DIARY OF RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 21 2018
TUESDAY, MAY 22
FoxSports reporter, James Hooper has a scoop on the Broncos offering Melbourne Storm coach, Craig Bellamy a four year deal to switch to Brisbane, replacing Wayne Bennett.
Death of Philip Roth, author of Portnoy’s Complaint. The book, was all the rage, among some of my class mates, at Murwillumbah High, in the late 1960s.
Former Wallaby centre, Joe Tomane has signed with Leinster in Ireland, after a stint with Montpelier in France. I am told he has always regretted leaving Melbourne Storm, where he started his senior career, in rugby league. He went to the Gold Coast Titans from Melbourne, and then to union.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 23
The main topic on Radio TAB sports breakfast is the future of Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett. Will he go, will he stay? Will Craig Bellamy replace him?
Former Test hooker, Steve Walters is my interview subject at Brisbane Men of League Committee, Kick-off Club lunch at the Broncos. Steve is good value. Former top coach, the late Graham Murray’s daughter is a guest at the official table. Afterwards I attend a ‘pre-wake’ for foundation Broncos’ director, Gary Balkin in the Boardroom. Gary, who has pancreatic cancer, only has a short time to live. He invites a whole host of people, mainly former players, to drinks in the boardroom, to celebrate his life. I was honored to be invited, given Gary and I did not always agree on things. He told me a few years back, that he understood where I was coming from, in terms of my writing on the Broncos and the game in general, and respected my views. Former Broncos’ football manager, Brian McGrath leads three cheers for Gary. Lots of stories are told, including the time Gary gave the players his credit card at their Sydney hotel. God knows what bills they racked up! I resist invitations to accompany the likes of Chris Johns and Kevin Walters to Gambaro’s for further drinks.
Friend, Gerry McKendry is a volunteer driver for the aged, and one his recent passengers was a 93-year-old ex-jockey, who rode for ‘The Raj’ (British Rulers in India).
THURSDAY, MAY 24
Broncos defeat Parramatta 18-10 at Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane coach, Wayne Bennett’s 800th game as a premiership coach. It was a boring, mistake riddled match, in which Broncos’ prop, Matt Lodge was the best. ‘Hard to watch’ said a spectator near me, and I had to agree. As I pass the press box, at the end of the match, without thinking, I peer in at the journalists hurrying to meet deadline. I remember, I used to hate people from the corporate boxes, passing our media area, peering in and making smart arse comments, as we tried to work. My attitude was, imagine if I turned up at their work place, during the week, looked over their shoulder and made fun of them.
FRIDAY, MAY 25
The funeral of former Brisbane Norths vice-captain and multiple premiership winner, Bob Poulsen is held today. Bob represented Brisbane in the inter-city Bulimba Cup competition. In 1962, he scored two tries for Norths in a 22-8 win against a touring Illawarra representative side.
At Albion, there is a State of Origin poster featuring Cameron Smith. The Queensland captain unexpectedly stepped down from representative football earlier this month.
At Widnes in England there is a ‘Legends of 78’ reunion for the city’s rugby league side, which was known as the ‘Chemics’ then, because of the number of chemical factories in the area. Now they are known as the Vikings. My wife, Marie and I lived for six weeks in Widnes, in 1977-78, attending Widnes matches at Naughton Park, against Bradford Northern, Wigan and Salford, as well as an away match against Bradford. There also was a Test match, between Wales and France, played at Naughton Park. I also attended a Huyton v Rochedale match at Huyton. When we arrived, a couple of young blokes asked for a few quid to look after our car, and to my surprise, my Widnes’ mates coughed up. It seems, if they hadn’t done so, the car may have been torched, while we were watching the match. They reckon the TV set in the Huyton club house, was stolen one night while the members were watching it. I also attended an amateur match between Widnes’ team, Farnworth, and a Greenall Whitley Brewery side in Warrington, and travelled over the Pennines, courtesy of Widnes based referee, Mick Naughton, for a match between Castleford and Hull Kingston Rovers at Wheldon Road. So, I saw my share of football.
Rose and Paddy Hart Snr., parents of my Brisbane based, English mate, Paddy Hart Jnr., were our hosts at Widnes, in Haig Road, a short walk from Naughton Park. The players I remember most from my time in Widnes, are Mick Adams, Eric Hughes, Keith Elwell, Ray Dutton, Mick George, Stuart Wright and Welshmen, Jim Mills and Glyn Shaw.
SATURDAY, MAY 26
Fonda Metassa, one of the great characters of rugby league, has died aged 80. I write a story about him, for ‘The Sunday Mail’. I appeared on Channel 7’s Sportscene show with Fonda. He also was a co-worker at Queensland Newspapers. He was in advertising. Fonda played for Queensland against Great Britain in 1966 and won five Brisbane premierships with Norths. The dashing winger grew up at Chermside, in the heart of Norths’ territory, and made his first grade debut in 1957. The story goes, that when Fonda was asked which side wing he was playing, in a match at Lang Park, he said: “Grandstand”.
In Sydney, the Wests Magpies have a ‘Back to Lidcombe (Oval) Day’. There are promotional posters featuring former Wests’ captain, Tom Raudonikis in a jersey with the Victa (motor mower) name on the front. During Tom’s time, the Magpies featured in matches that can only be termed ‘vicious’. I must admit, I miss those days in many ways, particularly the absence now, of what was termed the ‘softening up period’, when teams tested the resolve of rivals. The first 10 minutes of NRL matches can be so clinical.
SUNDAY, MAY 27
Rise in time to see a dramatic finish to the Leigh v Toronto Wolfpack Championship match at Blackpool, with the Canadian side claiming a 28-26 victory, followed by wild scenes involving players and both coaches.
‘Carl’, from Bowen in North Queensland, phones Macca on the ABC, about fruit and vegetable picking. He says it is hard to get young ones to turn up, because work interrupts their life.
Photo 1: Jim Mills
Photo 2: Eric Hughes
Photo 3: Wales’ Glyn Shaw (right) moves in to tackle Australia’s Bob Fulton in a 1978 tour match in Swansea
Photo 4: Marie Ricketts at Runcorn, just across the Mersey River from Widnes.