Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bevan, Brian Eyrl (1924–1991)

by Andy Carr

This article was published online in 2014

Brian Eyrl Bevan (1924-1991), rugby league footballer, was born on 24 June 1924 at Waverley, Sydney, son of New South Wales-born Eric Clarence Bevan, printer, and his Victorian-born wife Veida Alice, née Leggett. During his education at Bondi Public and Randwick Boys' Intermediate High schools, Brian exhibited athletic prowess. He excelled at sprinting and swimming, and was also proficient at cricket and tennis. After watching his father play rugby league for Newtown and Eastern Suburbs—and later viewing the British touring teams of 1932 and 1936—he took up rugby football himself. Later, he attributed his great sidestepping skills to the experience he gained in dodging crowds following attendance at matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He played rugby union at school and rugby league informally with friends, then representative rugby union for the New South Wales Schoolboys in 1937 and 1938. At the age of fifteen he left school to commence an apprenticeship as a compositor.

From junior league club Graham, Bevan joined the Eastern Suburbs club in 1941, playing that season in third and reserve grades. At this stage he switched position from centre to right wing. He made his first grade debut in 1942, but played little after he was mobilised for service in the Royal Australian Naval Reserve on 4 May that year. Trained as a stoker, he served at shore establishments and at sea in the corvettes Katoomba (1942-43) and Bundaberg (1944), and the cruiser Australia when it was sent to Plymouth, England, for refitting in 1945. On his arrival, an expatriate rugby league player, Bill Shankland, arranged a trial for him with the English club Warrington, Cheshire, resulting in a contract with the club. Demobilised on 29 March 1946 in Sydney, Bevan returned to England.

Bevan’s speed and skill as a winger ensured his instant success in English rugby league. He was the game’s leading try-scorer in his first full season, scoring forty-eight. In total, he played 620 matches for Warrington between 1945-46 and 1961-62, scoring 740 tries and thirty-four goals (2,288 points). He scored what is known in British rugby league as ‘the try of the century,’ against Wigan on 14 August 1948, when he eluded several opposition players and zig-zagged 125 yards (114 metres) to score from his own tryline. The same year he married Grace Doreen Allison, a bank clerk, on 20 April at the parish church, Grappenhall, with Church of England rites. In December 1959 Bevan’s jaw was broken. Because of this and other accumulated injuries, he played fewer games in the first team. His last match for Warrington was in April 1962; he then spent two seasons with the second-division club Blackpool Borough. In total, he scored 796 tries in first-class British rugby league, a world record.

An ungainly looking athlete, Bevan suffered from premature baldness, had lost several teeth, and played football with his knees wrapped in thick bandages. Following his retirement from rugby league, he worked as a policeman with the Ministry of Defence in southern England, but he and his wife eventually retired to Blackpool to be nearer their children. Bevan died of lung cancer on 3 June 1991 at Southport, Merseyside. A statue and a mural are located at Warrington’s home ground, the Halliwell Jones Stadium.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Gate, Robert. The Great Bev: The Rugby League Career of Brian Bevan. London: London League Publications, 2002
  • Hadfield, Dave. ‘Why a Bondi Boy Never Wore Green and Gold.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 1988, 78
  • Heads, Ian. ‘Style that Kept Bevan One Step Ahead of the Rest.’ Sydney Morning Herald, 5 June 1991, 60
  • Loosehead‘Bevan.’  no. 6 (Winter 1999): 20-22
  • National Archives of Australia. A6770, Bevan, B. E.

Additional Resources

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Citation details

Andy Carr, 'Bevan, Brian Eyrl (1924–1991)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bevan-brian-eyrl-15753/text26941, published online 2014, accessed online 23 October 2018.

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