DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 52 2018
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24
Family gathering at Main Beach on the Gold Coast, with my brother, Jeffrey and his wife, Ann traveling up from Tweed Heads, with children, Kieran and Jacinta. Jacinta, a barrister, is accompanied by Josh, who is originally from Shepparton in Victoria, but now lives at Ipswich in Queensland. Kieran is a top journalist, and is back at the ABC. He says Michelle Guthrie’s departure as ABC managing director, is one of the reasons he has returned to ‘Aunty’.
In France, my friend, Gilles Fleuret is manager of the Aveyron regional rugby league and coaches an under-5 team at Villefranche-de-Rouergue. One of the players is his son, Oscar, who is three and a half. Gilles’ late father-in-law, Francis de Nadai, captained France in rugby league.
In England, the Widnes Rugby League Club is advertising its 2019 range of merchandise, and one of the men featured is their former star Kiwi forward, Kurt ‘Sumo’ Sorensen. A nice touch.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 25
Lovely surf at Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Lots of people say ‘Merry Christmas’. Bacon and eggs are being cooked for members of the Surf Club patrol. Santa arrives in a rubber ducky, and gives out sun screen. Our lunch features prawns, chicken and ham. Ah! Christmas in Australia.
At Dover in England, our friend, Maggie Dobson hosts Christmas Day and her partner, Tony Kriehn cooks.
Evidently former Wynnum-Manly rugby league chief executive, Phil Reeves now works for Surf Life Saving Queensland. When he resigned from Wynnum, the reason given was the need to address personal health and alcohol related issues.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26
Lovely surf at Main Beach alongside two fit Maori blokes, one of whom looks like former Wests Tigers’ centre, Paul Whatuira. Oh, to be young again. Noted Brisbane publican, Nick Gregorski is lining up for coffee at Pavilion. He has been staying with his mother, Donna, another top publican, at Runaway Bay.
Jim Maxwell calls his 300th Test for ABC Radio, the Boxing Day clash between Australia and India, at the MCG. A lovely little lad is Australian ‘co-captain’ for the day. Indian fans in the crowd at the MCG, are almost child like, with their enthusiasm (and that is not a criticism). Channel 7’s commentators manage to get heaps of references to Aussie rules during the cricket call. One would think rugby league was not the major footy code in New South Wales and Queensland, where at least half the station’s (cricket) audience comes from.
Coach, Graham Arnold says no sports team unites Australia like the Socceroos. I think the Socceroos have that potential, given the multi-cultural make-up of the side, and the country. Aussie rules officials are worried about soccer, more than either of the rugby codes.
The new South Stand at Headingley has been completed in time for the start of Leeds Rhinos’ 2019 rugby league campaign. It includes a terrace standing area, which I am sure is something the fans asked for, to maintain the character of the stadium.
Sports journalist, Laine Clark has been at Australian Associated Press (AAP) for 19 years. I covered many league matches and media conferences alongside Laine.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 27
Brisbane City Council mowers arrive early. What about a break for Christmas!!! A female worker’s voice, screaming above the whipper snipper, is the most annoying noise of all. My wife has hinted at buying a leaf blower. It won’t be happening.
At Stafford Tavern, three young blokes walk in, all on their mobiles. Watch T20 match between Sydney Sixers and Melbourne Stars – there are a number of players I would regard as good grade cricketers, but that’s it.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28
Our grand daughter, Parker is three today, and enjoys gathering of family and friends at Macintosh Park, Main Beach. One of the guests, Sam is an Englishman from Plymouth, who says he does not miss the foul weather. Another chap, Gavin, is a Wests Tigers’ rugby league fan, who played in the Commonwealth Bank Cup (secondary) schools competition, in Sydney, in 1998.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29
Meet our daughter, Melanie’s partner, Greg Mariotto for first time, and he gets off on the right foot by arriving with a carton of Coopers Pale Ale. We have a great chat about sport. Greg, ex-Navy, now an associate director with Collins Aerospace, is an Aussie rules man, but went to a league match at Parramatta Stadium, when based in Sydney. Originally from Perth, he recalls the Western Reds giving away tickets to their matches, outside Fremantle Aussie rules. I covered two Western Reds matches in Perth, for ‘The Courier-Mail’, one a trial at Bassendean Oval, the other a premiership match at the WACA, after which I had a few ales with then ABC commentator, David ‘Thirsty’ Morrow. Greg had Christmas in Darwin. He says businesses there are struggling, and there are many empty shops.
News Ltd carry a photo of Test cricketer, David Warner ‘taking out the trash’ at his house. I think it is called ‘rubbish’, in Australia. But some journalism is definitely trashy.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30
Watch vintage St George v Parramatta rugby league match. Great stuff. My former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, John Dowling is in the thick of things for St George. In England, Castleford belt Featherstone Rovers 56-0 in an all Yorkshire trial.
1 Christmas is all about family
2 Sam Edwards scores a try for New Zealand against Great Britain at Headingley in 1961.
3 Willie Carne in action for the Broncos against Western Reds at Bassendean Oval. That’s Julian O’Neill on the right.