Ethan Strange could easily (but probably not safely) pat the top of Johnny Sattler’s head.

But none of this stops us from rating the greats across the eras.

The ‘why’ of any particular opinion usually remains unsaid or inadequately defended and no one cares.

Not everyone knows what subjective means but we all know we are entitled to it.

It’s in this spirit that this old timer offers what he thinks of as the least subjective of the subjective approaches to finding the GOAT.

Arthur Beetson. (Photo by Craig Golding/Getty Images)

If you are doing the form on a horse race you are wasting your time comparing the field in next week’s Randwick handicaps to Phar Lap’s record.

But how much better is any nag than its immediate contemporaries? Then how much better was Phar Lap than his era of hayburners?

The respective gaps can be compared.

One will rank higher than the other. It’s not a perfect approach but I gave it a go in looking for the rugby league GOAT and came up with a standout.

It’s not Wally Lewis. He wasn’t that far ahead of Brett Kenny.

It’s not Andrew Johns, and truthfully, only a cigarette paper separated him from Jonathan Thurston.

Mal Meninga is unquestionably a great but there was enough talent in his wake in his Raiders’ teams alone to keep the gap respectable.

But for me the GOAT – and by way of some accreditation, I’ve watched rugby league for over sixty years – the player who was far enough ahead of his contemporaries to warrant the gong was Arthur Beetson.

No other forward in his time came close to his dominance as a ball distributor, and his all-round influence on a game has only been matched by Wally Lewis in his pomp in State of Origin.

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Beetson did it every week in the toughest competition in the world.

But put him in today’s comp at 105 kgs and 185cm and he’s looking across the grass at Payne Haas at 119kg and 194cm coming at him at rhino speed followed by ‘Rhees Lightning’ who is still in a low gear.

How that sort of scenario does to any GOAT assessment I’ll leave it to you.

And of course, you are entitled to your opinion.

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