MONDAY, MAY 16.
A minute’s silence is observed for former international centre, Rod Saddler ahead of the Titans v Roosters’ NRL match at Robina. That was my doing, I am proud to say. I contacted the club re the significance of Ron’s association with both clubs. For a start, Saddler was a legend at the Roosters where he played from 1962-72. Secondly, before joining the Roosters (Easts as they were known then) he had played two seasons in the Tweed League, with Murwillumbah Brothers. The Tweed is part of the Titans’ feeder area. On his retirement from Sydney football, Ron returned to the Tweed and played for Murwillumbah Old Boys in a competition which, by then, included three clubs from the Gold Coast – Tigers, Bears and Pirates. Channel 9 commentator, Andrew Voss also has some nice things to say about Ron.
At Brothers Leagues here in Grange, Brisbane, former Brothers’ winger, Peter Skerman tells me he was once a bouncer at the VIP Club on top of the National Hotel.
TUESDAY, MAY 17
A very emotional day, as I attend the funeral for Ron Saddler, at All Saints Anglican Church, Murwillumbah, and then the wake at Brothers’ Leagues Club, Dorothy Street, Murwillumbah. Before the funeral, I had driven to Bray Park to look at the house where we lived (from 1960-68) beside the general store. Ron married Carole Blewett, the daughter of the proprietors of the store, in the early 1960s. Carole used to babysit me, and has fond memories of my mum and dad. Also walk the Main Street where I see my former schoolmate, Jack Kennedy having a beer in the Court House Hotel, waiting for former Brothers’ coach, Mark Wakefield, the former Cronulla halfback. They both attend the packed funeral service, which is conducted by a female cleric, with former Cronulla centre, Paul Donaghy, a Murwillumbah product, giving the eulogy. The bloke sitting in front of me is wearing a Beach Hotel (Bondi) jersey. Slim Dusty music is played and the Brothers’ boys form a guard of honor for Ron’s coffin. I didn’t see any players from the current Roosters’ outfit in the congregation, even though the club played just up the road, the night before. Ron’s former Roosters’ teammate, Kevin Junee, who toured England and France with Ron in 1967-68, is there. He has been managing the East Lismore Bowls Club.
At the wake, I catch up with so many old mates, too many to list. Mary Leslight (nee Connolly) says hello. She is the widow of former Brothers’ prop, Brian Leslight, who was great mates with Ron. I took out Mary’s sister, Bernadette for a time, back in 1972. I didn’t realise the Connolly’s came from Innisfail in North Queensland. On the Tweed, Mr Connolly ran a saw mill at Chillingham. Late in the night, I shed a few tears with Ron’s son, Brent. I am told tonight that the great Mal Meninga secretly played a trial match for Old Boys, when he was a young police officer, as a ‘favor’ to good mate, Peter McIllwain, a Murwillumbah lad. Tony Dobrich, the son of former Brothers’ star, Gary, guides me through ‘the bush’ ( short cut) back to my motel.
WEDNESDAY MAY 18
Traffic chaos on the M1 at Coomera – there is a Wiggles concert at Dreamworld! Then a prang at Slacks Creek. But I still make it to Forages Cafe, St Lucia in time for morning tea with noted author, Hugh Lunn, who will deliver this year’s Ross Livermore Memorial Lecture. Hugh is concerned about some of the development plans Queensland University has in mind for St Lucia.
Beenleigh High win ‘Pacific Region’ schools rugby league competition. South Sydney’s short lived, an admittedly tenuous association with Beenleigh, is over, with new CEO Shane Richardson changing the development strategy at the NRL club.
Our son, Damien has clocked 28kmh through the Smiley sign at Beenleigh High, making him the fastest of the teachers.
FRIDAY, MAY 20
Fellow History Committee member, Steve Haddan and I meet with QRL chair, Peter Betros and directors, Brad Tallon, Danny McGuire and Lee Anderson, re the establishment of a league museum. It is made clear that the space in the new QRL Central (headquarters) is only adequate for a ‘display area’, not a museum. There will be no funding for a museum.
Marie reports there is a lady staying at the Windsor International Motel, who is a Marilyn Munro impersonator.
Our eldest boy, Damien says watch out for giant young schoolboy forward, Payne Haas – ” a real find’ he says.
Cowboys v Broncos. Yet another great game (at Suncorp) with Johnathan Thurston kicking the winning field goal to give the Broncos a 19-18 win.
SATURDAY, MAY 21
Marie makes scones for afternoon tea with Damien, his wife, Emma and their little daughter, Parker. Damien says a former student of his in the UK – a lad of Iraqi heritage – has started Futsol at Chester University. Walk past Lanham Park soccer field where Grange Thistle are hosting the (Rocklea) Knights (crowd 20). Match is delayed because of a problem with the goal posts!! Former Wallaby, Tim Horan – on radio Triple M – makes his oft repeated, snide comment about rugby league’s limited international footprint, compared with union. “Israel Folau wants to play all over the world, instead of just Papua New Guinea and New Zealand,” Horan says.
SUNDAY, MAY 22
Marie to 40th anniversary Paniyiri (Greek) festival at West End, with our daughter, Melanie.
Tall young Queensland forward, Pat O’Hanlon plays his last game for Canterbury-Bankstown, succumbing to the effects of an horrific ankle injury. He did well just to get back on the field.
Aussie rules dominates the results section of ‘The Sunday-Mail’. How can this be?