How many angels can fit on the head of a pin?
Hard to say without enough experts to make the final determination.
How many experts would be required?
That determination might be better made if it were simply to be turned into a different proposition: How many experts can fit on the head of a pin?
Fortunately, it is not philosophy, but rugby that we propose to examine. Not the number of rugby players or rugby experts that can fit on the head of a pin, but the number of players who belong on the Australian Ruby League’s Team of the Century.
The Australian Rugby League and the National Rugby League, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the game’s history in Australia, decided that 130 experts was the correct number. Early in 2008, after deliberations that began in the latter part of 2007 were concluded, they announced the best 100 players of all-time. From that point, they proceeded to construct a Team of the Century composed of 13 starting Australian players, along with four reserves and coach.
We have had a look at the career of Clive Churchill, who made the team at fullback. Now, we will take a peek at one of the wings, Brian Bevan.
Brian Eyrl “Wing Wizard” Bevan (24 June 1924 – 3 June 1991) was born in Sydney. His father, Richard “Rick” Bevan, played for Eastern Suburbs during the 1927 season of the NSW Rugby Football League, a season in which East finished fourth on the nine-team ladder before losing to St. George in the semi-finals.
Commencing in 1942, son Brian followed in dad Rick’s path, playing for Easts. He is listed as playing on that side until 1946, but a decision to join the RAN at the outbreak of WW II in 1939 resulted in his being limited to just eight appearances. In that period, he was unable to score a try, tallying just one goal for two points. His brother Owen played for Sydney’s St. George Dragons and his great nephew Paul Bevan played 129 games for the AFL Sydney Swans.
Post-war found him performing for the Warrington Wolves “The Wire” Football Club in England. Bevan made his debut for the club in 1945. He had served aboard the HMAS Australia, with a letter of recommendation from a former Eastern suburbs player. Rugby League was undergoing a good period of growth, what with the exuberance and optimism following the Allies’ victory in blossom. Bevan’s club in particular enjoyed some of its best results.
Bevan had tried to get on with Leeds, but was rejected due to his frail appearance, if it is even possible to conceive of the Bogs perceiving an Aussie as frail. He was turned down by Hunslet also. Low on options, he managed to get a trial with Warrington, which signed him after he scored a try in a November trial. After playing well the following week, The Wire signed him to a contract for £300. He started to prove his worth and collect those pounds sterling after returning briefly to Australia to complete his naval obligation.
In his first full season of 1946 – 47, he led the club with 48 tries, outscoring the nearest player in the league by 14. From that point, he basically continued to get better and better, taking top scorer honours in Great Britain in five different seasons. He scored 72 in 1952 – 53, trailing only one other player, Albert Rosenfield, in the history of the game in England. The following season, 1953 – 54, found his setting a new record in the history of the game when he passed the old mark of 446 tries established by Alf Ellaby.
Other records fell to Bevan as well, scoring hat tricks on more than 100 occasions, kicking seven tries in one game, and over the course of 16 seasons with Warrington, playing in 620 games, tallying 740 tries, 34 goals and 2,228 points.
The Wolves surrounded Bevan with highly competent teammates, so his scoring accomplishments were not wasted on a futile effort. The team included other great players, Harry Bath and Gerry Helme amongst them. The team took the League Championship three times, in 1948, 1954 and 1955. In 1950, the team made a good run to appear in the 1950 Challenge Cup final, where they took the trophy by holding their local nemesis, the Widnes, scoreless, winning 19-nil. The team also won the Lancashire Cup in 1960, something they had not done since 1938. Something that made that accomplishment even more significant is that The Wire played all their games on opposition turf.
In his last season of 1962, The Wire was again proficient. Bevans played his last game on Easter Monday. During his tenure, the team produced two Challenge Cup titles, three Rugby League Championships, six Lancashire League titles and one Lancashire Cup.
Retirement followed, although he did turn up occasionally over the course of three seasons to play with Blackpool Borough. He took part in 42 games, adding 17 tries to his career total.
In addition to his Rugby League appearances, he also took part in 16 games of the Other Nationalities team between 1949 and 1955. In 1952, he was a member of British Empire XIII and Rugby League XIII in 1954.
He did make an appearance in Australia in 1961, playing in a seven-a-side testimonial match to honour Keith Holman, named one of the finest rugby league footballers of the 20th century.
Brian Bevan was inducted into the British Rugby League Hall of Fame in 1988. He died in 1991, so it was fortunate that he lived to enjoy the honour. In 2005, he was inducted into the Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame, and as of 2015, he is the only player to be enshrined in both Halls. Of course, he is in the Warrington Wolves Hall of Fame as well, and has had his image of a British postage stamp. His total for all the teams he represented of 796 tries remains a world record, and about the only thing he may have regretted was that he never got to represent Australia in a test match.