DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 12 2019
Former St George and Broncos’ centres, Chris Johns and Mick De Vere are the special guests at Brisbane Men of League lunch at Broncos’ Leagues Club. Chris was recommended to the Broncos, for their inaugural season, by his St George coach, Roy Masters, who said Johns needed a change, because he was ‘a bit wild’ and lacked the discipline to sidestep Sydney’s many temptations. De Vere, a Campbelltown junior, bought a one way ticket to Brisbane at the end of the 1995 season, and lived with his mum at Hervey Bay, three and a half hours north. It was from there he wrote a seven page letter to Broncos’ coach, Wayne Bennett asking for a trial. He went on to play 161 matches for the Broncos, representing New South Wales and Australia from the club, before moving to England to play with Huddersfield.
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is dished up to guests, who include former Broncos’ chief executive, Bruno Cullen; former high ranking police officer, Greg Early and former Brisbane Brothers’ forward, Dion McCarthy.
I deliver the Eulogy for former Brisbane Easts’ chief executive, Brian Smart, at his funeral at St Columban’s Chapel, Caboolture. Brian was born on October 9, 1939, and died on March 20, 2019. I knew Brian and his wife, Elaine for 40 years, and they came on three of my Kangaroos’ supporters’ tours. Brian was raised in the heart of Tigers’ territory – Sword Street, Buranda – and remained a devoted Easts’ man until his passing.
Easts provide afternoon tea at St Columban’s. I chat to a number of Easts’ stalwarts, including former State of Origin forward, Cavill Heugh; Mick Farrell and the Andersons, whose son, Tony teaches in the UK, where he carved out a distinguished playing career with Bradford Northern, Oldham and Halifax.
Earlier in the week, Radio TAB’s John McCoy and Peter Psaltis paid tribute to Brian. John described Brian as the heartbeat of Easts, one of the game’s top administrators, and a delightful bloke. Peter, who has a strong family connection to Easts, said Brian was well liked, well loved, and had gone upstairs with (former top Easts’ coach and great mate), Len Conroy, who also came on my Kangaroo tours.
At Suncorp Stadium, a ratbag on the upper decks throws beer over Marie and I, as former Bronco, Corey Norman kicks a field goal on full-time to give the Dragons a 25-24 win over his old club. Another former Bronco, Ben Hunt, also plays well for St George.
North Queensland Cowboys’ legend, Matt Bowen visits East Ayr State School, where our eldest boy, Damien is deputy principal.
Queensland Times (Ipswich) contributor, Michael Nunn has an interview with me published in the paper today. Marie and I check into accommodation at Cotton Tree on the Sunshine Coast, for a weekend away, with friends from Brisbane, who have been getting together for 30 years, the common link, the fact our kids went to Playschool at St Flannan’s Zillmere. Dinner at Spanish restaurant, Ba Vigo where our waitress is from Lyon in France.
Set menu lunch at Boat Shed, on the banks of the Maroochy River, is excellent. Watch finish of Penrith (2) v Melbourne Storm (32) NRL match from chilly Bathurst. Penrith fullback, Dylan Edwards has a shocker. I covered one match at Bathurst – Broncos v South Sydney in the Panasonic Cup in 1989. Wynnum High played a curtain raiser, with Jeff Wittenberg in the front row. Jeff is the son of former Test prop, the late John Wittenberg.
Monty Raper is making a name for himself at Newtown, which, oddly enough, is a feeder club for Cronulla, where Raper came through the junior ranks. Monty’s great uncle is Rugby League Immortal, Johnny Raper and his grandfather, Cronulla’s inaugural skipper, the late Monty Porter.
Lovely surf at Maroochydore, although I didn’t like the fact several board riders blatantly encroached into the flagged area. How much ocean do they need? A life saver ‘chips’ one. Good work mate.
I buy two shirts and a belt at former Test rugby league hooker, Kerrod Walters’ menswear shop, Number 9, which is on the ground floor of the building where we are staying. There is a photo on the wall of him and his twin, Kevin, another former Test player, and the current Queensland State of Origin coach. In the photo, Kevin looks like former Broncos’ teammate, Steve Renouf, which is odd, because Steve is indigenous. FoxSports’ Andrew Voss was a recent visitor to the shop, to interview Kerrod for ‘The Fan’.
In North Queensland, our eldest lad, Damien, plays eight-a-side cricket. He finishes unbeaten on 59 and takes three wickets for four, bowling his….not quite sure what he was bowling, actually.
Fish and chips for lunch on the banks of the river. A Spanish couple leave all their clothes etc right underneath the fish-cleaning bench.
Food at Maroochydore Surf Club is basic – Seafood linguine (moi), calamari (Marie).
The Women’s Aussie rules grand final, in Adelaide, draws a crowd of 53,000. Not quite sure what to make of that. I will resist the temptation to be a smart arse. Roosters’ legend, Ron Saddler’s grand daughter, Chloe plays rugby league for Tweed.
1 Brian Smart (left) celebrates with coach, John Lang after Easts beat Redcliffe to win the 1983 Brisbane grand final
2 Brian Smart (bottom left) and other members of my 1994 Kangaroo Supporters’ tour in London. That’s Elaine Smart in the pink and Len Conroy on the far right, holding on to the flag
3 The St Flannan’s Playgroup ladies
4 The St Flannan’s Playgroup men.