DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 3 2018
TUESDAY, JANUARY 16
Former Australian rugby union skipper, Tony Shaw walks by, with his two dogs, as I walk along the Kedron Brook path. He looks very fit.
Funeral of former Queensland Rugby League five eighth, Graham Lena is a wonderful tribute to a man with a gentle nature, and a beautiful smile. Graham was named in the Brothers’ Team of the Century. There are lots of police in the congregation, given Graham’s daughter, Sondra, was the first police woman killed in the line of duty. I chat to the likes of Brothers’ stalwarts, Len Dittmar, Barry ‘Tubby’ Dowling, Wayne Abdy, John Short, Clem Hovi, Barry Lafferty, Peter Garozzo, Pat McGuire and Ian Dauth and his wife, Heather as well as former Valleys’ star, Norm Clarke and Brisbane Men of League Patron, Ron Atkins and Toowoomba’s Trevor Gleeson. The wake is held at the Brook Hotel. Graham’s son, Josh played for the Brook Hotel’s rugby league side.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17
Lots of beaches closed on the Gold Coast because of rough conditions.
Drinks tonight with former work colleague, Paul Malone at Quincy’s Bar, Grange. Paul reminisces about his trip to Britain in 1997, to cover the Broncos’ World Club Challenge campaign. He stayed 11 nights at The Hilton, Mayfair. Paul agrees with me that league now, is not as attractive as it was in the 1980s and ’90s
THURSDAY, JANUARY 18
Interview former Valleys’, Brisbane Wests’ and Queensland Residents’ winger, Gerard Kerr and his father, Garnett at Gerard’s Stafford Heights home. Garnett, a rugby union star at Brisbane’s Nudgee College, was a fiery forward with Brothers rugby league. I will submit an article about the father and son, to Men of League magazine.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 19
There is a ‘running club’ which passes our property at least once a week, and they wear shirts reminiscent of the England rugby league jersey.
Meeting of the Queensland Rugby History meeting goes well. Greg Shannon gives me a copy of book ‘No Helmets Required’, the story of the American All Stars rugby league side. In 1950s Los Angeles, sports promoter, Mike Dimitro convinced 20 young American footballers to join him on a trip of a lifetime, a tour of Australia and New Zealand. Former Queensland Rugby League secretary, Harry Sunderland, a noted expansionist, had a role to play in the launch of the tour. Dimitro became besotted with league, when, during World War II, he saw a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He was on leave, having been flown from the Pacific campaign to Sydney on a Royal Australian Air Force cargo plane. He had seen immigrant Welsh miners playing rugby union at Weirton in the USA, but had never seen league. The West Virginian was blown away by the speed, the passing and the ball control of the 13 man game.
Today I wrote the Dr Joe Baker OBE obituary for Queensland Rugby League website, after speaking to his son, Russell. Dr Baker, who died on January 16, played two games for Queensland in 1959 – against New South Wales and New Zealand – and was a stalwart of the Brisbane Easts’ club. He was also instrumental in the founding of the University Rugby League Club in Townsville, where was an eminent marine scientist.
A bloke we know as ‘Fester’ (a former Courier-Mail printer) wins $8,000 in Lotto and puts $100 on the bar at the Stafford Tavern. Fester loves his Mustang cars.
News breaks in Canada that the Toronto Wolfpack Rugby League Club, which plays in the British Championship, has sacked Australian, Dave Taylor; Tongan Fui Fui Moi Moi and Englishman, Ryan Bailey for off-field ill-discipline.
Golf commentator Bruce Young is no longer part of RadioTAB’s line-up.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 20
The previous night I had won a meat tray at the Stafford Tavern. When I turn up to collect it, I am told they have raffled it again!! Rugby league referee, Almon Gadd, who sold me the winning ticket, is mortified. “The bar staff told me you never come in on Saturdays,” he said. “We were going to get another one to give to you next week.”
Former rugby league players, Jeremy Schloss and Andrew Dunneman have big win at Doomben races. They have a company called Boom Racing Thoroughbreds.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 21
ABC’s Macca broadcasts from Tamworth and interviews a former Dutch Army guy, who lives at nearby Moonbi, and came to Australia from Indonesia in the 1950s. I wonder if it was his van, Marie and I drove around Europe in, back in 1978. We bought the rusty old Army green van from a Kiwi chap from Wellington. He saw us coming.
Death of League Immortal, Graeme ‘Chang’ Langlands, who played 45 Tests for Australia between 1963 and 1975. ‘Chang’ was my hero. When I was a teenage, I would run down the street, sidestepping telegraph poles, trying to perfect ‘Chang’s massive sidestep. The first time I interviewed him, he was on an end-of-season trip to the Gold Coast, with St George. They visited one of Chang’s Australian teammates, Peter Dimond at his Imperial Hotel, Murwillumbah. I was a young journalist at ‘The Daily News’, and ‘Chang’ politely answered my questions, and then invited me for a drink after I had finished my shift. I thought he would have forgotten my name by the time I got there, and that he might be rotten drunk. But he addressed me correctly, and was on his best behaviour. St George played a lower Tweed selection in an end-of-season exhibition match at the Tweed heads Recreations Ground, and won easily.
Photo 1: Father and son – Garnett and Gerard Kerr
Photo 2: Americans, Al D Kirkland (number 15) and Gary Kerkorian are wrong footed by Brisbane fullback, Norm Pope.
Photo 3: Dr Joe Baker
Photo 4: Graeme Langlands (left) with his St George side ahead of their match at Tweed Heads in 1973. Billy Smith is beside him.