DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 10 2018
MONDAY, MARCH 5
The Bay of Fires is our Tasmanian base for another two nights. Our boat trip on the ‘Forneaux’ is cut back from three hours to two, because of southerlies. A father and daughter are skipper and crew, and their commentary is interesting. We see three sea eagles off Taylor’s Beach, something the skipper hasn’t experienced before. The limit of our trip north along the coast, is a conservation area, off Tucker’s Angus Beef farm. Here we see lots of dolphins and two albatross. After lunch, Marie and I undertake a two hour walk to Skeleton Bay.
Former Murwillumbah Brothers captain-coach, Allan Leslight has turned 70. Allan played lower grades for the Sydney Roosters, before returning to Murwillumbah in 1970, when he succeeded Bob Pannowitz as captain-coach. Brothers had won the Group 18/Gold Coast premiership in 1969, but lost many of their star players (among them Des Lee, Athol Gear, Keith Kermond and Allan’s older brother, Brian, who was injured in an accident on his farm), and 1970 was a rebuilding year, as they say in the classics. I captained Brothers’ under-18s, only because Kel Sherry was called up for A grade most weeks. I also played several first grade matches, including one against Seagulls at the Tweed Heads Recreation Ground. I had played under-18s and doubled up for A grade, at five eighth. I remember Allan Leslight praising my service to our centres, Jack Nardi and Owen Maye. Really, I just wanted to get rid of the ball.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6
Drive to Anson’s Bay and walk to Eddystone Pt Lighthouse, where three homes are being renovated. Return to Binalong Bay via Gladstone, Herrick and Weldsborough, stopping for a brief rain forest walk. Buy a dozen oysters from Lease 65 on Moulting Bay. They are so good. Watch ‘Inspector Morse’ episode, where he is in Australia. The episode was filmed at places like Cowra and Hartley in New South Wales. Marie and I will be in Oxford later in the year, and hope to visit several pubs frequented by Morse.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7
Morning tea at Pyengana Dairy where we watch the cows going into the dairy. Rough drive over Mt Victoria, after a walk at St Columba Falls. Picnic lunch at a park in Legerwood in Ringarooma Valley. The village features wooden sculptures dedicated to seven locals killed in World War 1. Check into Sebel, Launceston, followed by drinks at St John Brewery. Dinner at Stillwater, where we had a marvelous meal in 2009. Food not as good this time, although still reasonable quality (steak tartare and gnocci, moi/quail, wallaby – Marie). The wallaby was tough. Not tough enough you might say, or it wouldn’t have been on a dinner plate.
Hayes Auto Sales at South Murwillumbah celebrate their centenary. It is a Toyota dealership now.
Legendary Australian singer, Jeff St John has died aged 72. I love his song ‘Big Time Operator’.
THURSDAY, MARCH 8
Tour ‘Seahorse World’ at Beauty Point. Our guide is funny and informative and the experience more interesting than I expected. Lunch (wild caught kingfish and battered scallops) at River Cafe is very good. Buy wine at Stony Rise, where our female host is originally from Robe in South Australia.
Our youngest son, Lliam has me on speaker, in front of work colleagues, as he asks for my tips ahead of the first round of the NRL. I tip the Broncos at Kogarah, saying I do not rate Dragoons’ former Broncos’ half, Ben Hunt. The Dragons win and Hunt stars. Lliam’s workmates will be giving him heaps.
FRIDAY, MARCH 9
Drive to Corrine in the Tarkine Wilderness area, via Deloraine, Waratah and the Savage River Iron Ore Mine. Our cabin, ‘Davis’, is named after a former publican. One drink at the Tarkine pub, then walk part of Whytes River Track. Dinner at the pub with a Melbourne couple and Graeme and Denise Watcher, from Shellharbour on the New South Wales South Coast. She is a water ski champion.
SATURDAY, MARCH 10
Cruise the beautiful Pieman River on SS Arcadia II, and Les (the skipper) lets me steer. I had steered a boat on the Grand Union Canal in England, so what could go wrong! Picnic lunch at Pieman Heads. It was here, on October 4, 1979, that four people drowned in rough conditions. On the news today, there is a report of two men drowning at Anson’s Bay, where we had been earlier in our trip. One was former Sheffield Shield cricketer, Tony Banneworth.
A cycling group from Launceston arrives as we enjoy a beer at the pub after a long day. They had come from Waratah and this was part of an eight day trip. A couple of the cyclists have a dip in the river, and one goes to the bar, wearing just his speedos. Got to love Australia. And as for all you people bagging Tony Abbott for wearing budgie smugglers – they are the best, most practical swim wear for males, who want to swim fast.
The heavens here in the wilderness are amazing. It should be compulsory for all city kids to come to the bush and look to the sky to see what is up there. Easier said than done, for some kids, I know. We even see a few shooting stars. People in the cabin next to us are having a great time. “You were the golden child,” says a female.
SUNDAY, MARCH 11
Hellyer Gorge provides a leg stretch on our trip to Smithton. Picnic lunch at Table Cape and then another walk at very busy Boat Harbour, where we stayed in 2009. Such a beautiful beach.
Book into Tall Timbers Hotel complex. Lady at the bottle shop is a Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club member. I understand the Storm have quite a few supporters in Tassie, and have drawn big crowds when playing trials in Hobart.
Watch NRL in the pub, where an old local asks if we are watching ‘the rugby’. Couple from Bundaberg ask if AFL is the main game around here? Not sure which question was the dumbest.
Learn that one of my former clubs, Wingham Tigers, will not field an under-18 side in Group 3 rugby league this year. How can that be? Wingham is such a rusted on league area.
Laurent Garnier, former coach of Carcassonne Rugby League in France, says his son, Charlie has played his first game of league, in Brisbane. A teammate is Tom Keough, whose father, Jason played rugby league for Paris St Germaine in 1997.
Photo 1: Launceston
Photo 2: Pyengana Dairy
Photo 3: cyclists from Launceston enjoy an ale at Tarkine Pub
Photo 4: The ferry across the Pieman.