DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 20 2018
TUESDAY, MAY 15
Former Test hooker, John Lang accepts the Queensland Rugby League History Committee’s invitation to deliver the 2020 Ross Livermore Memorial Lecture. ‘Super coach’, Wayne Bennett is to deliver this year’s address, while former Queensland, Newcastle, Canterbury and Halifax (England) five eighth, Michael Hagan will deliver the 2019 address. John Lang and I have a long chat about football. He reminds me that he played three interstate matches in nine days in 1974, and rates that series the toughest of his career, with Queensland drawing two games and losing the decider. It was Barry Muir’s first year as coach of Qld (replacing Wally O’Connell). “‘Garbo’ (Muir) was the first coach, in my memory, to really think we could beat New South Wales,” Lang said.
Australian skipper, (and Test hooker) Cameron Smith announces his retirement from representative football.
Queensland forward, Jacob ‘Bull’ Lillyman is a guest on Foxsports tonight. Such a lovely bloke, and a man who always gives 100 percent.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 16
Lunch at Copperhead Brewery, Cooroy is very good – battered whiting, prawns, chips and salad. And the pale ale goes down well. We are on our way to Noosa, for the annual food and wine festival, staying with Marie’s youngest brother, John Donnelly and his wife, Jan. Dinner at crowded surf club, where renovations are taking place. John says our mutual friend, Darryl ‘Little Rooster’ Gear still owns the building which contains the general store at Nimbin, in northern New South Wales. The store sells more Tally-Ho (cigarette) papers than any other business in Australia. I will leave it up to your imagination to reason why.
Learn of the passing of former fiery rugby league forward, Neville ‘Hornet’ Hornery, and I file a yarn for The Courier-Mail. Hornery represented Brisbane – against England – from the Wynnum-Manly club in 1975. In that match (and this version of events was given to me by a teammate) he decided to take on the entire English pack by himself, starting with a torpedo tackle to the mid-riff of the rotund, Dave Chisnall, who went down winded. Chisnall’s teammates thought he was going to die, and, after a council of war, decided to get revenge on ‘the hornet’. It was on for young and old after that, but Hornery got a few more scalps, before, like a gunslinger out of luck, he went down for the count. Hornery also played against France – in 1968 – when he was contracted to Wests in Sydney. After beating New Zealand and Great Britain, and qualifying for the World Cup final against Australia (which the French lost 20-2) they played a challenge match against the Magpies, who were coached by Noel Kelly. Well, the French were not prepared for ‘the hornet’, who went berserk, cleaning up rivals by fair means and foul.
Death of former New Zealand Rugby League winger, Tom Hadfield, who played 17 Tests for the Kiwis between 1956 and 1961, and was named in New Zealand’s Team of the Century. At one stage he scored tries in nine consecutive Tests, his best, a 70 metre effort against France at Carlaw Park in 1960, with one scribe describing Hadfield’s performance the best he had seen from a winger, in either rugby code, in 40 odd years of covering union and league.
Former Ipswich representative forward, Stu Pankoff phones to thank me for the article I wrote about him in ‘Men of League’ magazine. He wants to buy me a Guinness. Stu played for Ipswich against Great Britain in 1950 and Ipswich against the American All Stars in 1953.
THURSDAY, MAY 17
Take advantage of $25 lunch special at Peppers. Our Welsh Maitr’d comes from Llanelli, and lived at Bangalow for a time. Our chips are cold, so we get a discount. John Donnelly totally confuses the Welshman, speaking almost in broken English, as some country raised lads are inclined to do. Jan Donnelly tells me she went to Maclean High School, with my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Malcolm Minns, who was a fine rower, as well as footballer. (Mal and his partner, Karen are at Noosa for the food festival, something I was unaware of, until after the event).
There are big wraps on Penrith player, Wayde Egan who previously played for Lithgow Storm.
FRIDAY, MAY 18
Lunch at Thomas Corner Restaurant, Noosaville. Our waiter lived on a dairy farm at Singleton in the Hunter Valley. Evidently Norco have won back the contract to supply Lismore Base Hospital, with milk, after a Victorian company had the deal.
The official Food and Wine Festival welcome party is held on Noosa’s Main Beach, with celebrity chef, Dublin born, Colin Fassnidge trying to play the drums. I emphasise – Trying.
SATURDAY, MAY 19
Long Lunch on a table set out in Hastings Street is pleasant, with slow cooked lamb the highlight. We sit near a colorfully dressed Darwin lass, who hails from Scarborough in Queensland, originally. There is also a group of Wagga Wagga lasses near us, and they have a wonderful time. Celebrity chef, Matt Preston goes from table to table, spreading good will.
Back in Brisbane, ‘Super Coach’, Wayne Bennett delivers the annual Ross Livermore Memorial Lecture, in the Paddington Room, Suncorp Stadium. There is a record roll-up of 120 for an event, which is staged by the Queensland Rugby League History Committee. Bennett speaks on a wide range of topics, spiced with humor.
Marie and Jan watch the Royal Wedding, while John and I watch the footy.
The Courier-Mail refers to ‘trash’ instead of ‘rubbish’. I mean, that is just rubbish.
SUNDAY, MAY 20
Marie and I return to Brisbane.
‘I am, You Are, We Are Australian’ sung at halftime in Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs game at Shark Park. Some might say that is appropriate, given Cronulla was the scene of race riots, and people from Canterbury, Bankstown, Punchbowl and similar suburbs – allegedly – were responsible – allegedly – for the anger and fear of residents of the Sutherland Shire, the spark for the riots.
Photo 1: Neville Hornery in action for Wynnum
Photo 2: Neville Hornery upended, playing for Canterbury against South Sydney
Photo 3: Marie and Steve Ricketts at Noosa Food and Wine Festival
Photo 4: Malcolm Minns at work in the CBC Bank, Murwillumbah in 1974.