DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER.
WEEK 44, 2016
MONDAY, OCTOBER 31
Depart the Snowy Mountains for Eden on the far South Coast of New South Wales. Check into our cabin at Gateway Caravan Park and then walk to Aslings beach. Lots of bell birds in the bush and black swans on Caralo Lagoon. Local flathead for dinner.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1
Local mussels unavailable because of a virus. Nice walk to Quarantine Bay, and then watch the Melbourne Cup at the Fishos Club, where two indigenous locals have a confrontation, but are not ejected. I backed the winner, Almandin.
Congratulate Telegraph rugby league writer, Dean ‘Bulldog’ Ritchie on 30 years at News Ltd. He had forgotten and no-one at News had acknowledged the landmark. (They make up for it a few days later, running Bulldog’s best yarns of 30 years). He and I appeared on ‘Main Game’ on Foxsports and stoked the fires of the Queensland v New South Wales rivalry.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 2
Lovely walk in Ben Boyd National Park. Spot plenty of whales from Boyd’s Tower, built in 1846. A Japanese tourist leaves his live cigarette butt on the ground and I quickly stamp it out. Two groups of school girls get ready for an overnight walk, with their teachers. They all look fit enough to tackle the terrain. At Leatherjacket Bay we chat to a Dutch couple, who are driving from Sydney to Melbourne. Marlene is a hospital dietician and Ameil a public servant. They live in Amsterdam, but he commutes to Utrecht. A timber jinker tail gates us on the way home. All the log trucks around here appear to speed and relish intimidating fellow road users.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3
Cross the border into Victoria, and explore the Mallacoota Lakes, where school kids are having a fishing excursion. A farmer brings a black pig to town, just for the ride, much to the amusement of locals. In the National Park we walk to Secret Beach and Pebbly Beach. Back to the Pacific Highway, via lovely Gypsy Point, where an old lady is fishing, while reading a book. Chinese meal at Eden Country Club.
Back in Brisbane, fellow league historian, Steve Haddan has a book signing in the Queen Street Mall. I helped with chapters covering the 1970s and ’60s. The book ‘Our Game’ is a wonderful tribute to the Brisbane Rugby League scene from 1908 to 1987.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4
The Bega Market is tiny. We buy garlic, peas, honey and radish. At Tathra, the historic wharf and pub are being done up. Fish (sand shark) and chips for lunch at Bar Beach, Merimbula Lake. Next stop, Oakbrook Barn, South Pambula, where I have a dozen local oysters and a pale ale. Marie has the Gypsy Ginger Beer. She also buys chutney (Disaster Bay chillies) and Tilba Cheese. Corn meat for dinner (bought at Eden IGA) is disappointing.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5
Walk to Calle Calle Bay, past the cemetery to Mary Mackillop Hall. The local rugby league club built the picket fence around the hall. Lunch at Great Southern Pub with local Men of League identity, Sheldon Wykes, whose son is captain coach of the local side. A former captain-coach is Steve Ella, who toured Britain and France with the 1982 Kangaroos. In the match against Wales in Cardiff, Ella, a cousin of the rugby union brothers, scored four tries, a match which I covered for the (Brisbane) Telegraph. The Aussies were magnificent. Another former Eden coach is Stuart Raper, who also coached Cronulla. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Roy Masters attended a match at Eden some years ago, and wrote a column about the ‘Hippie Corner’ section of the crowd. After lunch, Marie and I walk to Snug Cove and a new bar, Adrift, which has been opened by pub licensee, Leigh Hennessy, a former Balmain and Newcastle Knights rugby league player, who hails from Cooma. Adrift is an appropriate name for the bar, as there is a yacht adrift in the harbour! A famous rugby league son of Eden is fiery prop, Peter Kelly, who played for Newtown, Canterbury-Bankstown and Penrith, and represented New South Wales.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 6
Watch the last 15 minutes of the England v Scotland match from Coventry. The next match of the double header is Australia v New Zealand, with the Aussies winning. The crowd of 21,009 is a little disappointing, in a stadium which holds 35,000 (home to Wasps Rugby Union and Coventry Soccer). I wonder what the promotion of the double header was like. Former Manly and North Sydney star, John Gray comes from Coventry, and it would have been a great promotion to fly him over.
Drive to Disaster Bay lookout, then Green Cape Lighthouse, where there are seals. Next stop Bittangabee Bay, (indigenous diver emerges from water with crayfish and sea urchins) followed by walk to Hegarty’s Bay. So many seals and whales. There is a vessel at the woodchip wharf.
Our daughter, Melanie phones from a beach bar in Borneo.
Photo: Steve Haddan’s book signing.