DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 13 2017
MONDAY, MARCH 27
Former Dally M Medal winner, Ben Barba struggles to get the ball playing rugby union for Toulon against Stade Francais, in France’s Top 14 competition. He is a league boy from North Queensland, and rugby is not for him, trust me.
Long chat to former Gold Coast Titans’ chairman, Paul Broughton about how rugby league needs to connect with Asia and the Asian population here in Australia, if it is to grow, or even survive. Foxsports’ Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock reflects on Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett’s media ban on me, saying I was downcast because I could not ask questions. This is a popular misconception. I was quite happy to let others do their best with the great man, while I spoke to other, more helpful people, within the Broncos’ organisation, such as Gorden Tallis and Craig Bellamy. Queensland Origin coach, Kevvie Walters said the ban lasted 12 months – try three years (2001-04) – and it was all because I reported that a number of people were outraged that Bennett had dropped Justin Hodges to Queensland Cup, after he announced he was joining the Roosters.
Former Great Britain Test forward, Adrian Morley says Great Britain is a more prestigious honor than representing England, and while that appears a case of the bleeding obvious, I know where he is coming from. In the interests of propagating the game, and getting more revenue from Sports England, Rugby Football League administrators have sacrificed Great Britain in the Test arena, something which has upset the ‘British Lions’ (old boys) Rugby League Association. (There are separate Welsh, Scots and Irish sides). The England team is essentially the same one, with one or two possible exceptions, that would run out for Great Britain, if we returned to those glory days.
The Tweed Banana Festival’s future is reportedly in doubt after the Rotary Club withdraws its support. Some people want to call it the ‘Harvest Festival’, presumably because there are so many things grown in the Tweed region, not just bananas. The banana festival was huge when I reported for the Tweed Daily News, from 1971 to 1975. One of the highlights was the crowning of King Banana (determined by length and circumference). Now, I’m going to leave things there.
Elton John turns 70 today. I recall playing songs from his ‘Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only the Piano Player’, after night shift at The Daily News, with the head phones on, of course.
TUESDAY, MARCH 28
Wests Mitchelton Juniors Fields are the setting for a schools rugby league carnival, where our eldest son, Damien is coach of Beenleigh High. The Beenleigh boys beat Caloundra; draw with Forest Lake and lose narrowly to Redcliffe. Two of the Beenleigh boys, one of African descent and the other Polynesian, go out of their way to shake my hand when they find out I am Damien’s dad. One of Damien’s assistants, Mike Mato (a Maori) ‘converted’ to league (from union) after watching the Brisbane Broncos play a match in Wellington, New Zealand. All the games (at Mitchy) that I saw, were played in good spirit. Former Test winger, Michael Hancock, now a Broncos’ development officer, was there early.
Former Brothers’ rugby league winger, Peter Skerman turns 70 today.
Former Australian rugby league forward, Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin is interviewed on Radio TAB. Mentions playing with Brian Isbester at Wests in Brisbane in 1978. Isbester lives just around the corner from us, at Grange. North Sydney wanted to sign Vautin, but baulked at the $6,000 transfer fee. Manly signed him after Wests’ president, Hugh Kelly sent a video of Vautin, to Manly supremo, Ken Arthurson.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29
Lovely day on the Gold Coast with our daughter-in-law, Emma and our grand daughter, Parker. Buy prawns directly from trawlers moored in Nerang River.
THURSDAY, MARCH 30
Flood warnings. All schools, from Agnes Waters in the north to the New South Wales border and inland to Nanango, are closed.
FRIDAY, MARCH 31
Strong winds overnight. A lady, who has lived in our street for 55 years, says they are the worst in her time. Lismore and Murwillumbah, in northern New South Wales, are hard hit by flooding. My wife’s niece, Sonya Pope, has had her Lismore house inundated. A woman drowned at the Tweed Shire village of Burringbar.
Amazing stories swapped at club about people’s drinking/eating habits. One bloke, who is now considerably more subdued, used to drink up to 45 beers in a session. Another chap, went four years surviving on nothing but milk shakes and ice creams. One of our group, former Valleys’ rugby league president, Frank Clancy wins the $1,000 door prize and slaps $100 on the table for a drink. Former Brothers’ winger, Peter Skerman tells of a trial match he played for Brothers against Sydney club, Canterbury-Bankstown at Corbett Park, Grange, Brisbane. Things got a bit heated, and Canterbury’s former Brothers’ prop, Dennis Manteit came into the Brothers’ dressing rooms at halftime, appealing for calm. Manteit wasn’t happy with ‘Skermo’, who had ‘split’ Canterbury forward, Ron Costello. ‘Skermo’ reckons Costello came at him with a swinging arm, so he cocked the elbow.
In England, Yorkshire club, Dewsbury sack Australian coach, Glenn Morrison.
SATURDAY, APRIL 1
To new ‘Eat Street’ at Hamilton. Very good. Beers at Whalers and John Oxley. Listen to live jazz. Talk to a couple, now living in Brisbane, who previously were at Blacktown in Sydney. He was taught at St Michael’s, Blacktown by my cousin, Sister Ursula (Jan Hartigan) from Lismore. She was principal in 1975-76 and again from 1987 to ’97. The school, built in what was bush at the time, was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1962, but the following year the Presentation Sisters from Lismore in northern New South Wales, were invited to run the school. Jan was a Presentation Sister. She was a devoted Marist Brothers Rugby League supporter in Lismore and when she taught at St Michaels, she coached a number of the school’s rugby league sides. And she didn’t stand for any nonsense.
Dr Desmond Dann, our family doctor since 1975, has retired. Dr Dann, a GP based at Lutwyche all those years, delivered our three children – Melanie 1979; Damien 1980 and Lliam 1984 – all at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Dr Dann’s dad came from Harrogate in Yorkshire, England and followed league and cricket. Dr Dann grew up in the Lutwyche – Albion area and was good friends with the Sweeney and Kenny families, who were mainly involved with rugby union.
Catalan Dragons play an April Fool’s Day joke on their supporters, by posting a yarn that they are relocating from Perpignan in France, to England.
SUNDAY, APRIL 2
On Channel 9, Peter Badel reports that former Australian rugby league skipper, Darren Lockyer has big wraps on Ipswich Jets’ five eighth, Chris Ashe, a school teacher, who came through the grades at Ipswich Brothers. Former New Zealand skipper, Benji Marshall (playing for Redcliffe) is smashed by Ipswich hit man, former Mount Isa Townies player, Billy McConachie, who works as a concretor.
There is a minutes applause for former French Test prop, Michel Bardes before the Catalans v Wakefield match in Perpignan. Bardes, a Perpignan fireman, toured Australia and New Zealand with the 1964 French rugby league side. He passed away last month.
At Brothers Leagues, a Kiwi interloper has the television switched from league to union. There is almost a riot, but sanity prevails, and the station is switched back to the league. Noted punter, Wayne Mitchell tips us horse number 14 in the last at Wagga Wagga. It breaks down.
The Courier-Mail reports that Brisbane Lions Australian Rules legend, Johnathan Brown lost three of his premiership jerseys in this week’s floods. Shades of 2011, when former Australian rugby league skipper, Mal Meninga lost much of his memorabilia, when his Rocklea storage shed was inundated by floodwaters. I heard about it at the time, but Mal did not want me to write anything, because he said there were many people far worse off than him.
Photo: Sister Ursula (Jan Hartigan) with her sister, Marcie outside St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore.