DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 13 2018
MONDAY, MARCH 26
Radio TAB’s John McCoy said he was in tears, when he heard the news, Australian cricketers had been involved in ball tampering drama in South Africa, using sandpaper, can you believe it! John went as far as to call it “the worst day in Australian sport, ever.” Former Murwillumbah Brothers’ rugby league official, Dave Monico is in South Africa following the Aussies. I’m glad it’s him, and not me.
‘The Courier-Mail’ runs a story on the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand and the party atmosphere that went with it. My wife, Marie, who was then Marie Donnelly, was there for the Games. I wonder what she got up to?
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28
The Courier-Mail’s Mike Westlake phones, wanting me to contribute to a Broncos’ 30th anniversary special. My wife, Marie’s first job as a Commonwealth Games volunteer is to iron the flags of 71 different countries. I forgot to ask whether that included the aboriginal flag. Another volunteer is former Australian heavyweight boxing champion, Athol McQueen, from Kyogle. I don’t think they would have asked him to do the ironing. But he did iron out a few people, in his time, including a former Test rugby league player, who thought he was too big for his boots.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29
Former Australian cricket captain, Steve Smith looks a broken man, as he fronts a press conference, with his dad by his side. Australian cricket’s media man has a tough job, managing the media circus. An FM Radio guy, asks a really stupid question, to get his five seconds of fame.
FRIDAY, MARCH 30
Woken at 2.30 a.m. by the barking of next door’s dog, Toby. I shone a torch into the house. Hopefully that woke the owners, if their dog’s barking didn’t. I suppose, if I brought the dog over this side of the fence, that would wake them. I drive to the Gold Coast to join my wife, who has been staying at our son, Damien’s place at Main Beach, while she does her Games’ stuff. (No more ironing). Walk along the beach, where three Middle Eastern looking chaps, and a girl in a g-string, drink beer. Not a good look. The drinking beer bit, I mean. A girl smokes, and throws the butt in the sand.
The Commonwealth Games General Assembly meets at The Sheraton, where my wife is a volunteer, and she meets lots of VIPS. But no-one is more important than the volunteers.
My good mate, Greg Grainger and his wife, Maree (nee Dowling) are back in Maree’s home town, Murwillumbah and dine at the local RSL Club, with brothers, Bill and Terry Carroll, and Maree’s brother, Gary ‘Mouse’ Dowling, who played Amco Cup for Riverina and North Coast in the one year, first from Murwillumbah Brothers, and then from Gundagai. (Or was it the other way round)?
In England, Australian rugby league coach, Mal Meninga is a special guest at St Helens’ home game against Wigan. Australian fullback, Ben Barba stars for Saints in their 21-18 win.
SATURDAY, MARCH 31
Drive to Murwillumbah, through Numinbah Valley, where there are only one or two dairies still operating. Once there were over 40. I MC 60-year reunion for the Brothers’ club, at their leagues club complex. It is terrific day, and great to catch up with so many friends, and people I have heard about. I interviewed former Brothers’ coaches, Paul Broughton, Don Bullock, Gary Dobrich, Peter Smith, Kel Sherry, Phil Moase and Mark Wakefield. Broughton, who turned 87 the day of the reunion, was Brothers’ inaugural captain-coach in 1958, and took the side to the grand final, where they were beaten by an All Blacks’ side, which included, Lionel Morgan, who, two years later, would become Australia’s first indigenous Test player. Don Bullock was a former soccer player, who played league for Brothers in Brisbane before taking on the Murwillumbah job in 1960.
As well as being the club’s 60th anniversary, it is the 40th anniversary of our under-18 premiership triumph, when the coach was former Sydney Easts’ lock, Brian Tracey (a classic low tackler) and the captain, Marty Sherry. We beat hot favorites, Old Boys in the grand final at Knox Park, Murwillumbah. I was a 15-year-old fullback, and very nervous, but I can proudly say, I didn’t drop a bomb, and there were plenty of them, given it was the four tackle rule, and if you were caught in-goal, it was a line drop-out. Members of that under-18 side at the reunion, include Greg Balgowan, Paul Rabe, brothers, Marty and Kel Sherry, Darryl Gear and Gary Dowling. In 1970, I was captain when we again won the under-18 title, this time by beating Tweed Heads’ Seagulls in the grand final at Murwillumbah Oval (later Stan Sercombe Oval). Owen Maye was the coach that year.
Also catch up with former Test winger, Ross Conlon and his father, Ted. Ross played for Old Boys, but Ted played for Brothers premiership sides of 1961 and ’62. My father, Jon, was treasurer in 1961. Englishman, Bert Holcroft coached Brothers in 1961-62. Also chat to another former top winger, Stephen Ring, who won three New South Wales Country Surf Life Saving titles as a member of the Cabarita Beach, beach relay team. It was a tradition that Brothers’ players joined Cabarita Surf Club.
There were so many great memories, including the time we got footballer/singer and former Catholic priest, John Cootes to town as our guest entertainer at a fund raising night, at the Regent Theatre. Cootes played seven Tests for Australia in 1969-70, all from the Newcastle Wests club.
Back at Main Beach, Marie and I have dinner at Main Wave and it is disappointing.
SUNDAY, APRIL 1
Huge upset. Titans 26 Broncos 14. I watch the Suncorp Stadium match, from in front of the media box. FoxSport commentators, Andrew Voss and Greg ‘Brandy’ Alexander say hello, also Wayne Bennett’s ex-wife, Tricia.
The Sunday-Mail’s Rory Gibson has a great article: “What Happened to Squash”. What did happen to squash? My wife was a top player in Brisbane and played the sport for 30 odd years, with and against good friends, Rhonda Howard and Margaret Heisner. There were squash courts everywhere. Now, there are very few.
Photo 1: Brian Tracey, coach of Brothers’ under-18 side in 1968, with his fullback, Steve Ricketts;
Photo 2: Members of the 1968 Brothers’ under-18 side, Greg Balgowan (left) and Paul Rabe
Photo 3: Steve Ricketts receives the 1970 under-18 premiership trophy from Group 18/Gold Coast president, Stan Sercombe
Photo 4: John Cootes in action for Newcastle Wests against Central Charlestown.