DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 12, 2017
MONDAY, MARCH 20
Attend ‘Friends of Rugby League’ function at State Parliament House, where I chat to MPs from the bush, including Jason Costigan, who was once a rugby league caller for Skysports, New Zealand. I was invited to the function in my capacity as secretary of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee. Sports Minister, Mick de Brenni seems impressed by the concept of a museum at Suncorp Stadium, but whether the Government will do anything concrete, is another matter. QRL director, Terry Mackenroth, a former State Treasurer, and still a powerful man in Government circles, tells de Brenni about my previous life as a trade union reporter (in the late 1970s). Also chat to Keith Beaumont, son of former Second Division boss, the late Ted Beaumont. Keith is now following in his dad’s footsteps.
Jason Taylor is sacked as Wests Tigers’ coach, the day after the club was thrashed 46-6 by Canberra. I interviewed Taylor a number of times, and while he could be a bit surly, I always got along with him. During the Super League War, he was one of the faces of the establishment ARL. I remember having a coffee with him at the Launch of Optus Vision’s rugby league coverage in Sydney in 1996.
TUESDAY, MARCH 21
On the road at 5.20 a.m., heading to Tamworth for the funeral of former Great Britain rugby league forward, Mick Adams, who died on March 10, aged 65. Mick was just one week off retirement. I estimate there are 2,000 people at the funeral in Tamworth Civic Centre. It is a Catholic ceremony, but the church wasn’t big enough. It is a great tribute to Mick that most of the people in the congregation are not from rugby league, although the 13 man code is well represented. It goes to show what an impact Mick had in the broader community. When he settled in Tamworth, at the end of his career with Widnes in England, the local clubs came knocking, but Mick made it clear he had finished with football. He played touch and a lot of golf, but his connections with league, except for his involvement with the Men of League charity, were effectively severed. (Although he still loved to watch the game, and Friday night football at his place was a meeting point for neighbors, who loved his sense of humor and commentary). ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Ferry Across the Mersey’ are played as the coffin leaves the civic centre for the ‘Adams Family’ plot at the local cemetery. I am not being flippant. The Adams Family has a chuckle about the plot name.
The wake is held at ‘The Long Yard’ pub, where I catch up with a host of footy people, including Mick’s former teammates, Keith Harris (Canterbury), Chris Anderson, John Peek (Canterbury and Widnes), David Eckersley (Great Britain and Widnes), Brian Atherton (and his wife, Carole), Eddie Wood (Widnes). Other league people there include John Baker (ex Parramatta), Dennis Tutty (Balmain), Mick Stone (referee), Marshall Loadsman (radio commentator) and Barry Le Brocq (Penrith).
Photo 1: Keith Harris and Steve Ricketts
Baker, one of the toughest men ever to play the game, was one of my favorite players and it was an honor to meet him. I played (for Brisbane Brothers) against Le Brocq when we beat Penrith in an Amco Cup game at Lang Park, Brisbane in 1976. Keith Harris is the father of my former workmate, Amy Harris.
Photo 2: Steve Ricketts and John Baker
I thought there might have been more of Mick’s old Widnes’ teammates at the funeral.
Former French rugby league prop, Michel Bardes passes away today. Bardes, a Perpignan fireman, toured Australia with the 1964 French side, and four years later played against Great Britain at Bradford.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22
Breakfast with Brian Atherton at Wests Leagues in Tamworth. Notice that John Bailey and Peter Jacques are former Wests’ coaches. Bailey, originally from Inverell, played five eighth for St George in Sydney, while Jacques was a prop with North Sydney. Coffee at Glenn Innes on my way home, and one beer at Criterion in Warwick. Witness a drag race up a hill just outside Warwick, with two young blokes in a new ute, urging on a young bushie in an old ute.
Death of former Test halfback, Brett Kimmorley’s wife, Sharnee from brain cancer, aged just 38. I met her once, at Circular Quay in Sydney, where I interviewed Brett, after a random meeting on a grand final weekend, in 2012, I think.
THURSDAY, MARCH 23
Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett imposes a media ban after photographers stalk him and his new lady, Dale.
A crowd of only 10,479 at cavernous ANZ Stadium, for what turns out to be a boring clash between great rivals, Souths and the Roosters, although the result is good – Chooks 20-6.
FRIDAY, MARCH 24
Broncos beat the Raiders 13-12 in a Suncorp Stadium thriller, with Kiwi winger, Jordan Kahu kicking the winning field goal six minutes from the end in what was Brisbane hooker, Andrew McCullough’s 200th game for the club. The crowd is 29,370. Watch the game sitting with RadioTAB’s Peter Psaltis and North Queensland league personality, Adrian Hepi, who was involved with the University club in Townsville, when our son, Damien played there. Marie and I saw Damien play for Uni., just the once – against Charters Towers, away.
SATURDAY, MARCH 25
Former Mundubbera rugby league footballer, Gavin Ford launches his biography, ‘My Two Lives’. Gavin became a quadriplegic in 1986 when he was injured in a freak accident on the football field. He didn’t let that get him down, and it did not sour his love affair with rugby league, even to the extent of going on to become secretary of the Mundubbera club. I interviewed Gavin, in his hospital bed in Brisbane, and a few years later went to Mundubbera to report on his progress. (My uncle, Bill Ricketts, was Sergeant-in-charge at Mundubbera for a time).
Bennett lifts his media ban.
SUNDAY, MARCH 26
ABC Radio personality, ‘Macca’ (Ian McNamara) says his dad was a member of Don Burrows (Jazz) Band. They played at Rockdale Town Hall in 1970, when I attended, as a student, as part of the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations.
There is no NRL on television in the Hong Kong Bar where our daughter, Melanie and my brother, Andrew are having a few ales – cricket, AFL and union, but not league. Melanie is enjoying her new job at Jack Morton International.
Photo 3: Carole Atherton and David Eckersley.