DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK SIX 2019
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11
OzTag competitors leave lots of litter behind, at our Emerald Beach Caravan Park. Excellent coffee from Emerald Beach General Store. A Tullawong is stuck with a couple of baby cuckoos, who have been ‘deserted’ by their mothers, as is the practice of brood parasites. Proposed ‘improvements’ to the beach front reserve are the cause of much debate in the local community.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12
Sydney Roosters’ coach, Trent Robinson has taken his side to Toulouse in France, ahead of their World Club Challenge match against Wigan at DW Stadium, Wigan. Robinson is married to a French lady, and is a former coach of Catalans Dragons. He has great empathy with the game in France, and the NRL premiers train with Toulouse Olympique, which competes in the English Championship. Later this week, the Roosters are to travel to the World War 1 battlefields in the north. Easts’ (Roosters) forward, Percy R White was one of many rugby league players to make the ultimate sacrifice in The Great War. He was killed in action in France on April 24, 1918. ‘The Referee’ (sports newspaper), described White as having “the staying power of a mountain brumby’. In England, before crossing the channel for service in France, White organised a regimental league side, which took on all comers, including a Maori outfit that had not been beaten, until they came up against ‘White’s XIII’. Leeds had spotted him and invited him to play with them after the war.
It should be compulsory that at least one NRL club goes to France every year. Rugby League might not have grown to the heights it did, in Sydney, without the incredible PR provided by the great French touring sides of the 1950s.
Dual rugby internationals, Jason Robinson and Jonathan Davies are part of the Man of Steel judging panel for the English Super League season.
Manning River Times has excellent coverage of a charity lunch held for local radio personality, Marshall Loadsman, who is recovering from a stroke. Photos feature the likes of local league legends, Kevin Hardy and Norm Taylor, who I played against in 1975, as well as ex-Brisbane Norths’ strapper, Joe Morris.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 13
Lunch at ‘Surf Street Cafe’, Emerald Beach. Entree – scallops (moi), prawns (Marie). Both have local bream for mains. The starters are excellent, the bream, so so. There are kangaroos in our camping ground.
Woodlawn College, my father, Jon’s old school, win the Combined Catholic Colleges cricket carnival in Sydney, beating St Gregory’s, Campbelltown in the final.
Rugby League legend, Wally Lewis is guest speaker at AGForce dinner at Charleville RSL. Nothing was too much trouble for him, says local, Laurie Parker. Learn that North Coast of NSW rugby league club, Nambucca Roosters could fold through lack of players. So sad.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14
So many kangaroos on headlands south of Emerald Beach. Chat to a couple from Potsdam in Germany, who have been to Australia 12 times. Marie and I visited Potsdam in 2002. Marie and I enjoy ‘Happy Hour’ at ‘Surf Street’, and a kangaroo hops across the road in front of us, as we sip on our drinks.
Hear that George Clooney is to star in re-make of Catch 22. I saw the original at a cinema in Brisbane in 1972, and had nightmares for weeks.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Leave idyllic Emerald Beach, stopping at Woolgoolga (Woopi) for coffee, and Evans Head for fish and chips from the co-op, which we eat at Chinaman’s Beach; bananas from a roadside stall near Wardell.
Catch-up with childhood mate, Doug Kaden at Lismore Golf Club, where we chat to local characters, Toby Daley and Paul Gahan. Watch the Indigenous v Maori All Stars match from Melbourne, which the Indigenous win 34-14 in an entertaining affair. Latrell Mitchel played for the Indigenous, rather than travel to Europe with his Roosters’ teammates. Tyrone Roberts, returning to the NRL (Gold Coast Titans) after a stint in Super League with Warrington, won the Preston Campbell Medal as player of the match. The match had its genesis in a clash between an Indigenous (‘Dreamtime) side and a Maori 13 in a curtain raiser to a World Cup match, between Australia and New Zealand, in Sydney on October 26, 2008. I covered both matches for The Courier-Mail, and wrote at the time what a fine spectacle the Indigenous and Maori teams provided. When I arrived at the Sydney Football Stadium, there were thousands waiting outside for the gates to open. They were there mainly for the ‘curtain raiser’. (The crowd that day was 34,157). Captained by Preston Campbell and coached by Neil Henry, the Dreamtime team won 34-26. Maori Women defeat Indigenous Women 8-4 in the early match in Melbourne, the first time these two sides had met. The Indigenous side was forced to make 100 more tackles than their rivals, as the bigger Maori side starved them of possession.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Memories come flooding back, as I walk to ‘down town Lismore, along Magellan Street and back, via Conway Street. My mother, Lola Kelly was born and raised in Magellan Street, and a number of her aunts and uncles also lived in the street. I also had friends in the street – the Nilons – and we played and fished in the parkland opposite. I regarded Anthony Nilon as my ‘best mate’ at the time. Conway Street was my home before my father, Jon accepted a job with the Shell Oil company and was posted to Murwillumbah in 1960, when I was seven.
Watch golfers come in at the 18th at Lismore club. ‘So. Five you reckon?’ asks one golfer. “I know it was five,” the other bloke says tersely, in reply. Such an honorable game. Stay at Marie’s brother, Kevin’s place at Alstonville. A neighbour is out on his ride-on mower. I don’t know why. There is nothing to mow.
Broncos’ coach, Anthony Siebold is special guest at Men of League lunch at Warwick, where he is interviewed by Andrew O’Brien.
Keith Blake is writing a history of the Normanby Rugby League Club. Jim Lewis, father of league legend, Wally, is a former Normanby player, from the times when they contested the (Sunday) Shift Workers’ League.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Back to Brisbane, via lunch at Lennox Head (where an imbecile speeds up the boat ramp at the lagoon) and afternoon tea at my brother, Jeffrey and his wife, Ann’s place at South Tweed Heads. At Lennox, a car sports the sticker: ‘Rugby. The Game They play in Bangalow’.
Harry Moore, the manager of our Hermitage Gardens town house estate, is to complain to the NBN people about shoddy workmanship. You reckon! An Irish neighbour says he has never seen a lazier bloke than the foreman.
Tweed Coast belt Coffs Harbour 62-0 in a rugby league trial at Les Burger Field, Bogangar.
1 Marie Ricketts at Emerald Beach
2 Action from an old Toulouse Olympic Rugby League match
3 War cemetery, Kedron, Brisbane.
4 My maternal grandfather, Charles Mortimer Kelly (left) and my Uncle, Les Kelly in Magellan Street, Lismore, just before Les left for Singapore to fight the Japanese.