Obituary: Arthur Clues

ARTHUR CLUES was the sort of sportsman and personality for whom the phrase "larger than life" might have been coined. One of the greatest rugby league second- rowers of his era, his Test career ended after a mere three caps in his native Australia only because he chose to come to England - and never left.

He was born in 1924 beyond the urban sprawl of Sydney. His original game was rugby union, from which he was banned for life when, as a touch-judge, he threw down his flag and joined in a fight which had broken out on the pitch.

At the Western Suburbs club, Clues made such rapid progress in rugby league that he played against Great Britain as a 22-year-old in all three Tests in 1946. He was sent off in the third, for a punch that missed its mark by a foot. He used to say that he deserved to be dismissed for failing to connect, but despite that setback, looked set for a long Test career.

There were two factors, however, that made him ripe for the picking by an ambitious club on the other side of the world. The former Leeds player Dinny Campbell approached him on their behalf and the money on offer was far more than he could earn from his combined career as a policeman and rugby league player in Australia.

He was also concerned about the entry into the Sydney competition of a new club in his home area of Parramatta. Under the rules at the time, he would have been obliged to leave Wests and play for the newcomers - something he had no desire to do. So Leeds it was.

Clues played at Headingley for seven and a half seasons and was as good a second-rower as there was in the game. Big, strong and agile, he could score tries as well as set them up, as shown by his total of 74 for the club.

The rugged side of his approach was never far from the surface either. His clashes with the equally aggressive Frenchman, Edouard Ponsinet, against whom Clues played for the exceptional Other Nationalities side of the time, were the stuff of lurid legend. Clues enjoyed every minute.

At the age of 30, he crossed the city of Leeds to play for Hunslet, to whom he gave three years' good service. Unlike many sportsmen, he did not fade into the background after retirement, but became, if anything, an even more vivid personality than during his playing days.

He returned to Leeds to serve on the committee and to help with coaching the forwards and his sports shop was a local landmark for many years, even if there was more talk than trade there on some days. "I think he gave away more than he sold," says his old friend Joe Warham.

More than anything, he enjoyed his role as an unofficial Australian sporting high commissioner, the first port of call for cricketers and rugby players whenever they came to Britain.

His own cricket had been of a high standard. During his rugby career, he also played for Leeds Cricket Club, on the cricket ground that adjoins the rugby pitch at Headingley. He is the only man to have scored a try on one side of the shared grandstand and century on the other.

He is also recalled as an exceptional tennis player, a keen golfer and an Australian yo-yo champion. Clues was most visible, though, as a continuing presence at Headingley, always in the same seat in the stand, dispensing pithy wisdom on the play that was unfolding in front of him.

That seat was empty last Sunday, apart from the flowers that Joe Warham placed there in his memory. Arthur Clues could sometimes be jaundiced about the modern game and snortingly dismissive of some contemporary forwards who regarded themselves as tough customers. But he would have enjoyed Leeds against Halifax; a fierce forward battle lit up with flashes of wit and enterprise. More than most, it was his sort of game.

Arthur Clues, rugby league player: born Liverpool, New South Wales 2 May 1924; married Muriel Wood; died Leeds 3 October 1998.