Legendary rugby league scribe Ian Heads reckons Brian Bevan should be the next Immortal. His comment was reported yesterday by Phil Rothfield in the Sunday Telegraph, and Heads is spot on.
He was editor of Rugby League Week where the ‘Immortal’ status was born in 1981. It’s not an official recognition by the ARL or NRL, but taken as read by the league fraternity.
Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, and Bobby Fulton were the first recognised. Graeme Langlands and Wally Lewis joined them in 1999, and Artie Beetson in 2003. It’s high time the seven was increased.
Bevan was a freak in the nicest sense of the word.
His 796 tries, the bulk of them for Warrington, in a career that spanned from 1942 to 1964 is the undisputed world record for either rugby code, a binocular distance ahead of the previous record set by another winger – Englishman Alf Ellaby’s 446 – with St Helens and Wigan from 1926 to 1939.
Despite his frail frame being bandaged from hip to toe, Bevan was blessed with blistering speed, and dancing feet, scoring a hat-trick 100 times, and twice scoring seven tries in a game. Phenomenal stats.
He is the only rugby league player in history to be inducted into both British Hall of Fame in 1988, and the Australian Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bevan, born in Sydney on June 24, 1924 – died in Southport, England on June 3, 1991 – aged 66.
To add fuel to the Heads fire, Bevan was selected on the wing in the Australian Team of the 20th Century. His wing partner in that side – Kenny Irvine – should have been made an Immortal long ago.
Irvine is still the record try-scorer in Australia, despite being retired for 39 years, with 212 from 236 games for North Sydney and Manly in a career that spanned from 1958 to 1973. He died of leukemia in 1990, aged 50.
He was a superbly balanced athlete. His speed best shown when he won the Dubbo 100 yards event in 1961 in 9.3 seconds to equal the world professional record, and at the same meet won the Dubbo Gift over 120 yards from a yard behind scratch.
Irvine was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, that too was long overdue.
Brian Bevan and Kenny Irvine, two champion wingers who could motor faster, and touch down more, than any of their peers.
Immortalise them both at the same time.