DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 51 2017
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18
New South Wales State of Origin rugby league coach, Brad ‘Freddy’ Fittler joins my wife, Marie and I in the surf at Lennox Head, where we are all holidaying. He wasn’t with us. It was just a random meeting. But we have a chat. I interviewed ‘Freddy’ so many times as a league writer, but this was just a nice chat about Lennox, relaxing lifestyles and the like. But I couldn’t resist a reference to the dramas earlier this year, under the watch of then NSW coach, Laurie Daley, when players, Blake Ferguson and Josh Dugan broke camp for a few beers at the Lennox Pub. “Freddy”, deadpan as you like, just comments that he is mates with the licensee.
Back to Brisbane today, because our daughter, Melanie is arriving from Perth, where she has been enjoying Australia’s Ashes cricket triumph over England.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19
Long chat to Brisbane Men of League patron, Ron Atkins about football and growing up on the Tweed. Ron lived just across from the Tweed Heads Recreation Ground, where Seagulls rugby league club played. He recalls climbing Razorback Hill (to get up to mischief) and the channel from the Tweed River, at Greenbank Island, where American Servicemen learned to swim, during World War II. He mentions some great Tweed rugby league names, among them Johnny Burns (a good centre, built like former Test star, Ken McCaffery); Len Noter, Merv Slockee (known as the Midnight Express); The Appos (Allan, John and ‘Bully’) and Cecil ‘Bomber’ Dodds. Ron says the Soorley family (Jim Soorley was Mayor of Brisbane) grew bananas at Bilambil. Ron also mentions former Ipswich representative, Arthur Jong, who is a regular at our MOL lunches. “He was a tough bastard,” Ron says.
Family night at our youngest boy, Lliam’s house at Paddington.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20
Our optometrist, Hugh Stephens has sold his practice, to a chap who lives in Perth, but is originally from Geebung here in Brisbane. Hugh still owns the building (at Aspley) and works part time. Watch the Big Bash, (Brisbane Heat v Melbourne Stars) and one of the umpires is wearing a helmet. I predicted that would happen, years ago, because of the increased strength of today’s batsmen, but more crucially, the hitting power of the bigger, broader cricket bats.
Former Wallaby rugby union prop, Stan Pilecki (nicknamed ‘The Pole’) dies, aged 70. I saw him play, once or twice, in union matches at Ballymore. A picture of him on Channel 7 tonight, has him wearing a Kiwi rugby league jersey at training.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21
Former Courier-Mail workmate, Myles McIvor emails. He lives on the Sunshine Coast and works full-time for Pagemasters, a provider of sub-editing services.
Former South Sydney centre/forward, Bob Moses has died, aged 76. He was one of the toughest men to lace on a boot.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22
Marie joins me at Stafford Tavern for Christmas drinks.
Queensland Emerging (teenage years) rugby league squads have been announced, and 15 of the lads have been in South Coast sides managed by our son, Damien.
Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham is the new Rugby Football League chairman. Before becoming Mayor, he was MP for Leigh, a rugby league stronghold.
Former Wallaby halfback, Ken Catchpole has died, aged 78. Catchpole is regarded as Australia’s finest rugby union halfback, his career cut short by a terrible injury incurred in a ruck in a Test against the All Blacks. Catchpole was particularly famous for his bullet like pass. Australia’s top league halfbacks at the time Catchpole was doing his stuff, were Barry Muir, Arthur Summons (a former union international) and Billy Smith.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 23
Death of great English rugby league winger, John Atkinson, 71. He had been battling dementia for a few years. A stalwart of the Leeds club, Atkinson’s finest moments on the international stage came in Britain’s Ashes winning series against Australia in 1970, when he scored two tries in the Third and deciding Test in Sydney. He was a marvelous athlete, with the grace of a gazelle.
Photo 1: Bobby Moses
Photo 2: Ken Catchpole playing for the Walabies against Ulster
Photo 3: Arthur Summons runs with the ball at training
Photo 4: John Atkinson and British coach, John Whitely
Photo 5: John Atkinson shakes hands with Australian skipper, Phil Hawthorne as the Australians clap the British from the field after the Third Test at the SCG in 1970.