DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 18 2017
TUESDAY, MAY 2
Tweed rugby league stalwart, Bill Carroll phones to say Robert ‘Foxy’ Graham passed away yesterday. ‘Foxy’ was a former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate of mine, and one of the funniest men I have ever met. ‘Fox’ was often in trouble with referees, and I can’t condone some of the things he did on the football field. But he was a naturally gifted player, whose robust build made him difficult to tackle. Bill said ‘Fox’ is the third Brothers’ Life Member to die in recent times, the others being Warren Hall and Bernie Conroy. Bill says Brothers Leagues Club suffered $100,000 worth of damage in recent floods, and insurance may not cover it. He said hundreds of cars were lost in the waters, from the Tweed and Rous Rivers. As devastating as the floods have been, there is a school of thought that it has helped restore community spirit, in a town where the demographics have changed dramatically since I left, early in 1975.
My brother, Andrew’s Sunnybank Hills home has sold to the Zhu family, from Forest Lake.
Photo 1: Robert ‘Foxy’ Graham is tackled by a Tweed Seagulls’ rival at Murwillumbah Showgrounds in 1974.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 3
Our new doctor, replacing the recently retired Desmond Dann, is Derek Tisdall who has a number of other old journalists as patients, among them Peter Morley (who is forever cruising on the high seas these days), Bruce McMahon, Phil Hammond and Tony Koch.
Former Test lock, Ron Coote steps down as national Men of League president, to be replaced by Professor Stephen Martin.
FRIDAY, MAY 5
Robert ‘Foxy’ Graham’s funeral is held at Duranbah, in the Tweed Valley. I didn’t realise he was such a devoted St George Dragons’ fan. I also forgot that he was the step-brother of another noted Brothers’ footballer, goal kicking forward, Des Scott. Both men represented the Tweed. ‘Foxy’ went to Mt St Patrick’s Primary School at Murwillumbah, and never got on with the nuns. He won premierships with Brothers’ first grade in 1969 and reserve grade in 1977. He also played for Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains; Proserpine in North Queensland and Roma in Qld’s South West. He had a pub at Gunning for many years, and it was a watering hole for the Canberra Raiders on their way back to the national capital after games in Sydney. He also was licensee of Murwillumbah’s Riverview Hotel for a time, and drove pensioner day trip buses for the Murwillumbah Hotel, with the blue rinse set addressing him as ‘Mr Fox’. He liked to fish, and with that in mind bought a house at Dingo Beach in North Queensland. After one unsuccessful fishing trip, a frustrated ‘Foxy’ bought a marlin from the local fish factory, posed for the camera with it, and then convinced the editor of The Daily News, back in Murwillumbah that he had caught it, so they ran the pic.
Learn of the passing of ex All Black, Doug Rollerson, who played rugby league with North Sydney.
Mitchell Krause, son of former Crushers’ centre, David Krause, has been chosen in the New South Wales Cockatoos (Country) rugby union side, in his first year in the 15 man game. I saw Mitchell play league for Lismore Marist Brothers.
In Mudgee, Channel 9 personality and local boy made good, Ken Sutcliffe hosts City v Country function. Sutcliffe was based in Townsville early in his media career, and rates Vern Daisy the toughest and most gifted ball player he has seen, outside the great Arthur Beetson.
Australia defeat New Zealand 30-12 in Canberra at the start of a weekend of rep footy.
Learn that Australian centre, Will Chambers is related to former Tweed indigenous star, Max Telford.
SATURDAY, MAY 6
England belt Samoa 30-10 at Campbelltown and looked a class above their rivals. In the earlier matches Tonga defeated Fiji 26-24 in a thriller, while Papua New Guinea predictably proved too strong for the Cook Islands, winning 32-22.
Gold Coast Titans’ coach, Neil Henry attends Cooma v Bombala rugby league match as part of Cooma’s reunion celebrations. He is a former coach of the Cooma Stallions.
SUNDAY, MAY 7
Billy Walters, son of Queensland State of Origin coach, Kevin Walters, plays five eighth for State Residents against their New South Wales rivals at Langlands Park, Brisbane. Kevin is there, along with brothers, Steve and Brett. Billy scores a try in Qld’s 36-6 win. Second rower/skipper, Blake Leary is player of the match.
At Mudgee, City defeat Country 20-10. Every member of the Country backline hails from the North Coast of New South Wales, originally – Michael Gordon (Tweed Coast), Anthony Don (Grafton), Mitch Aubusson (Ballina), Cheyse Blair (Bilambil), Brian Kelly (Lennox Head), Cody Walker (Casino), Tryone Roberts (Kempsey).
Channel 9 commentator, Peter Sterling recalls skilful forward, Steve McDonald, from Wagga Wagga, playing for Country against City in Country’s famous win over the city slickers, at the SCG in 1975. Former Test prop, Jim Morgan captained that country side, while Ron Coote was the City skipper. I wrote a number of stories about Steve, when he played for Wide Bay Bulls in Queensland’s State League in the early 1980s.
On Channel 9’s Footy Show, three members of the Clovelly Crocodiles under-12s are part of the passing competition. Great to see Clovelly still has a club, in an area which seems to be now dominated by Australian rules. A number of my mates from the Tweed lived at Clovelly (Blackwood Avenue) in the early 1970s, and played for Easts’ district clubs, like Tea Gardens and Denison.
In Canada, the Toronto Wolfpack draw a crowd of 6,281 for their first ever home game – in British League 1 – against Oxford.
Photo 2: ‘Foxy’ Graham (left) with ‘Honest’ Arch Smith, on Brothers’ 1971 end-of-season trip to Sydney.