DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 6 2017
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6
There is a magnificent roll-up in Lismore, New South Wales for the funeral of Neville Charles Soward, my wife Marie’s brother-in-law, through his marriage to Marie’s sister, Carolyne. The wake is held at the nearby Workers’ Sports Club. Neville was a baker at Nimbin, and his nicknames included ‘Nifty’ and ‘Doughie’. He played rugby league for his town, in the Kyogle competition. As a boy he rode his horse to school, and later took his daughters (from his first marriage) to the pony club. Neville was a National Serviceman, and later joined the CMF. At the funeral I catch up with my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Darryl ‘Little Rooster’ Gear, who ran the general store in Nimbin. Also chat to Aldo Bazanna (Milan, Italy, is his heritage) and his wife, Joy. Aldo, a giant of a man, was a rugby league prop and also a member of the famous Nimbin Tug-of-War team.
There are reports a rugby league club in regional New South Wales, owes the Country Rugby League quite a bit of money. The club itself was allegedly left out of pocket, after advancing money to a prominent player, who failed to turn up.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9
MC Beer and Beef Club lunch at Regatta Hotel, where I interview former Test rugby league prop, and former Senator, Glenn ‘The Brick with Eyes’ Lazarus, who gave up his time for free. ‘Lazo’ will not rule out running for the Senate again. Aileen Collins, 73, finishes at The Breakfast Creek Hotel, after 50 years behind the bar. I first had a beer at ‘The Creek’ in 1975.
Learn of the passing of Fred Nicol, a former Storeman and Packer’s union official who I interviewed several times in the late 1970s, when I covered the industrial round for the ‘Telegraph’.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10
Rise early to watch SkySports coverage of the first Super League match of the year, between St Helens and Leeds. Actor and producer, Johnny Vegas, who was born and raised in St Helens, does the Super League promotional video. Former Saints and Great Britain forward, Eric Chisnall presents the match ball to Leeds’ halfback, Rob Burrow, who is playing his 500th game for the Rhinos. Man of the match is St Helens’ French star, Theo Fages. One of the talking points is a great try saving tackle by Saints’ winger, Tommy Makinson.
Tonight, at Brothers Leagues, I meet fellow Hermitage Gardens’ residents, Greg and Emma. His dad played for Taree United in the Group 3 rugby league competition, where I spent a season. Emma is from Powys in Wales.
The Indigenous side belt ‘The World’ 34-8 in the All Stars match played in Newcastle in front of a crowd of 20,241, with Indigenous halfback and skipper, Johnathan Thurston winning his second Preston Campbell Medal as man of the match. The World side included players from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and Tonga.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11
Get up early to watch Leigh’s return to the English Super League. I covered the Australia v Leigh match, at the old Hilton Park, on the 1982 Kangaroo tour, the last time Australia played the club. Leigh are belted 26-0 by Castleford at Wheldon Road, Castleford. Dramatic news from France, where Catalans Dragons’ star, Tony Gigot has been banned for two years, after “an inappropriate exchange with a drug tester”, when Gigot was in camp with the French national squad in October.
In a rugby union match between Newcastle and Sale, Newcastle’s Fijian winger, Vereniki Goneva is sin binned for kicking a rival, who was running with the ball. Goneva should have been sent off and banned for a long time.
In Sydney, grade cricket is called off because of the heat. Really!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12
Former Queensland wicket keeper, Lew Cooper phones the ABC”s Macca, from Singapore, to say his dad, Lew Snr was a head bugler. Macca had been talking about buglers, after War Museum Director, Brendan Nelson mentioned the Last Post ceremony, which is held daily at the museum, and which my wife and I have had the privilege of attending.
Our daughter, Melanie face times from Hong Kong, where she works. She is about to go to a traditional Chinese karaoke do, and prompts family members to provide their best karaoke songs. Lliam puts up ‘Romeo and Juliet, while Damien goes for ‘Proud Mary’. I don’t know what mine would be. Probably ‘Heart of Gold’, but I wont be performing in public.
Watch start of ‘Hoges’, a mini-series, about Australian comedian, Paul Hogan. There is a swimming pool scene, which is meant to be Granville in Sydney. It was actually filmed at the Centenary Pool in the Brisbane suburb of Spring Hill.
It was a record 45 degrees at Gatton, in the Lockyer Valley today. It was 38 degrees here in Brisbane.
Photo: Neville and Carolyne Soward.