x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Stricken Beeton was 'proudest to put on UAE shirt'

His teammates hail the "quiet guy' who plays hard and fast but now lies in a hospital on life support.

Jon Beeton, first on the right, amazed his teammates with his enthusiasm.
Jon Beeton, first on the right, amazed his teammates with his enthusiasm.

The majority of the UAE national team players were squirming in their seats and trying to find the nearest exit when Bruce Birtwistle, the erstwhile coach, made them sit through the video nasty of their 111-0 defeat to Japan in May.

For one player, however, that Asian Five Nations match represented the finest moment in a burgeoning international rugby career.

Jon Beeton's break, following an interception on the edge of his own 22, ended inches short of the Japanese try-line.

In that one moment, the rampaging outside centre, an engineer by profession, was the embodiment of the plucky amateur rugby player, railing against the relentless professionals from Asia's leading rugby nation.

The World Cup-bound Japanese may have scored 17 tries and a century of points, but Beeton's salvo was the abiding memory for the 2,000 or so spectators who made the trip to The Sevens in Dubai that night.

"After the Japan game, coach Bruce made us watch the video of the game," said David Vittes, a teammate of Beeton's at both international level and with his club side, the Dubai Exiles.

"Every time it got to his intercept break, he made us watch it over and over again, so many times that we joked that if we watched it enough times he might actually make it to the line.

"Jon backed himself to score and came so close. That's one thing people will remember him for on the pitch. He always backed himself 100 per cent, didn't hesitate in the moment, and more times than not he got the results needed."

Vittes will lead a side called the Studente Dubai Exiles in a fund-raising match for his stricken teammate, at The Sevens this evening.

Beeton is on life support in hospital in Dubai, after suffering critical injuries following an accident while on a boating trip with friends. Specialist medical opinion says that he will never regain consciousness.

An afternoon of fund raising for his family, starting at 3pm, will be followed by the match between his clubmates and a national select XV, which will kick off at 7.30pm.

"Jon has given his all for our club, and his adopted country, on and off the rugby pitch," Mike Wolff, the chairman of the Exiles, said.

"It's now time for us, the members of his Dubai Exiles family, and the wider regional rugby community, to do the same for him, and his dependents."

The Exiles side will adopt the name "Studente", by which Beeton has been known since he first arrived at his club as a shy newcomer who often coaxed his teammates into lending him money on nights out.

"Some of us actually thought he was a student we he first arrived, as he looked very young and was very quiet," Vittes, who shared his clubmate's pride at making his international debut this year, said.

"Jon was probably one of the proudest people to put on that UAE shirt. Last year, when he still hadn't qualified through the three-year residency rule, all he did was talk about playing international rugby, and this year he made the No 13 shirt his own.

"You could see the smile on his face anytime someone mentioned it, what that meant to him. We literally had to take his shirt off him after the each game and put it back into the kit bag, he was so determined that it was his."

The UAE select XV this evening will be led by another Exiles player, Mike Cox-Hill, the national team captain, who said Beeton has been a pleasure to have as a teammate.

"You could see that Jon was one of the people who most enjoyed the chance of tasting the experience of playing international rugby," Cox-Hill said.

"He was extremely committed, the first guy to practice and he usually stayed on to do extra fitness work after training."

Beeton made his UAE debut in the opening game of this year's Asian Five Nations, the draw with Sri Lanka on a sodden field in Colombo. Typically, he made the break from his position at centre, which set up the national team's first attack.

"He was rooming next to me, and one night on tour I was banging on his door saying he wasn't allowed to sleep, and that he had to get up," Cox-Hill said. "Sure enough, he was straight up and we went out, even though, strictly speaking, we were not supposed to. His attitude was that this was his chance to play international rugby, and he wanted to experience every part of it."

 

Fundraiser details, s14