DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 38 2017
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
Start of a new ‘era’. No more Brothers’ Leagues Club. It has closed its doors, because of poor trading, and a town house development will go up in its place. It was my old footy club HQ, and the nearest watering hole to where I live. Last drinks were served at quarter past mid-night, long after I had gone. Ann-Maree, the club manager, is having a smoke on the back balcony as I walk past on my way to Stafford Tavern, which is now my nearest licensed establishment. About 11 minutes there, 15 minutes coming back. Brothers’ regulars such as Peter Skerman, Jim House, Keith Rooney and Jim Gannon, have now made the Stafford their home. In many ways, it is not a drinker friendly pub, but lots of pubs fall into that category, owned as they are by the supermarkets. The Stafford (which is independent) caters for punters, diners, poker machine players and smokers. If you want to have a drink and a chat, away from cigarette smoke – , in area designated for drinkers, good luck. Courier-Mail journalist, Rory Gibson is having a beer at ‘The Stafford’ with an English mate, Matt Fort from Gloucestershire. Matt is a judge in the Great British Menu television show, He and Rory recently tackled the Herbert River Gorge Walk in North Queensland.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19
Rebecca Baguley, former PA to Queensland Rugby League boss, Ross Livermore, has approached me to write player profiles for the annual Legends match, to be played at Gosford.
Foxsports’ Paul Kent says rugby league could be a second tier sport in 30 years, such is the threat of Australian rules. I suppose you have to throw in soccer, given the changing demographics of our nation, although their television ratings are still woeful. League player registrations are down 3.6 percent since 2015 (males), but have increased by 61.9 percent when it comes to females. But they were starting from a very low base.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
Walk to Q Roasters, Stafford for coffee beans. A nearby workshop has a New South Wales Waratahs’ rugby union sign.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Death of Melody Iliffe (nee Welsh), Australia’s first female television news reader, and a class above most of today’s mob.
Former Broncos’ skipper, Gorden Tallis says that in ‘the old days’ of rugby league, when the ball went one way, defenders on the other side of the ruck could relax, but not any more. When I captained Murwillumbah Brothers’ under-18s in 1970, I was paranoid about ensuring players always moved up, on both sides of the ruck, no matter where the ball – probably because I wanted to take the sting out of the ball runners, so it was easier for me to tackle.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Memories of my brother, Stewart and I travelling through Wiltshire in 1997 come flooding back as I see the hillside, army chalk badges on ‘Escape to the Country’. At Stafford Tavern, there is a big roll up of Brothers’ people for the first Friday night since their leagues club at Grange shut its doors. Valleys have the right to sell meat tray raffles at the Stafford. Former Brothers’ skipper, Trevor Bailey is there, having a punt. Evidently poker machines went for $100 at an auction of Brothers’ ‘stuff’. An Australian team photograph, with a message to manager, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner, also went under the hammer.
My brother, Andrew celebrates his 54th birthday with drinks at Vertigo followed by a meal at Tandoori Nights, at Da Nang in Vietnam.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
Papua New Guinea beat Sunshine Coast 12-10 in a very scrappy Intrust Super Cup (Queensland) grand final at Suncorp Stadium. Sit beside fellow QRL History Committee member, Paul Hayes and chat to the likes of fitness guru, Alex Corvo (who has signed with New Zealand Warriors); dual international, Lote Tuqiri; former Test prop, Steve Price; former Qld prop, Gavin Allen; officials, Scott Clarke and Keith Phillips; Mackay based former Brisbane Easts’ centre, Steve Dowden; Norths’ identities, Kev Carmichael and Mark Gliddon; school teachers (and former footballers) Peter Elmore, Peter Sinclair and Andrew Peach.
In the stadium lift, a Bogan uses the F word in the presence of Australian Rugby League Commissioner, Chris Sarra, who is less than impressed.
I have one drink at Paddington Tavern with former Australian prop, Andrew Gee. Take our daughter, Melanie to the airport for her return flight to Hong Kong.
Photo 1: Peter Skerman (left) with former Brothers’ barman, Nick.
Photo 2: Lote Tuqiri enjoys the Intrust Super Cup grand final.