DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 17 2017
TUESDAY, APRIL 25
ANZAC Day Dawn Service at The Gap, and there is a big turn-out, for the service itself and breakfast afterwards at the soccer club. There is a Ricketts Family get together at T C Beirne Park, Hendra, one of Brisbane’s best kept secrets (the park, that is). At my home town, Murwillumbah, the ANZAC Day ‘Marshall’ is Chris Stomou, older brother of my former classmate, Phil Stomou, who was a fine basketball player.
Our eldest boy, Damien’s South Coast representative rugby league side (he is manager) has an opposed session against Burleigh Bears Under-16s. Roosters beat St George Illawarra 13-12 in golden point extra time (field goal by Mitchell Pierce) in the ANZAC Day clash in Sydney, with a crowd of 40,864 on hand. A thriller, but ‘messy’, says our daughter, Melanie, and I agree. In Melbourne, the Storm and New Zealand Warriors have a great battle in front of an appreciative crowd of 22,153, with the Storm’s Wellington (NZ) product, Nelson Asofa-Solomona winning the ANZAC Medal as player of the match.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26
Melanie returns to Hong Kong. While I am waiting to have a haircut at Col Naylor’s, Newmarket, an insect lands on a muscular Kiwi lad sitting beside me. He panics. “Embarrassing, eh,” he says, and I have to agree. Our friends from across the ditch are not keen on our fauna.
At Brothers Leagues, former national serviceman, Peter Skerman talks of the terrible conditions he and other draftees had to endure back in the late 1960s. “Refugees get it a lot better,” he says.
National Party Leader, Barnaby Joyce says ‘innocuous’ instead of ‘obnoxious’ in describing an ANZAC Day tweet by a young Muslim lady.
Meanwhile, in truly earth shattering news: Lismore’s Gollan Hotel may close forever, because of flood damage. Come on now. The Queen stayed there in 1954. This can’t be allowed to happen.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27
Penrith are hopeless in their 32-18 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, turning over possession far too often for a professional football team. Brisbane win a scrum against the feed, but it is not allowed. It seems referees want to interrupt play as much as possible, because they call a knock-on every time someone drops the ball, and, instead of allowing borderline passes (giving the advantage to the attacking side and being consistent about it), they take the safety first option by ruling forward passes. Rugby League is first and foremost a spectator sport, allegedly the more attractive of the two rugby codes.
Former Australian rugby league skipper (and former Australian Schoolboys rugby union rep), Wally Lewis tells me he loves netball, the game his mother, June played at first grade level into her fifties.
FRIDAY, APRIL 28
Beers with former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Greg Keane, who retired (from the workforce) the same time as me – in 2012. A former public servant, he has two daughters – one lives in Canada and the other teaches at Sandgate High, here in Brisbane. A group of Padua College ‘old boys’ have drinks, before heading to a reunion. Those in attendance, at the reunion include former internationals, Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin and Paul McCabe and former State prop, Len Dittmar. Former Valleys’ prop, Frank Clancy tells me he was sent off, just one minute into a reserve grade match for the Diehards. He also tells me of the passing of Mick Mulgrew, a fine centre for Valleys in the 1950s. Mulgrew, who also played club footy in Townsville, represented Queensland against the 1958 Ashes winning Great Britain side.
Photo 1: Greg Keane (right) with fellow Brothers’ stalwarts, Jimmy Johnson (left) and Tony Martyn.
SATURDAY, APRIL 29
In France, St Esteve under-20s rugby league player, Hedi Ouedjdi faces a lifetime ban after punching referee, Benjamin Casty, in a match against Toulouse. Casty is the brother of Catalans Dragons’ skipper, Remi Casty.
SUNDAY, APRIL 30
John Ackland’s son, Eiden scores a great try for New Zealand Warriors’ under-20s against Sydney Roosters. Evidently he gets his speed from his mum, Maree. John is a former coach of the Warriors under-20s and an old pen pal of mine (something that existed before Facebook). SKYSPORTS New Zealand features First XV (schoolboy) rugby union.
Roosters’ great, Brad Fittler says the New South Wales Waratahs rugby union and Sydney Swans Aussie rules clubs have 20 development officers each, while the Roosters have one. Is that true? (The Waratahs and Swans are based at Moore Park, in the same area as the Chooks). There appear to be plenty of people sitting behind desks at NRL HQ, which is also in Moore Park, but I’m not sure what they all do.
Photo 2: Len Dittmar.