DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 8 2017
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Watch a replay of Wigan v Cronulla World Club Challenge match and it is nice to see Wigan’s Joe Burgess get three tries after his ordinary stint with the Sydney Roosters. Frenchman, Morgan Escare’s well judged kick, which creates a try for centre, Oliver Gildart, is another highlight of a match played before a delighted crowd of 21,011 at Wigan’s DW Stadium. George Williams, the young five eighth some English critics have compared to the great Dave Bolton, is named man of the match. Men of League Brisbane Committee meeting at the Broncos Leagues Club sees Chris Kelly and Pat Maguire named as our new welfare officers. Pat played first grade league for Brothers Brisbane and South Sydney.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Marie and I fly to New Zealand, and the first two blokes I see at Brisbane Airport, ahead of departure, are wearing All Blacks’ tops. Got to get used to that. Two blokes beside us at check-in are going on an Antarctic cruise. On the flight, sit beside a hipster looking bloke from Helensvale, who is going to NZ on medical equipment business. He services the equipment. Drive from Auckland airport to Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, where we have drinks at Grace O’Malleys, overlooking Mercury Bay. A European tourist is smoking dope. A Pom near us says: “Australian ladies are the most beautiful in the world, until they open their mouth.” I have to speak up to defend our women. He is most embarrassed. Try to get a table at ‘Squids’, for dinner, but walk out when we are ignored. Dine at the pub instead, and it’s fine – I have Gurnard and chips, Marie seafood chowder. Marie gets a double Baileys. Good luck trying to order that in ‘nanny state’ Australia.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Wake up to New Zealand Warriors’ official launch on TV1, while drinking a Tuatara plunger coffee. Our room overlooks the local rugby union field, and, wait for it – there is an (older looking) bloke on the field throwing a boomerang. He’s bloody good too.
Get ferry to Flaxmill Bay area, where we walk extensively, enjoying the coastal vistas.
Australia all out for 66 against New Zealand in cricket. What a place to be, when our cricketers fail.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Drive to ‘Hot Water Beach’, which is so busy, we struggle to get a spot on the beach, and the water isn’t hot anyway. I was here back in 1999, and it wasn’t anywhere near this chaotic. Bloody tourists. I have a surf instead. Then we walk to Cathedral Cove, where a dad takes his little boy into a cave, that is being pounded by big waves! On our return a large group of young people hog the path and force us into the shrubbery. At Mercury Bay Winery, the Italian flag is flying. Lady of the ‘house’ is Sardinian.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24
The boomerang thrower is back. Such great entertainment, and it’s free. Lunch at the bakery, Coromandel township, followed by a walk to Long Bay; one drink at the ‘Star and Garter’, where the barmaids are more interested in their mobile phones than serving. Next, the beautiful Driving Creek rail trip.
Back at Whitianga, watch Catalans Dragons’ great win over Hull, in the English Super League, and later the Otago v Waikato Super rugby match, in which the reserves rush into the in-goal area to hug a try scorer. I mean, in league, even back in the bush in the 1970s, that was a complete no-no. Mussels for dinner. Marie loves Kiwi mussels. Better than ours, and so much cheaper.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25
Marie to local market, where bloke sells ‘sweetballs’ that are gluten free, wheat and sugar free. ‘They’re nothing balls,” says an old dear. Join men in lycra at Cafe Nina for morning tea. So many boats on Mercury Bay. Enjoy fish and chips, from ‘Snapper Jack’s’, on the waterfront. Mum with Chicago Cubs top, walks with her son, who has South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league shorts. A bloke emerges from the Bottle Shop wearing Melbourne Storm shorts and a Mount Wellington polo. Tragic observations, I know. Dinner at flash ‘Salt’, is disappointing, and we get a discount when I say as much. There was no argument. To the pub for a drink, and a local asks my wife for a dance. Things are a bit wild. One bloke dancing has a bottle of Waikato Draught in his hand. Ladies with no shoes are chided by security.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 26
Buy newspaper at small supermarket, where Indian proprietor talks his lingo into the phone, and totally ignores me, while I hand over the money. Indians do love a phone chat.
Head for Taupo, stopping at a lovely little market at Coroglen, where I have a mussel fritter and Marie a lemon tart. Lunch stop at Paeroa, where we have the famous fizzy drink as well as a corn fritter, which is battered. Drive to impressive Wairere Falls, which is extremely busy on this hot day.
Had been tempted to go to Tauranga, where we stopped in 2015 during our New Zealand cruise. Next time. Arrive at Taupo around 6 p.m. Our motel is disappointing. A 20 minute walk to town. Dinner at Malabar (Indian – goat and chicken dishes) is very good. They under-charge us, but I point out the mistake, and they are grateful. One drink at ‘Jolly Good fellows’ English pub. Barman is Portuguese. A local is out to impress a couple of American tourists, and swears like buggery.
Photo: Tauranga 2015. Aussie mates (from left), Greg Grainger, Mark Conway and Karl Dixon.