Inducted for achievements in Rugby Union, Rugby League
"Arthur Summons has become one of Union's best known and capable players." The Biz, 11 September 1957
Arthur was born on 13 December 1935 in Paddington, NSW, and arrived in Wagga Wagga in 1964 following stellar international careers in both rugby union and rugby league.
Arthur first played rugby union football for Homebush High School (Sydney) and represented Combined High Schools (CHS) in 1951 and 1952. In 1954 he joined the Gordon Rugby Union Club.
Arthur was a smart, resourceful inside back that played some splendid rugby for Australia in the late 1950s.
He made his debut for NSW in 1956, but had a temporary setback through injury in the game against the Springboks. He recovered to play in the Wallaby trials, and was one of the few successes of their 1957 – 1958 tour of Britain, France and America. Arthur developed a fine understanding with halfback Des Connor on this tour, and they became Australia's main hope of scoring in the Tests against Wales, Ireland, England and Scotland. However, a leg injury sustained by Arthur in the Test against Scotland forced him out for the rest of the tour.
Arthur played fly-half in ten rugby union Test matches for the Wallabies between 1956 and 1960, but could also play the inside centre position.
Early in 1958 Arthur played for NSW and showed good form against the NZ Maoris. The New Zealand Rugby Almanac named Arthur one of its Players of the Year for his displays on Australia's tour of New Zealand.
He switched to playing rugby league after the 1959 Test against the British Lions.
In 1960 Arthur joined rugby league's Western Suburbs Magpies. His defection from union to league was a big loss to Rugby as he was a wonderfully-unselfish footballer who always gave a whole-hearted effort. His success as Captain-Coach of the Australian League team was no surprise to his former rugby mates.
The following year he was selected for NSW and also in the Australian team for its tour of New Zealand. He became Australia's 26th dual code rugby international when he made his debut in Auckland in July 1961.
Arthur went on to play a total of nine rugby league Tests for Australia, as halfback and five-eighth, and won five out of five of his matches as Captain of the all-conquering 1963 Kangaroos.
At club level, Arthur played in each of the Magpies' three consecutive Grand Final losses to St. George in 1961, 1962 and 1963 – the final one as Captain opposite Norm Provan.
The 1963 NSWRFL season saw the final two teams – St. George and Western Suburbs – compete for the JJ Giltinan Shield and WD&HO Wills Cup, and culminated in a replay of the previous two years' Grand Finals. It is this final game that both Arthur and Norm have been commemorated for.
A record crowd of 69,806 turned out for the Grand Final, to view the game which was, from the opening whistle, a gruelling affair. Heavy rain meant that the wet SCG pitch quickly turned into a quagmire, with the mud-covered players unrecognisable.
At the end of the match, rival Captains Norm Provan and Arthur Summons embraced, and the moment was captured by photographer John O'Gready. This award winning photograph has become known as 'The Gladiators', and since it was first published, has been appreciated by rugby league fans as capturing an essence of the game wherein a little man can fairly compete against the bigger man, and where sporting respect and camaraderie follow an epic struggle.
Since 1982 a bronze replica of the Provan and Summons embrace has adorned the various incarnations of the Australian Rugby League Premiership trophy. In 2013, on the eve of the game that marked 50 years of 'The Gladiators', the National Rugby League and Telstra announced that Rugby League's most cherished prize (the Grand Final trophy) was being renamed the Provan-Summons Trophy.
Arthur had tremendous success in international league, and figured in numerous gutsy performances for the Magpies. His best years in rugby league were 1961 and 1962, when he was made Captain of Australia for the third Test against Great Britain. It was the only Test Australia won, and Arthur was awarded the Claude Corbett Trophy for the winning third Test Captain.
1963 saw Arthur appointed as Captain Coach of the Australian Kangaroo's to tour Great Britain and France. This test side was the first side to win the Ashes in England and France.
Wagga Wagga career
In 1964 Arthur was lured to Wagga Wagga to take up the role of Secretary Manager of the Wagga Wagga Leagues Club. He was also Captain-Coach of the Wagga Magpies for five years from 1965 to 1969. His impact on the local game was immeasurable. Under his leadership the Magpies enjoyed five consecutive Grand Final appearances and three Premierships.
After finishing with the Leagues Club, Arthur became the proprietor of the Tolland Hotel in Wagga Wagga. He has now retired, but still lives in Wagga Wagga, where he enjoys life at a more leisurely pace.
In 2008 Arthur was named one of rugby league's 100 Greatest Players. Today, he is one of Wagga Wagga's most recognisable faces, and most valuable sporting treasures.