DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 16 2018
THURSDAY, APRIL 19
Sydney Telegraph’s editor at large, Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield Tweets that rugby league is now officially shit. After watching tonight’s boring Bulldogs v Roosters match, I am inclined to agree. ‘Buzz’ is mainly having a shot at the number of penalties. I am more concerned with robotic play.
Former Channel 9 league commentator, Darrell Eastlake has died, aged 75, after a battle with Alzheimer’s. I covered weight lifting at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982, and ‘Big Darrell’ was the television caller. It was quite a revelation, sitting near him, as he unleashed his colorful description of a sport, I thought would be boring. Even without ‘Big D’, I would have enjoyed the weight lifting, but he certainly livened things up.
I have previously commented on the ineptness of radio newsreaders, particularly females. But here I go again. There is one lass, who is so bad, whenever she comes on, I turn the radio off, and return to normal service four minutes later (when the news is over). The thing is, she never seems to improve. I have to admire the patience of station management. I wish her well, but, she has chosen the wrong field of employment.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20
Queensland Rugby League History Committee meeting is held at QRL Central, Milton, Chairman, Kevin Brasch said he played Shift Workers League when he was still at school and earned four pounds a game, which was quite a sum in the 1940s.
Afterwards, I chat to Reds’ coach, Brad Thorn, who is walking up Castlemaine Street. Brad’s mother was in the same bush walking club as my wife, Marie.
Our daughter, Melanie has a new job – as director of operations for G P Johnson marketing agency in Singapore.
Melbourne Storm beat Brisbane Broncos 34-20 in a thriller at Suncorp Stadium, with Storm fullback, Billy Slater scoring two tries. It is the sort of match that reminds you, rugby league is still the best game.
SATURDAY, APRIL 21
A crowd of 10,000 attends the Newcastle Knights v South Sydney match at Scully Park, Tamworth, and that amounts to a packed house. The fans are drinking XXXX Gold. In the 1970s and ’80s, Tamworth blokes wouldn’t have gone near a XXXX. It would have been Tooheys, Tooths or Reschs. Tamworth has hosted many big matches over the years, with the Harold Wagstaff captained English side playing there in 1920, when a Tamworth selection lost 27-10 to the tourists, in front of a crowd of 3,000. In 1984, I drove English journalist, Ray Fletcher and photographer, Andrew Varley to Tamworth for the Great Britain v Northern Division match. I had to return to Brisbane, because I was required to cover club football for the Telegraph. I stayed at Glenn Innes on the way back, booking into the cheapest motel I could find, and nearly froze to death. The day after the Northern Division v Britain match (won 32-18 by the tourists, with Ellery Hanley scoring two tries) roads south of Tamworth were closed, with snow ploughs having to be used.
Exciting young fullback, Mitchell Krause has returned to rugby league in Lismore, after a brief stint in union, while in England, Josh Charnley is also back in the 13 man code, after a stint with Sale Rugby. It is wonderful that players can go back and forth. In the bad old days, if you played league, there was little or no chance of being allowed to play rugby, even if the league appearances had been as an amateur.
East Lismore 3 defeat Bangalow 0 in the Anzac Shield soccer final. Marie’s nephew, Jack Pope is part of a North Coast (NSW) soccer academy, set up by Liverpool in England. Jack supports Arsenal.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Macca (Ian McNamara, ABC Radio) recalls Irish show band, Barleycorn. We had a cassette tape of their music. Our kids dreaded road trips with Barleycorn playing.
Marie and I drive to Lismore, via coffee at Fingal; fish and chips at Chinderah and a surf at Lennox Head. At Chinderah, a chap with three Asian tourists, tells them that local surfers scare visitors with stories about the prevalence of sharks in the area.
Tonight I have drinks with Doug Kaden at Lismore golf Club. Doug and I have been friends since childhood, through our parents, Jon and Lola Ricketts and Don (DOK) and Clarice Kaden.
Murwillumbah Mustangs beat Mullbimby, to win the Grant Cook Cup, named in honor of a young bloke who played for both clubs and was killed during a match against Casino in 2016.
Death of former St Helens’ player Roy Haggerty, who I saw play for St Helens against the 1986 Kangaroos, at Knowsley Road. Haggerty played two Tests against France the following year. In the match against the ‘Roos, Haggerty targeted Australian skipper, Wally Lewis and was lucky not to be sent off. That’s what I wrote in the story I filed for the Telegraph in Brisbane. I saw Wally back at the team hotel that night, and, as we shared the lift, I made this comment about his battered appearance: “No dying swan act this time, Wally”, a reference to the fact there was a perception Wally milked penalties in Brisbane club football. My comment went over like a lead balloon. I did just blurt it out, without thinking.
Photo 1: Mike Smith in action for Britain against Toowoomba in 1984. Smith scored a try against Northern Division at Tamworth
Photo 2: St Helens’ Roy Haggerty (left) takes on Wigan’s Andy Goodway.