DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 46 2018
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14
It is our third, full day at Lennox Head on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, and my wife, Marie and I walk south, along the coast, to Shaw’s Bay at Ballina, a three hour expedition. A host of brown butterflies along the way. There is lots of indigenous history to be absorbed, including an 1853 massacre by settlers. (I had never heard about it). At Shelly Beach there is a memorial seat to a young Japanese chap – Tadashi Nakahara – who was taken by a shark in 2015. The Shaw’s Bay pub is ordinary, although the beer garden has a lovely outlook. My previous memories of this establishment were all positive, but it lacks something now. My parents lived at Shelly beach for three months in 1972, before my father, Jon, started a new post with the Shell Oil Company in Lismore. back then, Tooths New, at the Shaw’s Bay pub, tasted so good after a long surf at Light House Beach. Marie and I catch a taxi back to Lennox and our driver describes himself as a ‘blow-in’, from the Hurstville area of Sydney. “I’ve only been here 12 years,” he says.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15
Bloke is out and about with his whipper snipper, at 7 a.m. Almost get run over by council mowers on my way to get coffee, and then a little girl joins me, when I have a spa. It is not going to be my day.
But it turns out fine, and it IS our 43rd wedding anniversary. Lunch with Narelle King on the balcony of the Lennox Pub. She is the mother of rugby league stars, Chris, Andrew and Matt, and is a long standing friend of my wife’s family. Matt led a ‘walk-out’ of students when it was announced Woodlawn College would go co-ed, after 60 or so years as a boys-only college. The boys did the way cry on the oval for 40 minutes. Father Pidcock had tears in his eyes, he was so proud. Now, before people get their knickers in a knot, please try to understand that tradition was being turned on its head, and these boys, the last of their ilk, were naturally quite emotional. Narelle was close friends with former Northern Star (Lismore) newspaper editor, Cliff Murray. I played rugby league against Cliff’s son, Phil, a solid forward for Murwillumbah High School Old Boys, who also played first grade in Newcastle. At one stage Phil published a league newspaper in North Queensland and I was a contributor. A stalwart of the Lennox Surf Club, Phil died in 2010, aged 60.
Dinner at ‘Shelter’ is excellent – Clarence River prawns, New England lamb (moi); mussels (Marie). Jam session is in full swing at the pub as we walk back to our apartment.
Courier-Mail’s, Leahy has a cartoon targeting obesity and all his characters are white. He obviously hasn’t been to some of the seafood buffets around town.
Learn of the passing of former Ipswich Bulimba Cup and Brisbane Wests’ halfback/skipper, Johnny White, who played for Queensland in the late 1960s. The funeral for former St Flannan’s Parish stalwart, Paul O’Brien is held today, and mourners are asked to wear colorful clothes to match his personality.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16
Channel 9 reporter, Danny Weidler visits Byron Bay to interview controversial rugby league star, Todd Carney who has been appointed captain-coach of the Red Devils for the 2019 Northern Rivers season.
I watch ‘John Wick 2’, a ridiculous movie.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17
Good standard junior cricket match is being played on field next to our Lennox unit. Lunch at Alstonville home of Marie’s brother, Kevin, who says he once got king hit in the toilets of the Lobster Pot (Now Slipway) pub, Ballina. His mate, nickname ‘Tarzan’, chased down the alleged assailant and dealt out his own brand of justice. Witness good catch in slips in cricket match at East Ballina on the drive back to Lennox.
Marie and I have dinner at William Street, Lennox where live music is provided by a lovely lass from Byron Bay. It pelts down as we enjoy dinner (chicken legs, cuttlefish, sweet potato chips and fish tacos) and the main street of Lennox is flooded.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18
A 1919 Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, with an elderly couple in charge, pulls up in Lennnox’s main street. A singer/guitarist provides live music at packed bowls club, which hosts AGM. Marie and I chat to Pat Breen, who owns a macadamia farm at Fernleigh. He is an ex student of Casino Marists and played rugby league for Casino. He has two kids in Victoria, and is a musician, in his spare time. Next stop, Shorty’s, where there is more live music. The frizzy haired singer’s lady looks like the wife of Doc Martin, from the English television series which my wife loves.
Learn of the passing of former Great Britain rugby league forward, John Mantle, aged 76. After playing two unions Tests for Wales, in 1964, against South Africa and England, Mantle signed with Merseyside league club, St Helens. He played 13 league Tests for Britain between 1966 and 1973 and eight times for Wales. He was prop in the British team beaten 6-4 by Australia at Lang Park on July 16, 1966. That was the first Test match I saw live and it was a particularly brutal clash, with no tries. Australia’s six points came from three penalty goals by Welsh born fullback, Keith Barnes (Balmain), while Britain’s points came from the boot of their fullback, Arthur Keegan, from Hull. The next time I saw Mantle, in the flesh, was 1976 when he played for St Helens against Queensland at Lang Park, with Qld winning 21-15, with both sides scoring three tries.
1 The walk from Lennox to Ballina
2 Woodlawn cadet detachment 1945
3 John Ryan wins 220 yards event at Woodlawn 1945
4 John Mantle, middle backrow.