I first played for Newcastle, in the Country Championships, in 1968. The half-back before me had been international Bob Bugden, then playing for South Newcastle, and the half-back before him, for many years, had been Billy Giles. Giles played in the 1964 Newcastle side that famously beat the invincible St George Dragons in the State Cup.
With players of that standard running about you had to wait to get your shot, meaning I didn't get there until 1968, and even then was lucky to have nabbed the spot given what I was up against.
Having finally made it, my first match in the Championships that year was against Riverina at Newcastle and - the point to this remembrance - I'm pretty sure that my opposing half, playing the final season of his career, was one Arthur Summons.
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Summons was my coach for the next twenty or so games I played for Country. The value of his mentorship was invaluable and he became a close life-long friend.
Arthur Summons is rugby league royalty. For those of us playing under him he was a priceless link to the previous era, a time of such greatness that it had inspired us to play the game in the first place.
People talk about the 'It' factor. Whatever 'It' is, Arthur Summons had it in spades, both as a player and a coach. The man brought the Ashes home from England in 1964 as the captain-coach of the only team ever to have done so!
As a coach you knew he wasn't ever asking you to do anything he hadn't done himself, and through straight-up force of character, he made you want to win for him, because he was a winner.
I'll never forget the 1969 match between Country and City seconds. We were a team of nobodies.
Our captain, Paul Hassab, was the only one amongst us who had played in the Sydney comp. Due to an incredible abundance of talent in Sydney at the time the City seconds side we faced included a bunch of internationals - the likes of Johnny Raper, Billy Smith, Bobby Fulton, Jimmy Morgan etc.
As I walked into the cricket ground I could hear the bookies giving Country 25 points start.
I said to Arthur, 'If we only get beat by 25 I reckon we'll have gone alright.'
The pre-match dressing-room speech is a cliché now: some bloke ranting and frothing while the players sit there rolling their eyes, waiting to get on with things.
That's not how it was with Arthur Summons. He was special. We were listening to Arthur Summons. He told us, 'I don't care if you get beat by 40, as long as you play your best.' (a cliché, I know, but the thing was, he meant it.)
He told us not to believe all "this nonsense in the newspapers about how great these players are. If you cut them they'll bleed, just like everybody else." (He was a tough so and so).
The thing is, he sent us out there wanting to win, and feeling like we could. And we did: We beat that incredible side. What a moment ...
Having been there, Arthur could tell you the stories, the stories of the English tour that the newspapers never reported in those days: of a hotel grand piano being sent down a flight of stairs; a shocking one about a Frenchman requiring extensive dental reconstruction having been stiff-armed while innocently motor-scootering along the Champs Elysees.
He told another one about when 15 of the test side went off into the French hills on a school bus to play an exhibition match against a provincial side. Johnny Raper wasn't down to play that day but went along for the ride, for the sight-seeing, drinking copious amounts of very good red wine and getting completely plastered along the way. But the rickety mountain bus-ride had made three of the players so sick that upon arrival Summons had had to say to Raper, "Chook, you're gonna have to play."
"He was so drunk,' Summons recalled, 'we had to help him get his boots on, but he got out there, somehow, and ... as soon as the whistle went he transformed into that great, consumate player that he was. It was incredible."
As you now, no doubt, know, we lost Arthur Summons this week. It is a tremendous loss, both of an icon and a man. He is, however, immortalised in bronze: 'The Little Gladiator.' He is rugby league, and there is no-one better suited to such an honour.
Summons told me that, at the time of his historical embrace of Provan, he had asked, "How much did you pay the ref?" and that Provan had replied, "More than you did."
WHAT A PAIN
What a pain in the arse they are. Still, a necessary evil, I suppose.
The popular quote more generally applied to politicians - that the desire to be one should probably disqualify you from the job - seems also to apply here. They're not taking the proposed curtailing of their services at all well, which is fair enough, from their point of view - these are working people with expenses like the rest of us.
The larger question is, though, is this abundance of refs good for the game?
Easy answer: No.
Any discerning punter will tell you that the more refs we have the more crap things are getting.
Rather than providing flawless adjudications, the extra bodies, and their errors, seem to be compounding. It's a confusing mess.
League boss Peter V'landys said last week: "Our job is to make the game entertaining. At the moment, like it or not, it is not entertaining."
He got that right. And the fix would be so easy - play the game the way it was played when we watched it, enthralled:
Ditch The Bunker: One referee; the decisions left on the field. Bring back the five metre rule and limit the interchange to two replacements.