DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 23 2018
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6
Great State of Origin rugby league rivals, Glenn Lazarus and Steve Renouf are my interview subjects at Men of League lunch at Brisbane’s iconic Caxton Hotel. Some patrons, particularly of the female variety, are noisy, and are told to ‘shut the f…up’ by former Broncos’ football manager, Brian McGrath. Good work, Brian. As a ‘thank-you’ for my efforts, which are voluntary, publican, Ross Farquhar gives me a bar tab for 90 minutes and I shout former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Mark Daunt, a Gympie boy, to a few ales. Former South Queensland Crushers’ Media man, Matt Arthur (now with Bundy Rum) says G’day. Former Wynnum and Norths’ centre, Eric Lilley shakes my hand. My cab driver is Kenyan, and we talk coffee on the way home. New South Wales win the return Origin match 18-14 to claim the series. Our daughter, Melanie watches the match in a sea of blue in Singapore.
Learn of the passing of Noreen Conlon, an ex-neighbour from Bray Park, Murwillumbah. Noreen was married to my Tweed Daily News’ workmate, Ted Conlon, who was a fiery front rower for the Brothers club, when they won Tweed premierships in 1961 and ’62. Noreen and Ted’s son, Ross played rugby league for Australia in 1984. They had two daughters, Cheryl and Cathy.
THURSDAY, JUNE 7
Fifty years ago today, I left Murwillumbah for Gosford, to play in the State under-nine stone rugby league championships. We picked up players on the way, and fasted all the way, to make the weight. Mick Ryan and I were the front rowers. Mick would go on to play centre with Canterbury, Newtown and the Roosters in Sydney. We drew Sydney in the first match, and they won 20-0, with fullback, Russell Fairfax the Sydney star. In those days, his school, Mattraville High, played rugby league. The following year, they switched to union and Fairfax went on to play for the Wallabies, before returning to league with the Roosters. He represented New South Wales, but never got to play for the Kangaroos. In the other matches in Gosford we beat Central Coast and Newcastle and had a draw with Northern Division. As a reward, at the end of the tournament, we attended the World Cup final at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with Australia beating France 20-2. I was 15 at the time, and it remains one of the great experiences of my life. The family who billeted me were lovely, and gave me plenty of freedom. I went to the movies one night, and saw Bonnie and Clyde. I was shocked at the violence. I loved Rex Mossop’s Channel 7, Sunday morning footy show, which I saw for the first time on this trip. Fourteen years later, I covered the Kangaroo tour of Britain and France, as part of a media pack which included Rex. Also in 1968, I was selected in the North Coast side to play a touring Papua New Guinea side, at Casino, but had to withdraw because of exams. The PNG boys won 19-3, but lost in both matches against New South Wales in Sydney.
FRIDAY, JUNE 8
Emotional Beer and Beef Club lunch at Customs House, with Queensland State of Origin coach, Kevin Walters attending, to assist Broncos’ foundation director, Gary Balkin with his speech. Gary, who is in the final days of his life, because of pancreatic cancer, was discharged from palliative care to attend the lunch. He wanted to honor the commitment he made to the club, some time ago. Originally he was to be assisted by Broncos’ Old Boys boss, Chris Johns. But Chris couldn’t make it, because of commitments in Melbourne, so Kevin stepped up to the plate, despite it being less than 48 hours after the heart breaking loss to the Blues. And immediately after the lunch, he had to brave peak hour traffic to get to Robina, to call the Gold Coast Titans v Souths match for FoxSports.
After the lunch, I catch up former Courier-Mail colleague, Bernie Pramberg at the Port Office Hotel, where he and other members of the Bernborough Club are enjoying a few ales after their lunch. My cabbie home is an Indian chap, from Calamvale on Brisbane’s south side. He tells me he once took a fare to my home town, Murwillumbah.
SATURDAY, JUNE 9
Rugby league stalwart, Mick Tierney has a letter to the editor, defending referees. Mick, the former boss of Second Division Rugby League in Brisbane, still mans the PA at Souths’ matches at Davies Park.
The NRL match between Parramatta and the Cowboys in Darwin is so boring, and the spectacle is not helped by the humid weather and the fact the players are so far away from the fans, on an Aussie rules field. I reckon the reason Aussie rules is so popular in the Territory is because there are no knock-ons in that game, and the humidity doesn’t matter so much.
SUNDAY, JUNE 10
ABC News call the Taliban a militant group. I would have thought terrorist mob would be more appropriate. An old dear, from Bushland Beach in North Queensland, phones Macca on ABC Radio. She previously lived at Cranbourne in Victoria. “There’s every color of the rainbow there now,” she says. “My daughter said, ‘Mum. They know where the old people live, and it’s only a matter of time before they run through your house’. I presume the daughter was talking about the non-existent African gangs.
Marie and I are well advanced in planning for our next northern hemisphere trip, which this time starts in Oxford, England, in August.
Photo 1: The PNG boys in action against New South Wales in 1968
Photo 2: Gary Balkin (seated) with fellow Broncos icons, (from left) Steve Williams, Wayne Bennett, Barry Maranta and John Ribot
Photo 3: Oxford