MONDAY, JUNE 6
Get my haircut at Stafford today, and an almost bald guy storms off, swearing as he goes, when the barber tells him there is a half hour wait. I Mean!! Jason Turik (Men of League) asks me to appear on NRL 360 to talk about former Australian rugby league skippers, Max Krilich and Keith Barnes. Max has been doing it a bit tough after a knee operation went bad. Both men are in line for the “All Time Great Captain” award, and I am a judge.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8
To Sydney today for a round table discussion about the merits of the captains. At Brisbane airport I hear a South Australian girl tell a couple of Yanks that East Coast Aussies don’t know about the joys of Cornish Pasties, which are big in Sth Aust. Lots of people from Cornwall settled there. We had friends in Camborne, England, who introduced us to the joys of ‘real’ Cornish pasties, way back in 1986. Great views on the flight. The Hawkesbury River is so muddy. My female Chinese cabbie from airport to NRL HQ, is a good driver and keen to know about the history of rugby league. The lunch time meeting to discuss, the ‘Captain’s Captain’, goes really well. In attendance are former internationals, Noel Kelly and Greg Alexander; historians, Terry Williams and David Middleton and author, Ian Heads. Sydney Telegraph ‘Sports Editor-at Large’, Phil Rothfield is a no show. Noel Kelly tells great yarns about life on tour with the Kangaroos, and is quite blunt with his opinion of some of his teammates, as blokes. Afterwards I chat to Glenn Jackson from NRL Media, a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist. Glenn says there is a good vibe at NRL HQ.
Two beers (Willie Brown Ales) at Unicorn Pub. At the urinal, a girl stands beside me and pees, I presume with the aid of a female urinate device (whatever that is). Sydney! When I am waiting for a cab, she jumps in front of me. When I get a cab, the driver is Indian. He is a tail gater, but I feel safe. We talk cricket (shock) and I recount seeing the 1967 Indian team at the ‘Gabba in Brisbane, with the Nawab of Pataudi captaining the tourists. My driver says the Nawab (a prince) has turned his palaces into hotels.
Eddie Jones says rugby league is the toughest game in the world, but not the most skilful. He comes from a code, where sometimes, the forwards hardly touch the football, and if they do, it is just to ‘pick and go’. Lots of skill in that.
By the way. I was a late scratching from NRL 360. Services not required, evidently.
THURSDAY, JUNE 9
Marie and I are guests in Intrust Super corporate box at Suncorp Stadium, for Broncos v Canberra Raiders match. Fish and chips the main fare. A three try blitz by fullback, Darius Boyd catapulted the Broncos to a 26-18 win. Former North Queensland Cowboy, Zac Santo has a good game at fullback for Canberra. Santo signed with Canberra, despite approaches to try out for the Australian Rugby Sevens side as it prepared for the Olympic Games.
FRIDAY, JUNE 10
Today we begin a trip west. Coffee at ‘Deli Delicious Deli’, Toowoomba. Excellent coffee, food and service, and we get free bread for spending over $50 (on supplies). Next stop, Chinchilla, where we have lunch beside the council chambers. Get to Roma at 4 p.m. and walk the Bungil Creek track, before dinner at Commonwealth Hotel. Barmaid hails from Estonia, and when I ask for a glass of Rose’ she says she has not heard or Rose’! Another barmaid is from Liverpool and supports Everton. She calls Widnesians, ‘wooly backs’. (Widnes, another city on the Mersey, is a rugby league stronghold). I think Wooly backs refers to the Welsh. A third barmaid is from Canada and prefers union to league. She doesn’t like league’s ‘re-sets’. I chat to a local bloke who knew Arthur Beetson’s mum. Arthur Beetson, the first indigenous man to captain Australian in rugby league (and any sport for that matter), grew up at Roma. In 1982 I travelled to Roma to cover the Toowoomba and South West match against Redcliffe, at Bassett Park, in the Winfield State League. Artie was coach of Redcliffe, but, at the last minute, cancelled his trip west for personal reasons. I can’t recall the reason. A death in the family, I think. Redcliffe won easily in a dour game.
SATURDAY, JUNE 11
Two sausage sizzles on the go in Roma’s main business area. People friendly. There is a ‘Parade of Heroes’, an avenue of bottle trees planted to remember the war dead. One poor bloke was killed six days before the end of World War I. Head north on the Carnarvon Highway, past Bassett Park. Stop the other side of Injune for lunch, and then book into our lovely cabin at Takarakka Resort near Carnarvon Gorge National Park. Walk to nearby creek, where we see kangaroos, cockatoos, heron and an echidna, but no platypus. Then to a nearby lookout, where the vista reminds me of parts of southern France. At Happy Hour, we are served by two young overseas back packers, one male the other female. Coopers stubbies only $4! How is it the Noosa Surf Club charge $9 a schooner? We chat to couples from Newcastle and Ashmore (Gold Coast). The Novocastrians had traveled to Carnarvon, via Uluru. The bloke from Ashmore is ex-Army (Malaysia and Borneo) who played league at Chester Hill in Sydney, and coached future Wallaby, Matt Giteau, whose dad, Ron, played first grade league for Wests, Easts and Canberra. The 5 p.m. lecture by resort staff member is informative and entertaining.
SUNDAY, JUNE 12
Drive to National Park entrance. Wollongong ladies in Byron Bay campervan beside us, as we pull up. Walk main track past beautiful Ward’s Canyon. Lots of evidence of feral pigs, then back to the Canyon, which is named after possum hunters. Picnic lunch with two couples from Bellingen (ex Eastwood and Parramatta in Sydney). Next stop, The Amphitheatre, followed by the peaceful Moss Gardens. Red haired lass says she prefers King’s Canyon and parts of the Kimberleys.
At ‘Happy Hour’, we sit with a couple from Lakes Entrance in Victoria. She is aggressive in her support of Australian rules, and gets very uptight when I call it cross country netball. She cant’ understand why anybody would not love the game. It’s Australian, so you most love it. Death adders are Australian, but I don’t like them.
Picture: Arthur Beetson (centre) with Queensland State of Origin managers, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner (left) and Keith Welsh.