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The New South Wales Rugby League joins all rugby league fans today in mourning the death of Arthur Summons, who passed away in Sydney last night aged 84.

Summons grew up in the south west of Sydney and played junior rugby league with Mt Pritchard before attending Homebush Boys High, where he learned rugby union.

He played for the Wallabies before switching to Rugby League in 1960 where he joined Western Suburbs who were building a major assault on the premiership. After readjusting in his first year, he showed his class in 1961 and made his debut for both NSW and Australia. He went on to make seven appearances for the Blues and appeared in nine Test matches.

“Arthur was an icon of rugby league who represented both NSW and Australia,” NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said.

“The heart he showed on the field was far bigger than his stature and he played a crucial role in taking Western Suburbs Magpies to three consecutive Grand Finals. He also contributed significantly to the game in regional NSW after finishing his career with the Wagga Magpies.

“It is fitting that Arthur is immortalised alongside Norm Provan on the Telstra Premiership Trophy and the NSWRL would like to extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”

Summons also featured in the Magpies’ team which made the Grand Final for three consecutive seasons from 1961-63 but they finished runners-up to the St George Dragons on each occasion.

The end of the 1963 season also brought Summons’ finest hour, when he led the Kangaroos as captain-coach to Great Britain where they reclaimed The Ashes for the first time on British soil in over 50 years. Injury restricted his appearances on tour, but he was a vital component of the win after coming up with a game plan to dominate the Lions through their forwards.

His 1964 season was affected by injuries he sustained on tour and by the end of that year he had switched to Wagga Wagga where he ended his playing days with the local Magpies club. He afterwards coached Combined Country and in 1970 was Australian coach for the Ashes series against England.

The enduring memory of Summons, though, will be the image captured at the end of the 1963 Grand Final when he and Dragons’ skipper Norm Provan embraced in the mud. The iconic photograph, now known as “The Gladiators” was the basis for a sculpture that has adorned the premiership trophy since 1982, so that every premiership winning captain now raises both Summons and Provan to the sky.