MONDAY, AUGUST 10
Brisbane Broncos’ Test centre, Justin Hodges announces he will retire at season’s end. I remember saying, the first time I saw Justin at Broncos’ training, that he was a natural, and destined for big things. Not that I was alone in that assessment. The Sydney Roosters lured him south at the end of 2001 and my coverage of events surrounding coach, Wayne Bennett’s decision to drop Hodges to Queensland Cup, saw me banned by the great man, a ban that lasted nearly three years. Also banned by Bennett, for their coverage of the Hodges’ drama, were Peter Frilingos (Sydney Tele), Ray Hadley (Sydney radio) and Ian Eckersley (ABC Queensland). The worse thing about the whole affair, was News Ltd’s failure to stand up to Bennett on my behalf, given they owned the Broncos. Don’t get me wrong. News Ltd looked after me very well across my career, but their foray into rugby league ownership was always going to create such ethical dramas.
Learn of the death of former Sunday-Mail sports editor, Tom Linneth, who covered the 1955 French rugby league tour of Australia. Tom was my boss a number of times when I worked on Saturday for The Sunday-Mail.
Former Brothers’ Test prop, David Wright has bumped into former Brisbane Souths’ forward, Ash Lumby, who is working in security. Lumby was former premier, Wayne Goss’s assigned police officer at one stage, but in recent years has disappeared from the public gaze, not even turning up to Souths’ reunions.
Wingham product, Mitchell Barnett makes his NRL debut for Canberra Raiders, aged 21. I played for Wingham in 1975, and have fond memories of a great rugby league town.
‘Old Mr Graham’ is interviewed on television at the Ekka (Royal Queensland Agricultural Show). Mr Graham, now well in his 80s, has been attending the Ekka for many years from the Tweed Valley. I played rugby league with his nephew, Robert ‘Foxy’ Graham, one of the funniest men on the planet; a good, if controversial, and at times, lazy, footballer. ‘Old Mr Graham’ stays at Windsor International where my wife works.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 11
With David Wright, I interview players from Souths’ 1985 Brisbane Rugby League premiership winning side. Coach, Wayne Bennett and Test centre, Mal Meninga are late scratchings (because of illness) from the dinner at Souths’ HQ at Davies Park. Would you believe it!!! Souths’ long serving CEO, Jim McLelland is devastated, but the night still goes well. I interview Irish born, Chris Phelan and Lebanese international, John Elias, while David speaks to 1985 skipper, Norm Carr and former Test fullback, Gary ‘Badge’ Belcher. The hosts for the night are former Souths’ players, Bob Hudson and Robert Marshall, who spin quite a yew yarns.
I catch up with several people who went on my Kangaroos’ supporters’ tours – Graham and Jean Kerr (1990 and ’94), Doug and Joan Cory (1990, ’94 and ’98) – and Doug Bell (1998). OK, there was no Kangaroo tour in 1998 (thanks to the Super League ‘war’) but we still had a rugby league element, visiting league strongholds and clubs in southern France (Limoux, Perpignan, Carcassone, Avignon) and attending the Great Britain v New Zealand Third Test at Watford. Graham Kerr was a long serving chief executive of Souths’ while his wife, Jean was ‘matriarch’ of my first two supporters’ tours. Doug Cory, a successful businessman, played for Souths and was a prominent surf life saver on the Gold Coast. Doug Bell’s son, David played first grade for Souths.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 13
My wife, Marie works as a volunteer at the Ekka, selling ice creams – managed to eat one along the way. Proceeds to Prince Charles Hospital, Chermside.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 14
To Brothers/Bandits Club for raffles. Fail to win anything, but legendary Brothers’ strapper, Jimmy Johnson gives me a t-bone tray. His freezer is full.
Death of Stephen Lewis, 88, who played ‘Blakey’ in ‘On the Buses’, a British television comedy. My good mate, Taree based Brian Atherton, is nicknamed ‘Blakey’. A proud Widnesian, Brian has lived in Australia since 1972, but still has a strong English accent.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 15
An afternoon of nostalgia at Emerson Park, Grange where Valleys play Wests in the Brisbane Rugby League. Chat to former Valleys’ stars, Marty Scanlan, Frank Clancy and John Tapp, as well as veteran Diehards’ official, Vince Buckley, whose son, Shane played first grade for Valleys and toured France with the 1989 Queensland Residents side. Tapp says Ross ‘Rat’ Strudwick was the best coach he played under. Tapp also recalled Valleys’ teammates Al Mcinnes and Greg ‘Hammer’ Walker, rubbing Dencorub into the eyes of Redcliffe rivals, Bryan Niebling and Wally Fullerton Smith.
Wests beat Valleys in an entertaining clash, much to the delight of Wests’ number one supporter, Jeffery.
In England, a minute’s silence is observed, before the Wakefield Trinity v Bradford match in honor of former Great Britain forward, Derek ‘Rocky’ Turner, who played 24 Tests between 1956 and 1962 and featured as an ‘extra’ in award winning movie, ‘This Sporting Life’, which was (partly) filmed at Wakefield’s ground, Bell Vue.