Gold Coast Titans v New Zealand Warriors at Oakes Oval, Lismore, was a dream assignment for me.
It was a match in the town where I was born, on a field where my dad played many games for Woodlawn College, and then South Lismore. My grandfather (on mum’s side), Caboolture born, Charles Mortimer Kelly, and her uncle, Les Kelly, regularly attended matches, given they lived in Magellan Street, just across from the ground.
I had the honor of playing one match there – for Group 18 (Tweed) against Group 1 (Richmond) in the Lascelles Trophy under-18s in 1970. We had won the Lascelles Trophy on the Murwillumbah Showgrounds the previous year, when I played on the wing. In 1970 I was fullback, and we lost on this occasion. I also ran a 800 metres race in the Far North Coast Athletics Championships at the ground.
Our eldest boy, Damien played in a cricket final there – for Brisbane North against Newcastle. He boarded at Woodlawn College during the carnival.
In 2009 the Warriors belted the Titans 34-12, with Wade McKinnon and former Bronco, Denan Kemp each scoring two tries.
The crowd was 5,117, on a hot last day of summer. From what my records reveal, the record crowd for a match at Oakes Oval was 8,710 for the North Coast v France match in 1951, a match which both my grandfathers (Charles Kelly and William Ricketts) attended with my dad, Jon Ricketts, and Les Kelly.
Their accounts of the marvellous attacking football on show from the French (who won 33-9) began my fascination with the game in France, in particular French fullback, Puig Aubert.
One of my previews of the match concentrated on prop, Ian Donnelly, who had won a Group 1 premiership with Marist Brothers in 1999.
He was one of a host of props pushing for spots in the Titans’ top 17, with Luke Bailey and Matt White given the starting berths against the Warriors. Another ‘local’ boy in the Titans squad was Will Matthews from Kyogle.
At the match, I had long chats with Titans’ chairman, Paul Broughton and Northern Rivers’ league icon, Bill ‘Pal’ Carroll. Also at the match were former Gold Coast Seagulls’ players, Tony ‘Bull’ Durheim and Mick Davis, who both live in Lismore. Mick’s dad, Mick Snr., played for North Coast against Great Britain at Kempsey in 1966.
The previous weekend, I had covered the Broncos v Canberra Raiders’ trial at Dolphin Oval, Redcliffe, where most of the talk was about the number of local people, many of them rugby league identities, burnt by the Storm financial crisis.
The Broncos were mourning the loss of their inaugural media boss, Kev Keliher. His funeral was attended by hundreds of media and football identities.
The previous weekend I had addressed a Queensland Rugby League conference at the Raddison, Palm Meadows, about media relations. Queensland coach, Mal Menings was guest speaker at the official conference dinner. Another speaker was Warren ‘Wok’ Ryan, who gave me the benefit of his coaching and media experience, over a few ales.
Photo 1: A Woodlawn College march past at Oakes Oval
Photo 2: Woodlawn College Opens. Jon Ricketts, third from left, back row.