DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 19 2018
MONDAY, MAY 7
Several Labor Day marchers down a few ales at Stafford Tavern. One eyewitness to the march, tells me there are more public servants than blue collar workers. Certainly wasn’t the case when I covered the march (for the ‘Telegraph’) in the late 1970s. Jim House recalls Labor stalwarts, Max Jessop and Jack Stanaway talking politics at the Alderley Arms Hotel. Max, a Yorkshireman from Huddersfield, would sing The Red Flag whenever he had a few beers and/or ports aboard. In Huddersfield, the birthplace of rugby league, Max’s first love was Speedway. There are legendary stories about Max. Like the time he fell asleep on the train from Brisbane to his home at Ipswich, and woke up in the marshalling yards back at Mayne in Brisbane. A kindly train driver gave Max a lift to Ipswich, in his diesel engine, which had to be driven there anyway. I think it happened more than once.
Scott, the bar manager at the Stafford, hails from Wardell on the Richmond River in northern New South Wales. The names he comes up with are all familiar to me – Felsch, Roberts and Moran. Scott says the family of former Wallaby rugby union player, Declan Curran now have the Wardell pub. Declan’s father, Frank toured Britain and France with the 1933-34 Rugby League Kangaroos, and toured New Zealand in 1935
Former Queensland, Newcastle and Parramatta coach, Michael Hagan and former Wests Tigers’ star, Daniel Fitzhenry coach the Newcastle side in the New South Wales Country titles. Hagan lives near Newcastle.
TUESDAY, MAY 8
Brisbane Men of League Committee meeting at Ithaca Bows Club discusses possible assistance for a seven year-old Gatton Hawks’ player, who had his hand mangled after falling off his mum’s ride-on mower. He has had 70 operations. The excellent cafe attached to the bowls club has shut. Evidently the owner just walked out. I’m told the new owners of another Brisbane cafe, have been left stunned by what they have found – pigeon nests in the cookery, one of the worst examples.
My former rugby league writing colleague, Dave Potter is now a media adviser to the Minister for Natural Resources in the Queensland Government.
THURSDAY, MAY 10
‘Supply Partners’ a company of which our youngest boy, Lliam is a founding director, has signed off on an Australian three year exclusive distribution contract with Hyundai Heavy Industries (Solar panels).
Barber, Eric Pappas cuts my hair, and provides good chat about league. The bloke before me, Peter Stark, played league for Brothers. Eric recalls the different bars at the old Lang Park. One was known by a particularly racist term. I don’t remember it. I do remember former Mayne (Aussie rules) and Norths (rugby league) player, Barry Spring working at one of the can bars.
The funeral of former Brisbane Norths’ premiership winning rugby league prop, Don Simpson, a giant of a man, is held today.
FRIDAY, MAY 11
Fiery end to Featherstone Rovers v Hull Challenge Cup rugby league match, with one player sent off and three in the bin. The crowd chants: ‘The Referee’s a wanker”, as Hull finish with nine men, but win anyway. Man of the Match is Hull’s England international back, Jake Connor, who hails from Halifax originally. Hull coach, Lee Radford says he remembers seeing games like that in the old pub leagues. Hull’s players are full time professionals, while many of the Featherstone lads work on building sites etc. Today is the 50th anniversary of the ‘watersplash’ Wembley Challenge Cup final between Wakefield and Leeds, which Leeds won 11-10, after Wakefield’s Don Fox missed with a conversion shot from in front of the posts, after full time. (See Diary of a Retired Rugby League Writer, Week 2 2017 for a graphic photo of the conditions).
At Stafford Tavern, I meet John Dwyer, who was a pall bearer at the funeral of former Brothers, Ipswich and Gold Coast Vikings five eighth, Pat Shepherdson, a skilful player, and one of the nice guys of rugby league.
SATURDAY, MAY 12
Roosters’ forward, Dylan Napa proves a wrecking ball in the Sydney club’s 32-0 win over New Zealand Warriors in Auckland. Napa and Warriors’ forward, Adam Blair have a great tussle. In the first match of a Suncorp Stadium double header in Brisbane, Melbourne Storm skipper, Cameron Smith ‘wish bones’ Gold Coast Titans’ forward, Kevin Proctor. FoxSports commentator, Braith Anasta is sarcastic in his reference to it happening to Proctor, given Proctor is a product of the Storm system, which has produced many of the ugly wrestling practices we see today. Smith is charged and cops a one match ban.
SUNDAY, MAY 13
Lovely day at Sirromet Wines, Mt Cotton for Mother’s Day, although the queues for food and drink are horrendous.
My youngest brother, Stewart is 53 today. Stewart was born at Murwillumbah and attended Mt St Patrick’s School; then Marist Brothers in Lismore and finally, St Laurence’s in Brisbane, where a class mate was future Wallaby, Dan Crowley. Stew hated union, and refused to play at ‘Laurie’s’. He remains a mad Manly-Warringah fan.
Womens rugby union final is held at Carcassonne. Rugby League legend, Puig Aubert’s statue is located within the stadium precinct. Not sure what he would make of rugby union being played on the ground, never mind a women’s game.
Today is the anniversary of the First Fleet leaving Portsmouth, for Australia, in 1787.
Photo 1: Don Simpson (left) with Norths’ teammates, Col Smith (rear), Peter Hall (right) and Jim Adams (front)
Photo 2: Stewart Ricketts.