DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 1 2018
MONDAY, JANUARY 1
A Cardiff v Scarletts rugby union match is my first live sport for 2018, and it is so cold, one of the touch judges is wearing long trousers. On the 1982 Kangaroo rugby league tour, winger, John Ribot wore track suit pants in a match in France, because of the freezing conditions. Old Sydney premiership match features British superstar, Ellery Hanley playing for Balmain, and he is mobbed by fans afterwards.
Chat to Dr Sarah Casey, who has switched from Griffith University’s Gold Coast campus to the Sunshine Coast, lecturing in media. She says I would be a good guest lecturer. Sarah and her sister, Madonna (a neighbour of ours) are cousins of Broncos’ chief executive, Paul White.
At Stafford Tavern, Jim House, a former butcher, tells me he used to also drive a cattle transport truck.
There has been a fire at Brothers’ club house, Gibson Park, Stafford, destroying the storage shed. Arson is suspected.
Television cricket commentator, Mark Waugh says: “Get your Mal Meninga (finger) out’, to one of the umpires, when there is an appeal.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 2
Interesting sights at Brisbane Airport as I wait to pick up our son, Damien, his wife, Emma; their daughter Parker, and dog, Torres after Christmas in Townsville. There is a young bloke, with a badly bloodied knee, and an old car (no doubt, it is environmentally friendly) weighed down with stuff from the Woodford Folk festival. We have a picnic and play time at TC Beirne Park, Hendra, before Damo and company return to the Gold Coast, where they live. TC Beirne Park, is one of Brisbane’s hidden gems, and is named after one of the city’s great businessmen. The park was once part of the Beirne residence, Glengariff, which still stands. Beers at Crown Hotel, Lutwyche with neighbours, Brett and Emma Thompson, who are just back from the UK. She is originally from Churchstoke in Wales. Also chat to a TAFE employee, who was on Mornington Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria. He was not impressed with the place.
Learn of the passing of former top referee, Kevin ‘Bilko’ Roberts, who controlled State of Origin football as well as the 1983, ’84 and ’85 Sydney grand finals.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3
Marie and I lunch at Redcliffe Leagues, in its Cafe 40/20. Photographs on the wall of former players, Steve Bleakley and the late Peter Griffiths bring back memories of my league writing days. A new grandstand is being built at Dolphin Oval, turning the ground into one of Australia’s best boutique stadiums.
A roadside poster promotes the Rugby Union Tens, with Karmichael Hunt featured prominently. He won’t be there, as a result of a recent drugs drama.
I am Linked-In with former work colleague, Karen Milliner, whose father, Mick, was a prominent league official with Brisbane Wests. Her brother, Mick Jnr., played for the Australian under-18 side.
It is the ninth anniversary of Marie’s father, Kevin Donnelly’s passing, and it is a family tradition to toast him with a glass of port. We don’t have any, so make do with a glass of red.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 4
Pat Rafter Arena is our destination, for the Brisbane International Tennis tournament, my first big tennis event since the 1960s, when I went to the Qld Open at Milton. My wife, Marie loves tennis. We see an excellent centre court match between Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Belarus) and Alize Cornet (France) 3-6 6-2 6-3. The Belarus girl’s boyfriend, (or is it her coach?), looks like former Australian Rugby League prop, Shane Webcke. On one of the back courts, we see Nick Kyrgios practising with Matt Read. The Courier-Mail’s tennis writer, Paul Malone is heading to the back courts at the same time as us. After lunch we watch part of several other matches, on different courts. Our son, Damien’s good friend, Ben Herde is one of the phsyios assigned to the tennis, and has had to attend to Kyrgios. No jokes, please.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 5
Our son, Damien and his wife, Emma go to the tennis, while we babysit our granddaughter, Parker.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 6
Lovely first birthday party for our grandson, Connor at New Farm Park.
Radio MMM commentator, Kerry O’Keeffe says the SCG Ashes cricket Test has been a cure for insomniacs. One of the most exciting moments was watching former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke sculling a beer.
Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett and his new lady, Dale Cage, go to the tennis.
Learn of the passing of former Queensland and Brisbane Brothers’ five eighth, Graham Lena, who had been battling cancer. Graham had been set for a lengthy career as a State rep., after an impressive debut against New South Wales at the SCG in 1971, when he more than held his own against the great Tom Raudonikis. But injury intervened and the indigenous star’s only other appearance for Qld came a week later, against NSW Country in Newcastle. By 1974, aged just 26, Murwillumbah born Lena’s career was effectively over, because of a knee injury. Graham’s father, Alan played for Tweed, in the old Anthony Shield competition, and marked my father, Jon Ricketts, who was playing for Richmond. My dad met Graham at a Men of League lunch at the Broncos, in 2012.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 7
There are reports former Manly-Warringah (and Ipswich Jets) centre, Steve Matai may play in the Northern Rivers Rugby League with Tweed Coast Raiders, who are coached by his former Manly teammate, Brent Kite. There is a shocking spear tackle (or tip tackle as they say in Ireland) in the Connaught v Munster rugby union match, and Connaught forward, South African born, Quinn Roux is sent to the bin. He should have been sent off altogether. You never saw spear tackles in union, but now, in the professional era, and with the help of league defensive coaches, they have a reasonable technique. But sometimes, things go awry.
Kyrgios wins the the Brisbane Open, and the trophy is presented by tennis legend, Roy Emerson. If only Nick had the class of Roy – on and off the court.
Learn of the passing of Cath McGarry, nee Lipscombe. I went to Mt St Pats in Murwillumbah with Cath, who came from a large family. Her father was a doctor. Also learn of the passing of legendary Brisbane media man, Peter Cole, aged 77. He was great company, and did some work for the Queensland Rugby League, including helping to compile a coaching video, designed to help Australian skipper, Wally Lewis when he took on a role as schools liaison officer for the QRL ,in 1985.
Photo 1: Peter Griffiths
Photo 2: Mick Milliner Jnr.
Photo 3: Jon Ricketts (left) and fellow Richmond rep., the fiery Hec Farrell
Photo 4: Graham Lena and Jon Ricketts.