|Full name||Kenneth Richard Arthurson|
1 October 1929 |
Glebe, New South Wales, Australia
|Source: Yesterday's Hero|
Kenneth Richard "Arko" Arthurson AM (born 1 October 1929 in Glebe, New South Wales) is an Australian rugby league football identity. Affectionately known as "The Godfather of Manly", he played, coached and was later an administrator at the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles club of the New South Wales Rugby League premiership. Later he ran the NSWRL, and then the Australian Rugby League during the 1990s' Super League war, resigning in 1997 as part of the peace process for creating the unified National Rugby League.
Ken Arthurson was a product of the Freshwater Surf Club, playing in their 1945 D-Grade premiership win alongside another future Sea Eagle legend in Roy Bull. He made his first grade debut for Manly in 1950 under the coaching of former Kangaroo tourist and Australian test captain Wally O'Connell.
Arko played at Halfback in the Manly-Warringah club's first Grand Final appearance in the 1951 NSWRFL Grand Final against the South Sydney Rabbitohs at the Sydney Sports Ground. The day didn't go as planned for the Sea Eagles though as Souths ran out easy 42-14 winners. He then played another full season in 1952, before accepting a coaching role with Parkes' club.
In a match between Northern and Southern NSW Zones in April 1953, Ken was badly injured. The 27 April edition of the Parkes Champion Post reported that it 'was early in the game when Ken fell over the goal line and another player, who was following him, fell on top of him, striking ken's head with his knee'. He was rushed to Parkes District Hospital in a serious condition with a fractured skull. Ken had taken part in only two other matches since his arrival. He was later to spend three months in hospital recuperating from his injury and never played Rugby League again.
Arthurson returned to Sydney and coached Manly's third grade team in 1954 and reserve grade in 1955-56. He was first grade coach from 1957 to 1961, making the semi finals every year and the 1957 Grand Final as a 27-year-old. His side made another Grand Final appearance in 1959. Unfortunately for Arthurson and Manly, both Grand Finals were played against a St George side in the middle of their record run of 11 straight premierships.
Following his coaching stint at Manly, Arthurson became the club's secretary, taking over from Jack Munro after Munro's passing in 1963. Arthurson held this post for 20 years, during which time he helped build the Sea Eagles into one of the most successful clubs in the league by use of his negotiating skills and the club's finances, something which made Manly the team others loved to hate. During his time as club secretary, Arko signed players who went on to become legends not only at Manly but also in rugby league. His list of players includes Graham Eadie, Bob Fulton, Ken Irvine, Terry Randall, Mal Reilly, John O'Neill, Phil Lowe, Paul Vautin, Les Boyd and Kerry Boustead. As told by people such as Paul "Fatty" Vautin, Arko's negotiating skills often led a player to sign or re-sign with Manly for less money than they were being offered by other clubs. In his biography "The Strife and times of Paul Vautin", Fatty told how in the early 1980's Parramatta Eels coach Jack Gibson offered him a substantial amount of money to join the Eels. When he told Arthurson about the offer, Arko convinced him that living on the Northern Beaches and playing for Manly offered him a far better lifestyle than he would get in the western suburbs and he ended up re-signing with Manly for more than his previous contract, but far less than what Gibson was offering.
Arthurson's tireless efforts as secretary of Manly-Warringah paid off big time in the 1970's as the Sea Eagles won the NSWRL premiership in 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1978 making the club the most successful of the decade. In total, during his 20 years as club secretary, Manly appeared in 8 Grand Finals for four premierships; 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1982 and 1983. The club also won the Minor premiership in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1983, the NSWRFL club championship in 1972 and 1973, the pre-season competition in 1980 and the KB Cup in 1982 and 1983. They also reached the finals series in 1966, 1968-1978 and 1981-1983.
In 1984 he became the Chairman of the Australian Rugby League (ARL) and in 1986 took over from Tom Bellew OAM as Chairman of the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL). He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1988 "in recognition of (his) service to Rugby League football".
In the mid-1990s Arthurson led the ARL's fight against Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd in the Super League war. On 28 February 1997, in order to improve the chances of a peace deal with Super League being reached, Arthurson resigned as ARL chairman. Also in 1997, Arthurson released his book, Arko, My Game.
The Ken Arthurson Stand at Brookvale Oval is named after him and was officially opened on Sunday 14 June 1995.
During his time as head of the ARL, Arthurson also served as President of the Manly Leagues Club until retiring in October 2004. He then retired with his wife to the Gold Coast where he continues to support the Sea Eagles to this day.
In November 2009, Arthurson was awarded the 'Spirit of Rugby League Award' by the Rugby League International Federation, in their inaugural awards presentation. He was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2010.
- Chesterton, Ray (19 November 2007). "Use ballot box, Arko tells Manly fans". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- Riccio, David (15 February 2009). "Arko offers to broker ceasefire". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
- "Kenneth Richard Arthurson AM". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- Westfield, Mark (2000). The gatekeepers: the global media battle to control Australia's pay TV. Australia: Pluto Press. pp. xv. ISBN 978-1-871204-19-3.
- "Kenneth Arthurson". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
- "Awards". rlif.com. Rugby League International Federation. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- "Kenneth Arthurson AM". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 3 September 2013.