DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 37 2017
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
Former Test rugby league centre, Dale Shearer is keen for his biography to be written, and I have had an approach from his would-be publishers. I put it in the too hard basket. Dale says he is the only man to have played for all four Queensland elite level clubs – the Broncos, Gold Coast, Cowboys and Crushers. He is probably right.
It is the 40th anniversary of Cessnock’s win over Maitland in the Newcastle rugby league grand final, with Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns’ dad, Gary a member of the Cessnock club, playing reserve grade that day. Cessnock won all three grades. Captain-coach in first grade was former New Zealand Test prop, Henry Tatana, while former Australian winger, George Ambrum was also on the books. My good mate, Greg Grainger (Waratah Mayfield) played against Tatana, and sledged him about something or other, at the urging of his coach, Russell Cox. Greg’s sledging hit a nerve, but Tatana’s fist hit Greg’s head with more effect.
At Brothers Leagues, I have a nice chat with Bill Blake, whose dad, a dairy farmer from Tregeagle near Lismore, was a top cricketer on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Visit podiatrist, Elyse Bell, whose grandparents had the Horse and Jockey Hotel at Warwick. Former top rugby league player and coach, Harry Bath also had the Horse and Jockey.
Former Australian winger, John Ribot is featured on Foxsports. His dad was a Navy stoker. In England, the Salford club hosts a legends’ dinner at Albert’s Restaurant, Worsley. One of the guests is Jack Brennan, who played halfback in the 1969 Wembley Challenge Cup loss to Castleford. Also honored is Scotsman, Hugh Duffy, who played for Salford after switching from rugby union in the 1950s.
James Maxlow contacts me, wanting a number for Errol Stock. The Errol Stock I know played rugby league for Queensland, from Rockhampton. Turns out ‘my’ Errol knows the other Errol, a geologist and a fine pianist.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Chat to 4BC radio announcer, Ben Davis at Grange News. Our Hermitage Gardens’ managers, Harry and Robyn Moore have counted 69 dogs in our complex (120 residences). I thought there were more, given the racket they make.
To universities rugby league finals at Davies Park, West End. University of Queensland defeat Griffith Logan 24-4. Our eldest boy, Damien played for UQ, and represented Queensland – in 2001 – on a six match northern hemisphere tour, which took the Maroons to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
There are plans afoot for an inter-state (NSW v Qld) clash , based on Irish ancestry, with Declan Foy, the son of former Great Britain back, Des Foy (three Tests 1984-85) a prime mover.
Former Test halfback, Barry Muir celebrates his 80th birthday. The guest list includes former Queensland reps, Graham Quinn, Ian Dauth, Len Dittmar and David Wright (all formerly with Brisbane Brothers). I played against Barry in his final season – 1971 – when he was captain-coach of Tweed Heads Seagulls and I was a skinny fullback with Murwillumbah Brothers. We made the finals (top four in an 11 club competition), while Seagulls finished last.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14
Shop at Brookside, where I chat to former top referee, turned politician, Tim Mander, as well as my former Courier-Mail colleague, Ben Dorries. Ben is moving to Melbourne to work with a racing publication.
Heather Munro thinks the NRL is boring. Who is Heather Munro? She is the wife of former top Brothers’ official, Don Munro, and an avid league fan herself, being an enthusiastic supporter of the Kangaroos on my 1990 and ’94 tours. So, it is a bit sad when you hear those comments from people you know love the game.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
Valleys beat favorites, Redcliffe in the Brisbane Rugby League grand final played at Bishop Park, Nundah. Man of the match is Valleys’ fullback, Joe Bond. The victory is a fine tribute to much traveled Valleys’ coach, Don Gailer, who never lost faith in his side. I watch most of the match with fellow league historian, Mike Higgison, but also chat to the likes of league officials, Brad Tallon, Michael Pease and Peter Fraser. Burleigh beat Ipswich in the women’s grand final.
Brothers’ presentation night at Grange is emotional – the last to be held on the premises before it is demolished. The staff are outfitted in Brothers’ jerseys. I present one of the trophies, which I consider a great honor.
Top sports photographer, Col Whelan has written a book about Australian pubs. I covered the 2004 Australian rugby league campaign in New Zealand, England and France with Col, and it was interesting, to say the least. A top photographer, but slightly temperamental, not that I can talk. I can’t find a pub, in his book, which I have visited, which shows you how little of Australia I have seen. My favorite country pub, growing up, was Tumbulgum, where I drank, after playing cricket for the local side.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
Back to Bishop Park, this time for junior finals. Our eldest boy, Damien is there to watch two of his Beenleigh High School lads play (under-15s) for East Carina against Logan Brothers, with Carina winning in a thriller. Sit in one of the stands alongside Peter Townsend, who played league on the Tweed, and is a cousin of former Seagulls’ player, Ray Marrison, one of my opponents back in the early 1970s.
Final night at Brothers’ Leagues and the place is packed, with live music and cheap beer. The Valleys’ boys arrive on their mad Sunday celebrations, in fancy dress. The downstairs Dairy Bar is not open, but quite a few of us venture in for a last toast to a place where we loved to talk footy over a drink, after training, or on game day. Wayne Dimmick, a former printer from Queensland Newspapers, reminds me that he played in England, with Bramley and Wakefield.
Photo 1: Victorious University of Queensland players
Photo 2: Last night at Brothers. Marie Ricketts has a drink with Keith Daly
Photo 3: Legendary Brothers’ trainer, Jimmy Johnson (left).
Photo 4: Jim House (left) and Peter Skerman from Brothers’ Table of Knowledge.