End of season football trips. Got to love ’em.
For most of us bush and lower grade footballers of the 1970s, there were no glamor trips to Bali, Hawaii or Fiji.
A trip to Sydney was top of the tree.
God, there was one year, when I was playing in the Tweed Valley, when we went to Brisbane! That was 1972, and the highlight was the grand final between Easts and Valleys, the one where Jeff Fyfe won it for Easts with a last gasp field goal.
We stayed at the Atcherley Hotel and frequented the National, across the road. We saw Railroad Gin one night.
Ray McCarron, our captain-coach at Murwillumbah Brothers in 1971, had arranged tickets for the Brisbane grand final. Big Macca moved to Brisbane in ’72 to play with Wests, and went on to represent Queensland.
In ’71, Ray accompanied the Brothers’ boys on our trip to Sydney for the grand final between Souths and St George. On that occasion we stayed in Crown Street, Kings Cross. And yes, we frequented a few strip joints, but the various leagues clubs were our preferred port of call, including St George (the Taj Mahal), Manly and Balmain.
At Manly, we found a poker machine that wouldn’t stop paying. I think we got $80 out of it, before security woke up. That was a lot back then, and it bought a few schooners of Reschs.
When I finally cracked the big time – Brisbane Brothers C grade – our end of season trip took us to Mackay, where we stayed in Maguires Hotel, right in the heart of town.
Our managers, brothers Kev and Leo Keliher, read the riot act. ‘Don’t disgrace yourselves, or the good name of Brothers.’
So, on the first night, sharing a room with three other players, I got out the hotel Bible and read a few verses.
Tiring of this, one my teammates decided to crash tackle me – into a wall. ‘The Hole in the Wall’ is a good name for a bar, but an ACTUAL HOLE IN THE WALL is not a good thing.
Then, when one of my teammates was showering, and asked for the shampoo to be passed to him, it was thrown, with a bit too much vim, shattering the shower screen and sending the ‘showeree’ to hospital, to have glass splinters removed from the eye.
And we had not even had dinner on the first night.
Things settled down from there, although Kevvie Cameron’s decision to swim nude in the pool at the pub at Eungella, at the top of the Pioneer Valley, did not go over well with management.
One of the blokes on the trip, Ray Willey, now works for our son, Lliam at Supply Partners, Solar Energy.
I quite like Mackay and surrounds. The first time I went there was as a 15-year-old, when my parents took us six kids north for Christmas (from Murwillumbah) to visit dad’s brother, Bill Ricketts, a policeman, and his wife, Nola, a star golfer. We stayed at their house at ‘The Harbour’. Bill and Nola had four kids, so we all took quite some feeding.
There was a day trip to Brampton, and I walked a lap of the island, dodging wild goats.
My wife and I and our two children, Melanie and Damien, visited Mackay in 1983 (Lliam was born the following year) and had a seafood bbq dinner with my Uncle Bill’s eldest daughter, Debbie Menzies and her husband, both school teachers.
I have been back a number of times since, most notably to cover rugby league matches.
Photo: Brothers Leo (left) and Kev Keliher read the riot act in the Pioneer Valley, as Greg Keane and Kevvie Cameron pay no attention.