DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 30 2018
MONDAY, JULY 23
Things are crook in the Northern Rivers Rugby League, with Lower Clarence forfeiting, after being down 62-0 at halftime against Marist Brothers, Lismore. My grandfather, Bill Ricketts would walk from his Wharf Street, Maclean home to the town oval to watch Lower play, back in the 1960s, when they had the likes of Tweed product, Bill ‘Pluto’ McCarron playing in the front row. In the early 1970s, Lower had one of the strongest sides in the bush, and, with Darcy Goode as captain-coach, won the Group 1 premiership in 1973, the year I played for Murwillumbah Brothers in the grand final of the Group 18 Gold Coast premiership. We were belted by Tweed Heads Seagulls, and I would have loved to have seen a challenge match between Seagulls and Lower.
‘Retro Round’ is coming up in the NRL, and a host of ‘old’ characters are interviewed on television. Former Test winger, Chris Anderson says his loyalty to the likes of former Canterbury-Bankstown boss, Peter ‘Bullfrog’ Moore (his father-in-law) and Great Britain hard man, Vince Karalius, (Chris’s coach at English club, Widnes), meant he would go the extra mile for them, to try win a game of football.
TUESDAY, JULY 24
Catholics beat Combined High Schools in the National Open rugby league final at Kingscliff, in northern New South Wales. My brother, Jeff taught at Kingscliff High and one of his students was future New South Wales State of Origin winger, Matt Seers. Jeff says Matt was not one of his brightest students, but was always well dressed (unlike many other students at the school) and polite.
Former Television and radio commentator, George Doniger congratulates me on my pre-Broncos series, which is running in ‘The Courier-Mail’. Also get a congratulatory email from Charleville based, Laurie Parker, a prolific letter writer to ‘The Courier-Mail’. Laurie says he was taught by Terry Prindable, a former Gold Coast Tigers’ player.
Watch movie, ‘Victoria and Abdul’. Not bad.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 25
Peter Coman emails about his book ‘The Paddo Boys’, which details life in Brisbane’s Paddington era in the 1960s and ’70s, when Wests’ rugby league were all the rage. Robert Burgin has a good story on the QRL website, about Souths Logan rugby league stalwart, Phil Dennis. Phil, a product of Burdekin football, was taught by our son, Damien at Kirwan High in Townsville. John Leahy praises my website and says Queensland icon, Tom Gorman should be one of rugby league’s Immortals. Gorman captained the 1929-30 Kangaroos in Britain. The next Queenslander to captain a ‘Roo touring side to the northern hemisphere was Wally Lewis in 1986.
I am Linked-in with Scott Reinke, the captain of the Cabarita Surf Life Saving club, on the Tweed Coast, where I was a member back in the early 1970s.
Drinks at Quincy’s Bar with Courier-Mail journalist, Paul Malone and former Sydney Wests’ skipper, Warren Boland. Warren back packed around Asia in 1973, which, I’m sure, wasn’t all that common in those days.
THURSDAY, JULY 26
Former Ipswich rugby league rep., Stu Pankoff tells me of Jim Finemore, a dentist in the Changi Prisoner of War Camp in World War II. Stu says there were eight POWs from the Tugun-Bilinga Surf Club on the Gold Coast, one of them Jack Leonie, who was only six stone when he came home, but then shot back to 13 and a half stone. Stu says the POWS suffered what is now called post traumatic stress disorder. On one occasion, before a rugby league match at Warwick, one of those POWs, Albert Roberts, had a nightmare and was trying to choke Leonie in the middle of the night, in Vic Armbruster’s pub, where the team was staying. (Armbruster was a former Australian player).
On the bus to Suncorp Stadium, for Broncos v Sharks match, a porky bloke behind me, on his mobile, tells the person at the other end of the phone, he is a ‘Galactic Man’. I bet those ex POWs would be thrilled to meet a Galactic man. My wife and I watch the match from the Intrust Super corporate box. Also in the box is Barry Dawson, a publican, who represented North Queensland against Great Britain in 1966, ’68 and ’70. Barry now lives at Bribie Island. Barry says North Queensland product, Larry Raleigh, who played for Newtown in Sydney, was badly hurt in a match in Townsville in 1973, and had spent much of his life in a wheel chair, before his passing in 2010. Larry, the brother of my former Brisbane Brothers’ teamate, Vince Raleigh, was captain-coach of Portland in the Western Division area of New South Wales, in 1972. Portland is the home town of Melbourne Storm coach, Craig Bellamy.
Brisbane win 12-10 and Cronulla skipper, Paul Gallen is (predictably) public enemy number one with the crowd.
FRIDAY, JULY 27
St George Illawarra bound Broncos’ forward, Korbin Sims has a beer and a punt with his mates at Stafford Tavern. He tells me that his mum kept the story I wrote about him and his older brothers, Ashton and Tariq, when they all played together at the Broncos, with Korbin and Tariq staying at the Red Hill home of then Broncos’ recruitment guru, Paul Bunn.
Death of Murwillumbah born Wayne Deane, a champion surfer and surfboard maker, aged 66.
SATURDAY, JULY 28
‘Return of the Diehards’ movie premiers at Valleys Club, Emerson Park, Grange. Produced by local boy, Anthony O’Brien, it is entertaining and high quality. Host of the event is media personality/league historian, Steve Haddan, a Valleys’ tragic, who has written a magnificent book – Our Game – on the history of the Brisbane Rugby League competition. Valleys’ legend, Marty Scanlan says giant forward, Russell Hughes stood up to the New South Wales pack when he played for Queensland in 1971 and ’72. Hughes was one of those forwards the fans either loved or hated.
After watching the film, guests file outside to cheer for Valleys in a BRL first grade match against Easts, with Easts winning 22-6. Harry Walters, son of Queensland Origin coach, Kevin Walters, is hooker for Easts, and Kevin is there to watch his lad go round. While watching the match, I chat to Valleys’ stalwarts such as Greg ‘Hammer’ Walker and Ziggy Strasser. ‘Hammer’ went to Banyo High, which was once a league stronghold. “There are no goal posts there now,” he says, which he believes is largely down to the changing demographics of the area. Steve Haddan’s son, Billy is a ball boy for the Valleys v Easts match.
At South West Rocks, on the North Coast of New South Wales, there is a reunion for Melville (Kempsey) High School footy players (1988-’89). Back then, random teams from the bush could beat anyone, when a talented bunch came through. But now, they have no chance against specialist league schools.
SUNDAY, JULY 29
Lunch with other members of the St Flannans Playgroup mob, at Birches on lovely Mt Mee. The food is good, but the service slow. Kev White drives a ‘you beaut’ Mustang.
Sydney Roosters’ prop, Lindsay Collins, a product of Brisbane Brothers’, is a grandson of former Test winger, Lionel Williamson.
Learn of the passing of former New Zealand Test winger, Phil Orchard. Orchard, from the Bay of Plenty, played 21 Tests for the Kiwis between 1969 and 1975. On the Kiwis successful tour of Britain and France in 1971-72, he scored 27 tries in 19 matches, including a double against Britain at Castleford and a hat-trick against the French in Perpignan. Orchard was named in the New Zealand Team of the Century.
Photo 1: Warragul born Bill Ricketts from Maclean in 1973
Photo 2: Steve Haddan
Photo 3: Ziggy Strasser in the thick of things for Valleys against North Queensland. That’s Martin Bella on the left
Photo 4: The Kiwi side in London at the start of their 1971-72 tour of Britain and France. Phil Orchard is eighth from the left, in the back row. Their first match was against ‘Southern Amateurs’.