I WAS BRANDED A SCAB

As a Life Member of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), I look back on this episode in my career with some embarrassment.
In 1972, barely 12 months after I had started as a cadet journalist with ‘The Daily News’ at Murwillumbah, I was given my own sports column.
That was January, and I was to take holidays in February.
Being young and conscientious, I thought, ‘It’s not right to have a month’s break when the column has just started’.
So, in the first week of my holidays, from Ballina, I filed a column, which the paper duly printed.
The following week I tried the same thing, only to be told to enjoy my holidays and forget about ‘ working’.
The night sub-editor at The Daily News, Jack Kay, had notified the union (then called the Australian Journalists’ Association) of my activities and they intervened. By filing while on leave, I was a ‘scab’, breaking a cardinal rule: Don’t let the bosses get stuff from you for free, which is what was happening, effectively.
I wasn’t happy at the time, but, looking back, I owed Jack Kay a favor, because holidays should be holidays, and damn work.
The bosses above Jack, couldn’t care less. And, the union, which had been collecting my fees for 12 months, didn’t know I existed, until Jack mad his play.
Suddenly, there was a union official visiting me, wanting to know how my typing was going (I had taught myself, AND IT STILL SHOWS), and what about my shorthand?
Shorthand?
Next thing I was enrolled in a secretarial course at Murwillumbah Technical College.
I was the only male in a class of 18. Within three months, the lessons were abandoned, through lack of numbers. I don’t think I was to blame.
For the rest of my journalistic career I bluffed my way through without shorthand. (Digital tape recorders were a marvelous invention).
Footnote: I really enjoyed the rest of my time at Ballina, surfing at Shelly Beach and/or Lighthouse Beach, followed by a few beers at the Shaws Bay Hotel. No shark threat back then, at least, not that I was aware of.
I also wrote the Brothers Rugby League Club Notes, as ‘The Saint’, and sometimes, the Cabarita Surf Club notes. In one lot of Cabarita notes I reported on the pillow fights, where ‘the feathers flew’ and Gary ‘Mouse’ Dowling was outstanding, given his long reach. The fights took place on the beach, (not in the clubhouse) on a stand specially constructed by club captain, Graham Bower. Gary Dowling’s younger brother, John (a future Queensland State of origin rugby league hooker) won the point score swim, off a big handicap.
Patrols on this particular Sunday, in October, 1971 were: Morning: Jack Lee (captain), Brian ‘Ducksie’ Lazenby, John Curtis, Tom Hunter, Ian Douglas. Afternoon: Vince Cranney, (c), Peter Curtis, John Alcorn, Peter Alcorn, Graham Dunn.
Eight days later, fellow members and supporters of the surf club had a lucky escape when their car, driven by Peter Kennedy, was involved in rollover on the way back from the beach. One passenger, Gary Bowen, 18, had been rescued from treacherous seas at Cabarita earlier that day after being swept from a surf ski. I hope Gary, a speedy winger for the Brothers club, bought a lottery ticket.
Footnote: In his role as boss of the Rugby League Players’ Union, back in the 1990s, dual rugby international, Kevin Ryan referred to the MEAA as a collection of pen pushers and actors, and he couldn’t understand why the players were part of it. He was talking to Broncos’ players, after training at Kedron, when I heard him rubbish the MEAA. I had to agree, that it seemed a strange fit, to have rugby league players affiliated.
Photo: Gary ‘Mouse’ Dowling (left), Steve Ricketts and John Dowling.

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