DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 42 2017
MONDAY, OCTOBER 16
Our first full day at Agnes Water on the Central Queensland coast. We visit neighboring Town of 1770 and have an excellent seafood meal at the pub. Wet and windy weather, and out to sea, there is drama unfolding, with the trawler, ‘The Dianne’, going under, as its crew search for sea cucumber for the lucrative Asian trade. Locals go out in small boats to search.
Learn of the passing of Hugh Williams, the former boss of the Transport Workers Union in Queensland. I had dealings with him as an industrial reporter for the ‘Telegraph’ in the late 1970s.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17
The resort cleaning staff tell us that some guests cannot get through because of flooded roads. Worse still, ‘The Courier-Mail’ can’t get through. Despite the weather, Marie and I walk Agnes Headland and Workman’s Beach, then to the paperbark forest, but the boardwalk is under water.
News breaks that Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin has been sacked from The Footy Show, with Erin Molan to be the new host. I was a guest on ‘The Footy Show’, back in 2012, for the controversy corner segment with Ray Hadley and Gorden Tallis. I struggled to get a word in, which was probably my fault. Afterwards, I went to Star City Casino with Gorden Tallis and Ryan Phelan.
One survivor – Ruben McDornan – has been found from ‘The Dianne’. The skipper, Ben Leahy is an ex-Nudgee College student, who our boys know. Another crew member, Adam Bidner is a second cousin of Maureen Clancy, the wife of former Valleys’ rugby league forward, Frank Clancy. Bidner’s uncle, Kevin Bidner, played for Brothers.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18
Weather still crook. No bread, milk or papers because of flooded roads. Marie and I walk from Cooks Monument to Round Head Hill. Barmaid at 1770 pub is from Germany. Publican says he struggles to get staff.
Watch movie, ‘Truth’, starring Robert Redford and Kate Blanchett, then ‘Sully’ and ‘Allied’.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 19
Larc (amphibious vehicle) beach trip from 1770 to Bustard Head lighthouse. Our driver is also a snake catcher and fireman. Two police officers leave before us on another Larc, looking for debris/survivors from the stricken trawler. We keep an eye out for debris as well. We cross four creeks from the Eurimbula National Park boundary. Drop off supplies to a bloke called Serge, who is doing his ow version of survival in the bush. My wife has a go at sand boarding, while I decide not to risk my back. There is a whale carcass near the very high sand dunes. We spot eagles, terns and kangaroos along the way. Also on the trip are people from Killarney (Queensland); a couple from Rotterdam in Holland as well as James Middleton Murray, 69, and his wife Karen from Coolum (ex Warrnambool). He has written a book called ‘Ageing Well’. Female guide tells the story of two fishery inspectors, who disappeared in these parts in the 1970s, and have never been found. They were trying to track down people involved in the illegal transportation of mud crabs, by light aircraft, to the southern states. The ‘Telegraph’ newspaper sent me to Gladstone to investigate the disappearance of these men, and I interviewed one bloke, who Gladstone locals thought might be involved. I didn’t get anywhere. The guide was quite amazed to hear I knew all about the disappearance of those poor men.
Dinner at Agnes Waters pub, where smokers have the best area. Seems to be the case at a lot of licensed establishments. 150 Lashes Pale ale is $8 a schooner, compared with $6.50 at Stafford Tavern.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20
Take advantage of fine weather to walk from Chinaman’s Beach to Red Rock and back. There is a board riding school at Rocky Point where there are some lovely houses in the hills. Marie and I have local blue salmon for dinner.
The trawler, Dianne is located a few kilometres off Round Hill Head.
Back in Brisbane, our youngest lad, Lliam attends a sportsmen’s lunch, where former Wallaby, Greg Martin interviews current Wallabies’ coach, Michael Cheika, who says the Australians are too comfortable playing second fiddle to the All Blacks. Cheika also says it is difficult in a country where Australian rules and rugby league dominate, for rugby union to consistently produce champion sides. Lliam says Greg ‘Fat Cat’ Ritchie’s un-PC humor, is sensational.
Rugby league’s Walters twins, Kevin and Kerrod, both ex-internationals, turn 50 today.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21
Lot of large females arrive for a wedding, as Marie and I check out of our hotel and head back to Brisbane. Lunch at Behan’s Bar and Grill, Childers, after a semi overtakes us in a 60 kmh zone, going well over 60. Behan’s proprietor is a great fan of former Manly-Warringah and Australian rugby league fullback, Graham ‘Wombat’ Eadie, with photographs of the 20 Test veteran adorning the walls. We had intended to stay a couple of nights at Bargara, on the coast near Bundaberg, but head straight to Brisbane, given the weather. Get home in time to watch the Wallabies beat the All Blacks 23-18 at Suncorp Stadium. The ‘Welcome to Country’ is the best yet – a cooee and not much else. The game is high quality.
In Hong Kong, our daughter, Melanie does a 10km walk in the hills.
Learn of the passing of St Helens’ rugby league great, Tom Van Vollenhoven, a former Springbok rugby union star, who was signed by Saints while he was working as an overseer in a copper mine in Rhodesia in 1955. Van Vollenhoven was a star for the Springboks rugby union side, and was South Africa’s Sportsman of the Year in 1955.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 22
75TH anniversary of ‘Battle of El Alamain’, where Australians won three Victoria Crosses.
Good to be home, except for dog next door barking. I put our transistor radio up against the fence, playing 4KQ at its loudest. They are young people, who own the dog, so they will hate it. (The music on 4KQ).
In Europe, former Parramatta rugby league winger, Semi Radradra scores a try for Toulon Rugby Union against Italian side, Treviso. I didn’t feel comfortable about his selection for Australia, and now I feel even angrier about it.
Photo 1: Marie Ricketts on the Larc trip to Bustard Head
Photo 2: Agnes Water
Photo 3: Tom Van Vollenhoven (with ball) and his great Wigan rival, Billy Boston on the right.