Origin fact: Artie did not punch Magic Mick

ON the eve of the 2016 State of Origin series - and after 36 years and 105 games - the time is opportune to debunk an inaccuracy that year by year gathers more and more credence.

And, year by year the fallacy becomes more and more annoying.

Sadly this myth, which has been embellished and then perpetuated over time by journalists who obviously disrespect the history of the game, dates back to the very first clash in 1980.

And sadly, the inaccuracy in commentary involves one of the giants of Origin footy.

So let's set the record straight - a fracas involving most players in the first State of Origin match played did NOT erupt as a result of Arthur Beetson punching his Parramatta teammate Mick Cronin.

The fact is Big Artie never did punch Magic Mick.

Sure, there was an incident between the Eels teammates. And yes, Beetson whacked Cronin, racing in from the blind side with a high shot as the Blues centre stood in a tackle. And, in the eyes of English referee Billy Thompson, the tackle did not even warrant a penalty.

But that subsequently much-hyped episode was in the second half of the game.

The actual affray that did boil over occurred midway through the first half, and while not every player was throwing punches, all were certainly involved, albeit some in a futile attempt to be peacemakers.

Technically, the incident was instigated by the 30-year-old Queensland halfback Greg Oliphant, one of six Queenslanders - along with Beetson, John Lang, Rod Reddy, Allan Smith and Bruce Astill - who that night played their lone Origin game.

But it was NSW forward Graeme Wynn who lit the flame for the stink, although Big Artie was most definitely the facilitator.

Oliphant had tackled the rangy Wynn, and as the pair regained their feet the veteran halfback cheekily clipped the Dragons forward around the ears - from behind.

And, as was typically the case back then, Wynn retaliated - with much more force.

But, as Wynn would soon regret, his fistic reaction to Oliphant's clip was within a metre of Big Artie, the 35-year-old Maroons' skipper who was donning the Queensland jersey for the first time.

And that was when Origin's much-hyped game one brawl/ brouhaha/ free-for-all broke out.

With half a dozen right hooks, Beetson impressed on Wynn that his halfback was off limits, and soon three separate groups of players were trading blows.

Calm, however, was soon restored, and the one and only punch-up in the game was quickly quelled.

This incident needs mentioning for two reasons - one because the facts have been badly distorted, and secondly because Beetson, the man chiefly responsible for Origin becoming the event it has, deserves having the truth revealed.

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