MONDAY, AUGUST 24
Enjoy a lovely two hour chat with former Test rugby league referee and Sheffield Shield cricket umpire, Don Lancashire and his wife, Carol at their Mount Warren home near Brisbane. I was accompanied by Men of League charity, Brisbane secretary, Vance Rennie and former Test halfback, Denis Ward, with the upshot a feature article – written by me – in the MOL quarterly magazine. Don refereed me in one match – in 1976 when I played for Brothers in the club’s historic win over Sydney club, Penrith in the knock-out Amco Cup competition. It was the fastest game I have played, largely thanks to Don’s excellent refereeing.
Tonight I attend Queensland Rugby League offices to help choose the best Queensland Cup side from the last 20 years. The other judges in attendance are former Test prop, David Wright; historian, Mike Higgison; statistician, Brad Tallon and QRL media manager, Michael Hillier. We narrow the list from 300 to 70, which is no mean feat. We are to meet again to finalise the 17.
Learn of the death of Alan Clarkson, 85, former chief league writer with the Sydney Morning Herald, a real gentleman. I covered the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Britain with ‘Clarko’, who was a schoolmate of the ‘Immortal’ Clive Churchill in Newcastle.
My Tweed Heads’ based brother, Jeffery turns 60 today and is shouted to dinner by his lovely wife, Ann, at a French cafe, which he supplies with tarragon from his garden. A former school teacher, Jeffery played first grade rugby league with Marist Brothers in Lismore, and his youngest son, Xavier was a star in the making at South Tweed Heads, where he was identified by Gold Coast Titans. A teammate was current Melbourne Storm centre, Cheyse Blair. ‘The big X’ gave up league in his teens and is now an officer in the Australian Army. Jeff and Ann have three other children – Kieran (a journalist), Jacinta (barrister) and Laura (psychologist).
TUESDAY, AUGUST 25
Morning tea, courtesy of the Queensland Museum following the success of their State of Origin rugby league display. The museum crew, including assistant curator, Lyn Petrie and senior curator, Mark Clayton are unaware rugby union stopped playing during World War 1, while league kept going. They are looking at a sports element to their 2018 World War I museum display.
Dinner and drinks tonight with former ‘Courier-Mail’ colleague, Paul Malone; former ABC commentator, Warren Boland and former Channel 9 sports host, Steve Haddan at Citroen Restaurant, Wilston. Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock is a scratching because he is in Sydney interviewing cricketers, Max Walker and Dean Jones for FoxSports.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26
Write Obituary on former Queensland back, Danny O’Connell, after confirming a few things with his son, Gerard, an ex Catholic priest who is now the Mayor of Fraser Coast Council. Danny toured New South Wales with the Qld side in 1953, and also played against the American All Stars.
Tonight Marie and I dine at Bourbon Street Restaurant at South Bank, courtesy of Souths Rugby League- a thank you for my role in the success of the reunion for the ’85 side. Our waitress is from Lille in France. Food average. The highlight a $60 bottle of wine from Symphony Hills on Queensland’s Granite Belt. Attempt to have a nightcap at nearby ‘Argentine Bar’, but walk out because there is no service.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27.
A regular at Brothers/Bandits club, known simply as ‘Grumps’, wins $1,300 on the pokies and shouts me a drink. Jim Gannon, another regular, has his brother, Steve down from Moura in Central Qld. Steve is a volunteer worker at Moura Bowls Club. Bowls clubs are closing in their droves, so men like Steve are needed, although the Liquor Trades Union frowns on volunteer workers behind the bar. I can understand both sides of the argument.
Broncos belt Souths 47-12 in Sydney, with halfback, Ben Hunt scoring three tries.
Darryl Brohman’s kids’ section on ‘The Footy Show’ features the Crookwell club from NSW Southern Highlands. They are so funny, and so different (in a nice way) to their city counterparts, in what they say.
Former Redcliffe player, Liam Georgetown emails from the United States, where he is paying rugby league.
Learn that former Test halfback, Ross Strudwick has had a triple by-pass, and is going well.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29
Rugby league is 120 years old today. Happy birthday to this ‘bastard’ form of rugby. Thank god you came along, otherwise I would be stuck with the ‘official’ game (and wouldn’t know any better). Along the way, I’m sure someone would have invented league anyway, because, if you think union is crook now, you should have seen it in the days when you could kick out on the full from anywhere on the field!!
The late Steve Rogers’ grandson, Jack scores a hat-trick of tries in his under-20 debut for Cronulla – against Parramatta.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 30
To the Gold Coast to see our son, Damien and his wife, Emma, and I find time to check out the sports museum (largely rugby league) at the Surfers Paradise RSL, the work of an Englishman. It’s free to browse while enjoying an ale, and is well worth a visit.
Learn of the death of Bart Cummings. Cummings was trainer of ‘Think Big’ when it won the 1974 Melbourne Cup, which I attended, by myself, after my travelling companion, Adrian (Champs) Chapman decided he would stay at Junee, to help his brothers build a wheat silo. We were going to cause so much havoc in Melbourne Champs!! Why, oh why did you desert me? My Budget was totally destroyed and backing Taras Bulba in the Cup didn’t help.