Thank heavens the worldwide web was in its infancy in 1992, otherwise the accompanying photograph of me with Great Britain rugby league coach, Mal Reilly, might never have been taken.
Let’s start from the beginning.
‘The Courier-Mail’ newspaper assigned me to cover Britain’s opening match of the tour – against Queensland Residents at the Townsville Sports Reserve.
I was accompanied by photographer, Sandra Priestly and our main task was to get a photograph and interview with reclusive British skipper, Ellery Hanley, who was considered only a slim chance of playing on tour because of a lingering injury.
Ellery escaped our clutches, but agreed to pose for a photo for British photographer, Andrew Varley, who on-sold the pic to News Limited.
Britain defeated Queensland Residents 14-10 in a dour affair.
I filed my first story – the match report – as the full time bell rang, so it could make the first edition of the paper, the country edition.
Then I went to both dressing rooms to interview coaches and players.
In the Queensland sheds the players, and coach, Ross O’Reilly, were blowing up about being bitten, scratched and grabbed by the testicles.
I returned to the British dressing room for comment from Reilly, who effectively laughed off the claims, describing them as pathetic and slanderous.
The next day, I arranged photos of several of the Queensland players (Troy White, Gerard Kerr, Brad Pike) displaying their war wounds, before embarking on a day trip to Magnetic Island, where the British lads were enjoying some R and R.
The only paper the Brits had seen was the country edition, where there was no mention of the biting claims. The British squad flew to Sydney that night, and that was the end of the Queensland Residents drama.
But biting became a hot topic again, after Britain played New South Wales Country in Parkes. Coach, Frank Fish and his Country players had the same gripes as the Queensland residents.
In Townsville, I was effectively the only ‘city’ journo., and although my stories were filed for the Sydney Telegraph, as well as The Courier-Mail, Sydney didn’t care much, because it was a match in faraway Townsville and the Qld players were a bunch of ‘Nevilles’ anyway. (Five eighth, Jason Hetherington went on to play for Australia, as a hooker, in 1998).
At Parkes, there was a huge media scrum, with Sydney scribes trying to out-do each other with stories about the alleged British atrocities.
Mal Reilly was not impressed, and later in the tour, he physically ejected Sydney journalist, Peter Frilingos from the dressing rooms.
That could have been me.
Photo: Great buddies. Mal Reilly (left) and Steve Ricketts.