DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 49 2016
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5
Attend ‘Old Journos’ get-together at Plough Inn, South Brisbane, a gathering of former newspaper employees in Brisbane. Talk mainly to former Townsville Bulletin sub-editor, Michael Price. Also chat to the likes of Lex Swain, Wayne Watson, Col Woods, Sue Hocking, Glyn May, Bruce Pickard, Terry Sweetnam, Gwen McLaughlin, Bob Johnson, John Daffy, Greg Chamberlain, Mike Quirk, Tony Koch and Peter McCall. Wayne Watson fondly recalls a weekend away – to Coffs harbour in 1980 – with me, Dave Argus, Craig Shaw and the late George Langley. A lads’ weekend, and what a weekend it was. We were supposed to be going to Wrest Point Casino in Tasmania, but Argus, who was Telegraph aviation writer at the time, failed to come up with the discount airfares, as promised. To his credit, he organised a hire car, at a bargain price, and we drove south to Coffs. My cabbie home from The Plough, is originally from Zimbabwe. A black man, he says Ian Smith did a good job as Prime Minister, of what was then known as Rhodesia.
My league sources tell me that male participation numbers are down, and, it is only the influx of women into the game which has boosted numbers. Australian Rugby League Commission chair, John Grant, is fighting to keep the game on an even keel, financially. Some believe the game’s current business model, will, ultimately, send the game broke. If the club’s always get their way, there is no doubt the game will go belly-up.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6
Brothers Leagues Club owners, Barry and Chris Condon shout beers after a committee/board meeting. I think that means the club is shutting, to make way for town houses. Club manager, Ann-Maree’s dad, a Fitzgerald, played rugby league with Test lock, Ian ‘Ripper’ Doyle in Toowoomba. Former Courier-Mail medical writer, Phil Hammond is dining at the club. He retired from the paper in 2011.
Watch a little of Sale v Exeter rugby union and former Wigan rugby league player, Josh Charnley makes a decent run for Sale.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7
I MC Men of League Christmas Kick-off Club lunch at Broncos. Former Brisbane Wests’ halfback, Des Lea and I talk about former Wynnum-Manly halfback, Des Lee. Des Lee is a product of Murwillumbah Brothers, and was my under-18 coach in 1969. A tougher competitor it would be impossible to meet. He also played extensively in the strong Newcastle competition. Des Lee has not been in the best of health in recent times.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8
Chat to ‘Kiwi Nev’, as I call him, a fellow resident of our estate. He tells me he gave former Test rugby league halfback, Tom Raudonikis a job at the Brisbane Markets, where Tom earned the nickname ‘Tomato Tom’, but that’s another story. Nev said Tom motivated his son to pursue his athletic endeavors. Nev’s ancestors settled at Wanganui, New Zealand in 1853 – from London.
Tonight, Marie and I attend the Albatross Travel Company’s Christmas Party at their city premises, with a view to embarking on a southern Italy tour next year.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9
In Tasmania, a beautiful lady departs this world – Eleanor Scott (nee Riddell) – after a short battle with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s Disease. Eleanor and I lived at Bray Park, Murwillumbah in the Tweed Valley, and were members of Murwillumbah High School debating team. Sometimes we would ride together to school, with Delma Kennedy, another Bray Park resident. Eleanor went to New England University in Armidale, where she met her future husband, Rupert Gregg, from Oatlands, Tasmania. One way or another, we kept in touch, and we saw each other every now and then, the most recent time in 2009, when Marie and I embarked on a motoring tour of Tasmania and Eleanor and her second husband, Larry Scott hosted us at their lovely house at North Hobart. Larry even took us out on the Derwent River, on his little yacht, ‘Louisa’. Eleanor was much loved principal at Rosetta Primary. I only heard of her passing, sometime after the sad event, when another former schoolmate mentioned it, as we were reminiscing about Murwillumbah.
Former Sunday Mail Sports Editor, Geoff Stead emails, seeking information on indigenous artist, Lionel Phillips. Did he play rugby league at a high level. I have no idea.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10
Christmas Party at Derek and Margaret Barea’s house, with other members of the ‘Playgroup’ circle of friends. Margaret White reveals she was in Darwin when Cyclone Tracey hit in 1974.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11
Wilston Village shopping precinct seems to be struggling, with the Brumbies bakery and old general store up for lease. Listen to live recording of jazz maestro, Don Burrows on Macca’s ABC show. The Don Burrows Band played at Rockdale Town Hall in 1970, when I rocked up with Lynda Cheadle from Sans Souci. It was one of a number of events I attended, in Sydney, as school captain of Murwillumbah High, during the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations.
Butcher birds declare war on our son, Lliam as he mows the lawn.
Photo: Des Lee (left) in action for Wynnum-Manly. On the far right is another great Murwillumbah product, Gary Dobrich, playing for Souths.