DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER – WEEK 46 2016
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14
This is the last week of our New South Wales’ motoring holiday. Leave the Hunter Valley and travel north through Branxton and Dungog. Brunch at Barrington Bakery in Dungog. Drive through Gloucester, where I played my first rugby league match for Wingham – in a trial in 1975. Drive the ‘Buckets Way’ to Wingham, where memories come flooding back of my season with the Tigers, as we pass the Wingham Showgrounds, where we played in ’75. Wingham have a lovely new ground now. We were hard to beat at home, because we had become accustomed to the hard, uneven surface, which was often chopped up by rodeos and gymkhanas. Marie takes a photograph of me in Central Park, beside the Alec Burdon plaque, which was put in place in 2008, the Centenary Year of rugby league in Australia. It was a shoulder injury to Burdon, in a rugby union match played at Central Park on July 22, 1907, which sparked the split to form league, with the New South Wales Rugby League formed 16 days later. The rugby union authorities would have nothing to do with helping Burdon, and many others like him, with medical expenses or loss of earnings. Rugby league kicked off in 1908 and Burdon toured Britain with the 1908-09 Kangaroos, later becoming a NSW and Australian selector. I notice a Greenaway Taxi at the rank. The Greenaway name is synonymous with Wingham Tigers.
Drive to Port Macquarie, via beautiful Comboyne Plateau. There is a ‘Super Moon’ tonight, and people have set up their picnic chairs to watch the spectacle at City Beach. A whale breaches. Dinner at City Bowls.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15
Our 42nd wedding anniversary. Head north to Emerald beach, via Slimy Dusty Centre at Kempsey. One of Slim’s heroes was Tex Morton, who, my aunt, Dorrie Ricketts (stage name Sister Dorrie) worked with for many years. The song ‘G’Day G’Day’ plays over and over again in reception. It could have been written about my father-in-law, Kevin Donnelly who said ‘G’Day to everyone he passed. It was a bit difficult in a place like Brisbane’s crowded Queen Street Mall, but he did his best. Sword fish for dinner.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16
Pancake morning at our caravan park. I have lemon and sugar on mine, which brings back memories of my mother cooking pancakes at Bray Park, Murwillumbah. Marie and I walk the two headlands to the south, and there are kangaroos enjoying the coastal ambiance. See one small snake as well. There is a tribute to ‘Buddy, 6, lost at sea Sep 26, 1989. Love Mum and Dad.’
Now, what happens next is beyond comprehension. While I am surfing, a young bloke, among a group of five or six, throws a giant rock at Marie, as she relaxes below on the beach. The rock was thrown from the path above and just missed her. I mean, really? You can’t put that down to young high jinx. The guy is obviously a psycho. I didn’t see it, thank God, or, no doubt I would have chased and God knows how that would have finished! They were out of sight when I emerged from the surf, and Marie told me what had unfolded.
Back at the camping ground, a little girl asks an Asian looking bloke if he is aboriginal? He is a ‘dinkum Aussie’, but certainly not ‘indigenous’. Back to the beach, where there are eight or nine ‘Asians’ in the surf, one wearing a track suit bottom, as you do. A car outside the local post office sports two Australian flags. I don’t agree with that sort of Aussie jingoism. It seems to bellow – ‘I’m a real Aussie, are you?’ The real Australians I have grown up with, have always been anything but nationalistic, but always proud Australians. There is a difference.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 17
Barista at ‘Wired’, Emerald Beach is a South Sydney league fan. Lives at Woolgoolga, or ‘Whoopi’ as locals calls it. He says local league is struggling. Belated anniversary dinner at Surf Street, Emerald Beach, which is very busy, for a special menu night. Our ex-Victorian waitress is so friendly and efficient.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18
Walk north to next two headlands, before driving to Lismore to stay with Marie’s sister, Carolyne Soward. Stop at Fishing Co-op, Evans Head for prawn cutlets and calamari, which we eat at Chinaman’s Beach. Also buy fresh jew fish for dinner. As a young girl, Carolyne worked for a 24 hour garage/cafe at South Lismore, run by a man of German origin, who allegedly under-paid her. She said he used a pencil for his accounts books.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 19
Marie and I to markets at Lismore Showgrounds, the first time I have been there since my parents took me to the North Coast National (Agricultural Show) in the 1950s. I have a lovely coffee (that wouldn’t have been possible in the 1950s); a ginger and tumeric drink (also not possible in the ’50s) and a lentil roll (need I say it). Ex-Lismore Mayor, Jenny Dowell is enjoying the ambiance of the market. Old couple provide 1950s music.
To Jean Vidler’s 90th at Ballina Bowls Club. She is the mother of one of Marie’s best friend’s, Janelle Bryant, who married an American Naval officer, Russell Bryant. They are home for the celebrations. Mrs Vidler’s brother, Fred Braid, (Australia’s foremost circus historian) makes a beautiful speech, about seeing Jean, the day she was born. They grew up in the Ballina Fire Station cottage.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20
Back to Brisbane, via Brunswick Heads Fishing Co-op, where we buy flathead. Surf at Main Beach on the Gold Coast, where we catch up with our son, Damien, his wife, Emma and their lovely little daughter, Parker.
Photo: Russell and Janelle Bryant.