DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 11 2018
MONDAY, MARCH 12
Rob Saltmarsh is our four wheel drive, tour guide, a good bloke, a good operator, although we don’t go off-road as much as we hoped. Picks us up from our cabin at Tall Timbers pub, and we stop at Marrawah, to watch a surf board riding contest, where one of the competitors is Rob’s brother. Rob had given his brother a five out of 10 for his ride, not knowing at the time it was his brother. (We were watching from quite a distance away). Upmarket buffet lunch, provided by Rob, at Arthur River. Return via Trowutta Arch, where one of the visitors is the Mayor of Circular Mountain, Daryl Quilliam. Rob, a man with indigenous blood, is not a fan of the forestry work in this region. Stop at Irishtown, where Rob played Australian rules. He played against Aussie rules legend, Alistair Lynch in an under-17 match at Burnie. I interviewed Lynch, when he first arrived in Brisbane late in 1993, to take up a contract with the Lions. Our Aussie rules writer was on leave. Lions’ media man, Peter Blucher sent me a thank you letter after the story appeared, calling me a true professional. I think he was relieved at the way the story turned out given my rugby league background. Lynch was a dream to interview. Without wishing to sound elitist, a lot of footballers are hard work, which is a reflection on their education, or lack of, and the conversations, or lack of, that take place around the family dinner table. Rob’s partner has a View Real Estate franchise at Wynyard. He has two girls – one works in hospitality and the other is captain of Smithton High.
Marie and I have dinner with Graeme and Denise Watcher from Shellharbour in New South Wales. We had met them at Corinna in the heart of the Tarkine wilderness. I have gummy shark and Marie a steak.
TUESDAY, MARCH 13
The last day of our Tasmanian holiday. We drive to Launceston Airport, via morning tea at a Ulverston Beach cafe; scallop pies from a Ulverston bakery and then a walk around historic Longford.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14
Lovely day on the Gold Coast, catching up with our eldest boy, Damien; his wife, Emma and their daughter, Parker. At McIntosh Island playground, Parker is head butted by an autistic boy (no harm done), but then the boy’s mother (she told us her boy was autistic) pushes a toy metal car down the slippery slide, even though Parker is standing at the bottom. The car crashes into Parker’s shins, and this time there are tears.
Marie has a positive interview with the Commonwealth Games people, about becoming a volunteer. The interview takes place at Sheraton Mirage. I have a couple of Reschs at the Southport Yacht Club, while Marie is being interviewed. So many empty shops at Versace.
Indian meal with Damien, Emma and Parker, accompanied by Pike Riesling and Balter XPA.
Learn that Queensland State manager of Men of League Charity, Frank Barrett had resigned while we were in Tasmania. (I am the honorary media officer for the Brisbane Committee).
THURSDAY, MARCH 15
Lovely fish and chips at Fishmonger, Sandgate before meeting our accountant, Tim Mead to do our tax. Dave from Fishmongers, talks rugby league. Says South Sydney superstar, Greg Inglis has houses at Sandgate and his wife spends some of the year there. Tim’s late father, Kevin was one of the ‘magnificent seven’ who formed the Brighton Roosters Rugby league Club, where our son, Damien had a premiership winning season with the under-17s.
Beers at Stafford Tavern. Learn that Merv Bainbury, a former member of Brothers’ Golf Club, has passed away, aged 85. Also Bruce McLaggan, a Kiwi from Taranaki, had died aged just 63, after a battle with cancer. Bruce was a mad league fan, who knew former Kiwi forward, Bruce Gall.
FRIDAY, MARCH 16
Catch up with our youngest lad, Lliam; his wife Channelle; and their two boys, Ethan and Connor, at Paddington, before attending Broncos v Cowboys match at Suncorp Stadium. Broncos win 24-20 in another thriller, and Brisbane coach, Wayne Bennett gives the media a spray. Former referee, Stu Berndt agrees with me, that Broncos’ fullback, Darius Boyd could have been penalised on full time, for a deliberate knock-on. At the stadium, where the crowd is 46,080, I chat to fellow media types, as well as former Brisbane skipper, Gorden Tallis; former Canterbury star, Jason Hetherington; London Broncos’ legend, Steele Retchless and former Ipswich Jets, Brisbane Easts and Gatton five eighth/centre, Ray Kelly, who played one match for Queensland in 1980. Jason and I talk about his appearance for Queensland Residents (when he was contracted to Ipswich Jets) against Great Britain in Townsville in 1992, a match in which the British were accused of biting, and other atrocities. Hetherington, (and, mind you, he wasn’t complaining), said British five eighth, Shaun Edwards, stamped on his testicles.
Former Broncos’ hooker, John Driscoll says the Brothers’ Bid Team still holds out hope of getting a licence, should the NRL decide to expand. John works part time for the Bid Team.
Former Lismore couple, Joe and Eileen Cram celebrate their 72nd wedding anniversary. Now based in Logan City, she is 92 and he is 101. Joe is a Rat of Tobruk.
SATURDAY, MARCH 17
Ipswich (Australia) lad, Matt Parcell is man of the match in Leeds’ away win over St Helens in England. Our grandson, Ethan dresses up in emerald green on St Patrick’s Day. My wife, Marie enjoys Irish bands in the city. I go to Emerson Park, Grange, for Brisbane Rugby League fixture between Valleys and Easts. Good chat with former Valleys’ winger, Peter Shields (who is now a prominent solicitor) and his dad, Graham, 80. Former Australian halfback, Ross ‘Rat’ Strudwick presents the best player award, and kisses the unfortunate recipient. Former Australian forward, John Payne is there with his daughter and her husband, Paul Collins, a former teammate of mine at Norths. John is battling Parkinsons.
Former Brisbane Easts’ forward, Errol Slingsby is now 65, and still teaching – at Oxley Primary. I played against Errol when he was starting out with Gold Coast Tigers and I was playing with Murwillumbah Brothers. He was raised on a dairy farm at Beechmont in the hills behind the Gold Coast.
At Beenleigh, Marsden High win the Tonie Carroll Cup, named after the former Beenleigh High student, who played rugby league for Australia and New Zealand (Just as Des Connor did in rugby union).
SUNDAY, MARCH 18
It is 40 years to the day since Marie and I left on our Kombi Van adventure around Europe. We drove out of London on this day, heading down to Cornwall, across the bottom of England to Dover; catching a ferry to Calais and then driving down to Lisbon in Portugal, via Madrid; across to Cadiz in Spain; up to Barcelona; across to St Tropez, up to to Grenoble; into Switzerland; then to the Rhine Valley; and finally Bruges in Belgium before heading back to the UK, up to Edinburgh and then to Leuchars. Where? Leuchars. That’s where the van died. That’s a story for another day.
On Macca’s show on ABC Radio, a caller says you can judge a town by its race track.
Photo 1: Steve and Marie Ricketts (left) with Graeme and Denise Watcher
Photo 2: Surfing off Tasmania’s north west coast
Photo 3: Proof that Steve Ricketts once wrote an Aussie rules story
Photo 4: Marie Ricketts cleans our Kombi, in 1978, somewhere in Germany.