Debut: vs Hull (H) 1st February 1947
Honours: Yorkshire Cup (Finalist: 1947); Yorkshire League (Winner: 1951)
Born at Liverpool, New South Wales, on 2nd May 1924, and educated at Parramatta Intermediate High School, which he left at fourteen to earn fifteen shillings a week in a local garage, Arthur’s early rugby career was certainly not without incident, for it was whilst a teenager with Parramatta R. U. that he was pressed into service as a touch judge on one occasion, and so far forgot himself during the game as to drop the flag and join in the fray. The penalty for youthful impetuosity was suspension. The reward, a passport to fame in Rugby League, for he never looked back after joining Western Suburbs, displaying such devastating form for New South Wales in 1945 that he became an automatic choice a year later for all three Tests against Gus Risman’s men, with none better qualified to sing his praises as a 2nd-rower than Dai Jenkins and Ike Owens.
Coming as it did, after six years of war, few captures by Leeds have generated more enthusiasm and excitement than that of the young Sydney policeman, who arrived at Headingley in late January 1947, and wakened next morning to see a covering of snow for the first time in his life. Had he reacted differently, all might have been well. As it was, he expressed boyish delight, picking up a handful and tasting it, whereupon Mother Nature, generous to a fault when she’s of a mind, inflicted on him, and the rest of the nation, his accumulated 22-year backlog flt compound interest and by express delivery, scarcely allowing time for him to make his debut against Hull on 1st February, before British Double Igloo Time started, with mass cancellation of fixtures for five weeks on end.
Snow White, indeed! She was illegitimate, of course, like the rest! But soon, forgotten, for all that, when the Challenge Cup finally got under way in March, Arthur proving his mettle match by match in absolutely atrocious conditions as the Loiners ploughed their way to the Final without conceding a point, yet only to experience the dread also-ran loneliness of Wembley, and the feeling that like the rest of the team he had failed to do himself justice on the day. Mind you, a well-drilled Northern side had been far from co-operative!
Great player that he undoubtedly was, and for all the high hopes he entertained from the moment he took over the reins of captaincy in 1947-48, when it came to Cup competitions chronic also-ranitis was to persist throughout his career at Headingley, a one-point defeat by Wakefield Trinity in the 1947 Yorkshire Cup Final replay being merely the first pang in a traumatic Odsal hat-trick, with a couple of heart-breaking Challenge Cup Semi-Finals ahead. The first, in 1950, ended 16- 4 in Warrington’s favour, with the result never really in any doubt; the second, a year later, was even more galling, Barrow coming back from the dead in the last twenty minutes, to draw level and then romp to victory at Fartown in the replay. Nor did a change of venue prove to be the antidote in 1954, the Loiners failing lamentably to make their numerical advantage count at Station Road, against a Warrington side packing only four fit forwards for the greater part of the match.
Unfortunate, then, to be with the Club at a time when each cup-tie failure was a nagging millstone-reminder of the pre-war glory days, Arthur’s solitary winner’s medal, for the Yorkshire League Championship in 1950-51, represents scant reward for a colourful, crowd-pleasing personality, whose larger-than-life displays catered for every taste. For those who liked their rugby in the raw, there were crunching no-quarter tackles that kept the sponge men on their toes; fearsome take-me-on-if-you-dare bursts that found many a faint-heart tackler wanting; and stand-up confrontations, on demand, if any opponent was rash enough to needle him. For the connoisseur, on the other hand, there was no lack of flair and finesse: a sidestep that belied his fifteen stones; an uncanny ability to read the game; and, by no means least, a left foot of built-in computer accuracy, capable of judging to a nicety both the delicate chip and the raking touch finder.
Indeed, of all the many sterling games he played in Leeds colours, one recalls most vividly those glorious relieving kicks to touch in a 2nd Round cup tie at Headingley on 25th February 1950. Four times during the second half Wigan advanced menacingly in waves of short passing, to put the Loiners in dire peril on their own line; four times he sent them scurrying back some forty yards or more across the waterlogged ground. What’s more, there he was, first up for the scrum on each occasion and clearly ready, if need be, to take on the cherry-and-whites single-handed until the game was won, as it assuredly was, Dicky Williams scoring the only try of the match.
As for international appearances, well as Arthur played alongside the likes of Lionel Cooper, Pat Devery, Harry Bath and Brian Bevan, in the European Championship, his otherwise splendid 14-match record with Other Nationalities was marred by a regrettable feud with Edouard Poncinet, the Carcassonne policeman, each inflicting grievous injury on the other in a running battle waged at Bordeaux, Hull and Marseilles. At his peak, possibly as good a second-row forward as the game has known, it was hardly surprising that the decision to place the 30-year-old on the Opento- Transfer list in September 1954 raised a storm of protest, with irate supporters loth to accept that it was time for a change and to build anew. Not that there were any complaints down Parkside way, where he was installed as captain and gave excellent service over three seasons, making 83 appearances and earning yet another loser’s medal in the 1956 Yorkshire Cup Final versus Wakefield Trinity at Headingley.
For many seasons a powerful free-scoring batsmen with Leeds C.C. (shades of Syd Walmsley!), Arthur accepted an invitation to join the Leeds Football Committee in 1958, and has maintained his association with the Club ever since.