DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 14, 2017
TUESDAY, APRIL 4
Morning tea with Ron and Annie McIntosh, former managers of our Hermitage Gardens town house estate, who have now ‘retired’ to their farm at Peachester. They had been cut off for three days by flood waters. Our eldest, boy, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughter, Parker fly to Melbourne, to attend the wedding of close friend, Ben Herde at Warrnambool, so we occupy their Main Beach (Gold Coast) apartment.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5
Surf is dirty and dangerous. A Harding Brothers’ truck is parked in our street, driven by a gentleman with the surname, Gleave, who lives next door to the Mount Warning Hotel at Uki. He is here to collect a bulldozer from the beach. The dozer has been involved in dunes restoration work. At least one of the Harding brothers (all big men) played rugby league for South Murwillumbah. Former Gold Coast Titans’ player, David Myles is having breakfast at ‘Beaches’, our local cafe. This afternoon, while Marie is shopping at Pacific Fair, I walk inland along the Nerang River, to the Gold Coast rugby union fields, where I played my first (rugby league) match for Queensland Journalists against New South Wales – in 1975. I had played that season with Wingham Tigers in the Group 3 competition, before joining the ‘Telegraph’ in Brisbane. Big things were expected of me, and I was chosen in the centres. I thought the standard would be poor, and I wasn’t really mentally prepared for the contest. As it transpired, the standard was quite high, and New South Wales had several exceptional players. I went like a ‘busted’, and we lost. I was determined to make up for it in future years, but in 1976 (at Sydney’s Centennial Park) and 1979 (at Brisbane’s Purtell Park) we went down again. Finally, in 1981, at Corbett Park, Grange, I led Qld to victory over the dreaded Blues, in what turned out to be the last inter-state journos game. I still have the shield in my garage.
Tonight we dine at Mano’s, Tedder Avenue where we chat to former Queensland forward, Reg Cannon; former Gold Coast Tigers’ hooker, Peter Ludwig and their wives as well as Mano’s proprietor, Mick Ellison. I took a phone call today from Valleys’ rugby league coach, Don Gailer, who is on the mend after suffering a heart attack. He is back at work at community radio in Caboolture, and is to resume coaching the Diehards tonight.
THURSDAY, APRIL 6
Back to Brisbane to MC Beer and Beef lunch at Customs house, with surf life saving and media indentity, Danny Hoyland guest speaker. Danny, who works for River 944 Radio, gets emotional talking about the work of surf lifesaving. He came through the ranks at Coolangatta SLSC, with the likes of my former Brisbane Brothers’ teammates, Bob Cock and Peter McNamara, as well as Valleys and Penrith forward, Russell Hughes and another Brothers’ legend, Barry ‘Tubby’ Dowling. Cock and McNamara, both giants of men, would send the diminutive Hoyland to the Griffith Street ‘chew and spew’, on food errands. Hoyland, who is a Souths’ rugby union stalwart, also remembers ‘The Signs of Peace’ band playing at Seagulls Leagues. I went to quite a few of their gigs. I buy a new, woolen, charcoal colored suit at Stuart’s in George Street. Served by Terry, who did an internship at ‘The Australian’ newspaper four years ago, thanks to senior journalist, Hedley Thomas, a former colleague of mine at The Courier-Mail. Broncos beat the Roosters in a great game. Learn of the unexpected passing of former Queensland Rugby League Referees boss, Richie Johnson.
FRIDAY, APRIL 7
Coffee with French rugby league identity, Laurent Garnier, who has with him, the biography of French great, Edouard Ponsinet, as well as the history of Catalans rugby league. Ponsinet, a giant of a man, played 19 Tests between 1949 and 1953.
Photo 1: Edouard Ponsinet
SATURDAY, APRIL 8
Interview former Brisbane Brothers and Queensland rugby league five eighth, Murwillumbah born, Graham Lena at his Arana Hills residence, for an article in Men of League magazine. Graham is battling pancreatic cancer. His dad, Allan played for the Tweed against my dad, Jon (Richmond) in the annual Anthony Shield inter-district competition back in the late 1940s. Graham played two matches for his state – in 1971 – one against New South Wales in Sydney and the other against NSW Country in Newcastle. Lena, whose career was cut short by injury, more than held his own against NSW five eighth, Tommy Raudonikis in the inter-state match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Our daughter, Melanie attends the Hong Kong Sevens rugby union tournament. Foxsports have a special on Townsville rugby league identity, Barry ‘Uncle Buck’ Buchanan, a Life Member of North Queensland Cowboys given he has been a volunteer worker at the club since its inception in 1995. Barry is also heavily involved with Men of League
The Courier-Mail run the Colin Hutton obituary, written by me. Colin coached the British League side on their successful tour of Australia in 1962. Bernie Pramberg has written a feature on Peter Howard, and his work as curator of the Queensland Racing Museum at Eagle Farm. Peter (nickname ‘Rowdy’) was a work colleague at the ‘Telegraph’ and ‘The Courier-Mail’ and wrote a bloodstock column for many years.
Morgan Boyle debuts for Titans. He is the son of former Canberra Raiders and Bradford Bulls back, David Boyle.
SUNDAY, APRIL 9
Our youngest son, Lliam; his wife, Channelle and two little boys, Ethan and Connor have been staying with us while their Hall Street, Paddington residence has undergone major renovations. Today they move back to Hall St, and things are so quiet.
I MC Men of League lunch at Wynnum Leagues, ahead of the Wynnum-Manly v Redcliffe Intrust Super Cup match. I interview Wynnum legend, Des Morris ahead of Phil Cass’s magic act. Des was coach when Wynnum won their first Brisbane premiership in 1982, and that team is honored at this function. Chat to former Wynnum secretary, Bruce Cory, who was such a big help to me when I was a league writer for the ‘Telegraph’ in the 1980s. He took a redundancy from the public service, when then premier, Campbell Newman ruthlessly purged what, undoubtedly, was a bloated workforce. Catch up with a stack of familiar faces from the ’80s, including Neil Moy, Peter Sibley, Wayne Bullock and Peter Blackadder, as well as more recent characters like Chris McKenna, Neil Tierney. Phil Cass praises by MC performance. ‘You’re like a good referee. No-one notices you, when things go well,” he says. I think that is a compliment.
Redcliffe, with giant prop, Matt Lodge leading the way, belt Wynnum in the football. Lodge looks in another league compared with most other forwards on the field.
Photo 2: Graham Lena.