DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 4 2019
TUESDAY, JANUARY 22
MY grandmother, Polly Kelly, would not grant the wishes of her daughter (my mum) to board at All Hallows in Brisbane, from Lismore. This is something I learned at a family gathering, at my sister, Gay Lynch and her husband, David’s apartment at South Brisbane. Our mother, Lola Ricketts (nee Kelly) ended up attending St Mary’s in Lismore, as a day student, and thoroughly enjoyed her time there. No doubt money was one of the chief reasons for the All Hallows’ request to be denied, along with the fact mum was an only child, and her parents would miss her. Her father, Charles Mortimer Kelly, was a boilermaker at a sawmill. Our cab driver back to Grange, is from Somalia, via New Zealand. He prefers rugby union to league, but likes State of Origin.
Learn of the passing of former Springbok rugby union winger, Wilf Rosenberg who signed with Leeds rugby league in 1959, while studying dentistry at Leeds University. Known as ‘The Flying Dentist’, Rosenberg scored 73 tries in 81 games for Leeds, before joining Hull in 1961, where he scored 42 tries in 86 games. As a teenager, Rosenberg had attended Sydney Grammar School, before returning to South Africa, where he played five union Tests for his home nation. He was a resident of Ra’Anana, Israel at the time of his passing.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23
Former Telegraph photographer, Bill Whalley would persuade printing apprentices to join the Kirra Beach Surf Life Saving Club, to help keep the place afloat. This is one of several nice stories I hear from regulars at Stafford Tavern. Former Brisbane Brothers’ rugby league secretary, Don Munro was a founder of Mooloolaba Nippers. Great to hear tales of community spirit. Bill Whalley took iconic photographs of the Beatles, on their 1964 tour ‘Down Under’.
This morning I saw a bloke on an electric skate board, hooting down a path, with selfie stick. You know what I was hoping for. Cruel, yes. But sometimes you yearn for poetic justice. Justin, a pub regular, who works in a motor scooter business, tells amazing stories of riders putting the wrong fuel in tanks. Particularly at fault are students/back packers, riding for Uber Eats and the like.
A fire causes major damage at one of Brisbane’s best pubs, the ‘Port Office’. Started in the kitchen, evidently.
In New Zealand, there is a stoppage in the cricket at Napier, because the light is too bright.
Former Broncos Test winger, Willie Carne turns 50.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 24
Noted author, raconteur, comedian, Steve Haddan is writing ‘Wally Lewis. My Life’, the story of the former Australian rugby league skipper told largely from the family point of view.
Forty five years ago, my wife, (then Marie Donnelly) attended the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, where she lived and worked at the time.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 25
An Irish bloke, who lives in a town house opposite ours, proves intolerant of passing foot traffic. “Keep it down,” he says to a gaggle of women, gossiping away on the public footpath, which divides our town house estate. “We have a baby sleeping.” I mean, these people are on a public footpath. What does he do when the council mowers come by, or ‘Mrs Jones’ over the way, brings out her car vacuum cleaner, which sounds like a supersonic jet? Perhaps the Irishman could get out the hose. That’s what my wife, Marie does, to stop dogs barking.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 26
My wife makes damper for Australia Day, and puts our national flag in a pot plant, out the front. Hear Judith Durham sing: ‘I Am Australian’ on radio. Beautiful song, and her voice is unique. Some Australia Day observations from a morning walk: A tullawong eats a lizard; two bush turkeys ignore my presence; A lady goes by wearing Australian flag tights; there is a cricket bat and stumps outside a town house.
The citizenship ceremony from Canberra is quite moving, as usual. People from Nepal, India, Phillipines, England, China, South Korea, Ireland (The Shanahans) are among those to become ‘Aussies’. The Australian Army honor guard includes a fellow of African descent and one of Asian descent. Part of me dreads Australia Day, because in the preceding weeks, the media is full of negative stories about our country. It wouldn’t matter what day we celebrated, some group or other would be offended, and want it changed.
Lovely afternoon at Bardon Bowls Club, with fellow Australians, (including extended family) and they look happy to live in this great country.
Former Australian Rugby League Test forward, Bryan Orrock has died, aged 89. Orrock toured Britain and France with the 1955-56 Kangaroos. In Sydney, he played for Souths and St George, and also had stints in the bush, first at Boorowa and then at Condoblin. In the 1952 Sydney grand final, Orrock (Souths) and Hec Farrell (Wests) were sent off by referee, George Bishop for fighting. Farrell played alongside my father, Jon at South Lismore, before moving to Sydney. Dad always said Hec was a fiery chap.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 27
Apple farmer from Batlow in the New South Wales Snowy Mountains area, tells Macca, on ABC Radio, that we consume less apples, even though our population has grown. I suppose it has something to do with a greater variety of fruit, but also could be because of an obsession with junk food. Macca, who is broadcasting from Tamworth, says there are not enough trees in the city, for shade.
A bloke with a ‘Lassie’ type dog, lets it defecate on a path near us, and then just walks on. Even if he had a black bag, chances are he would have thrown it away, first chance he got.
I go to my sister, Gay Lynch and her husband, David’s South Brisbane apartment for a family nostalgia afternoon. My cabbie home is a former Cannon Hill Abattoir worker, who says he has Q Fever.
In England, amateur club, Bentley, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, beat the Army 18-16 in the knock-out Challenge Cup competition. In the match between Cumbrian amateur side, Millom and Red Star Belgrade from Serbia, a Red Star kick-off is blown back into their territory by gale force winds.
This past week has been overwhelmed by sadness, after the news my beloved nephew, Kieran Ricketts, 36, had died unexpectedly. When his parents, Jeffrey and Ann phoned Marie and I, from their home at South Tweed Heads, it was like a sledge hammer blow. A talented journalist and musician, Kieran had just resumed work with the ABC in Brisbane, on a special project. Kieran had creative flair as a musician, and sometimes would play the piano for free, at venues around Brisbane, just to make people happy. His ‘Rattling Cage’ website was hard hitting and considered. He was the eldest of four children. Jacinta is a barrister; Laura a psychologist and Xavier an officer in the Army. His parents are both teachers, although Jeffrey is now retired.
1 Wilf Rosenberg
2 Wally Lewis
3 1974 Commonwealth Games, Christchurch
4 Grassroots rugby league in England
5 Kieran Ricketts as a teenager with his cousin, Patrick Lynch.