DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 19 2019.
A boy weighing over 90kg plays for one of the teams in an under-11s rugby league match at Easts Carina, reports Keith Daly, a ‘regular’ at Stafford Tavern. The lad is Polynesian, as are most of the players and spectators. It is the way rugby league is going. There is a female soccer tournament – the Community Cup – at Grange Thistle, with schools such as All Hallows and Mt St Michaels represented. Another pub regular, Jim House’s dad had a butcher shop in Fortitude Valley many years ago (Jim is 85), called ‘House & Murray’. More stories emerge of ‘goings-on’ at the Balmoral Pub, back in the bad old days – the lights being shot out, literally; patrons having sex on the bar with a barmaid, who was on heroin. Sounds more exciting than today’s pub.
The Broncos are reportedly chasing Cody Walker from South Sydney, but club insiders tell me this 100 percent not the case.
During a visit to the Queensland Rugby League, on History Committee business, I see former top referee, Keith Bichel walking by.
Former Daily Sun league writer, Mitchell Murphy is now CEO of Longreach Regional Council. Murphy has been editor of several papers, including the Warwick Daily News and Toowoomba Chronicle.
Former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke dies, aged 90. I interviewed Bob, in a one-on-one situation, in 1979 when he was secretary of the Australian Council of Trade unions, and I was industrial reporter for the Telegraph newspaper. I ‘door stopped’ him outside a union office at Spring Hill, to quiz him about a fracas between the unions and the mining companies, over subsidised housing. He answered at some length, and was polite. I was very left leaning in those days. Now I am a conservative old fart.
Lunch with Broncos’ media manager, Trad McLean at Lotus Vietnamese Restaurant, Grange.
Brisbane Lions Aussie rules club promote a ‘kid’ to first grade, and he dead set looks like a kid. He would be broken in half, playing rugby league. I must confess, the Lions’ first grade squad takes me back to the 1970s, and what the rugby league sides I played in, looked like. All white, and not too bulky.
Bloke at the pub, allegedly with an inside knowledge of these things, says there were at least half a dozen Nazis who worked on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in New South Wales, after World War II. I’ve no doubt some dodgy characters got into the country, alongside the genuine refugees, and the same is the case now, probably more so.
Today is ‘National Walk to School Day’. Who would have thought we would ever need such a day! My wife and I get flu and pneumonia injections at Lutwyche Medical centre, where former ‘Courier-Mail’ political editor, Peter Morley is one of those in the waiting room.
A chap in a Crushers’ jersey is among those enjoying beers in Suncorp Stadium’s Precinct Bar before the Broncos v Roosters match. Broncos win 15-10 in a thriller, and young Broncos’ forward, Payne Hass prays to Allah afterwards. English Test winger, Ryan Hall makes his debut for the Roosters and looks short of a gallop. That is being kind.
Former Brothers and Valleys’ centre, Andrew Crowther, and his son, are passengers on the bus trip home. Andrew, who lives at Herston, is shocked that I remember who he is. His little son was impressed. His dad is famous!
Learn of the passing of former New Zealand Test prop, Quentin Pongia, 48, from bowel cancer. Pongia, originally from Greymouth on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island, played 35 Tests for the Kiwis between 1992 and 2000 and won a premiership with the Canberra Raiders in 1994. His grandfather, Jim Calder, another West Coaster, played eight Tests for the Kiwis between 1930 and 1936. I interviewed Pongia several times, when he was in camp with the Kiwis. The first Test I covered, in which he featured, was at Wembley in 1993, against Great Britain, when he played in the second row with Stephen Kearney. Pongia owned a property at Villenueve-sur-Lot in France, where he had a season towards the end of his career. Raiders legend, Ricky Stuart said ‘Q’ was the toughest player he played with, which is some wrap.
Michael Hagan eloquently delivers the annual Ross Livermore Memorial Lecture, at Queensland Rugby League Central. Michael talks about his career, with a particular emphasis on his time in England with Halifax, and the experiences of other Australians in the old dart. There is positive feedback from audience members, who include former Brothers’ stars, David Wright and Len Dittmar, and Scott Watson, the son of former Test centre, the late Alex Watson.
Fellow History Committee member, Paul Hayes reports that former Australian forward, Jim Patterson, 83, has died. Paterson played eight Tests for Australia between 1959 and 1961, and toured Britain, France and Italy with the 1959-60 Kangaroos. Paterson was a product of Townsville Souths, but had two years with Valleys in Toowoomba, before returning to North Queensland where he played again for Souths, and then for Babinda, Souths Innisfail, Herbert River (Ingham) and finally Townsville Centrals, hanging up the boots at the end of the 1968 season. He played 24 times for Queensland between 1958 and ’64. I interviewed Paterson just the once, at a Men of League lunch at the Broncos in 2015, at the launch of Murray Barnett’s excellent book, ‘For the Love of the Game’.
Ipswich Rugby League Club, Booval Swifts’ centenary lunch is a great success, with all five Walters boys – Brett, Stephen, Andrew and twins Kerrod and Kevin – in attendance. Stephen, Kerrod and Kevin played for Australia, while Brett and Andrew also were high achievers in the 13 man code. My former co-rugby league writer at The Courier-Mail, Stephen Gray, played with Swifts at the same time as the twins.
On the way home, I vote in the Federal elections, at Wilston State School. One woman loudly proclaims that she voted for the Greens’ Larissa Waters, ‘to save the Great Barrier Reef’.
Early in the night it seems the Coalition will retain power, something that will shock the Labor faithful, who thought they would cruise to victory. Chris Bowen, a dud treasurer in a former Labor Government, says ‘we’re buggered’.
Travel show tonight features salmon being cooked with coal in Scotland. That would be evil in the eyes of the Extinction Rebellion anarchists.
Wake to the news the Coalition has indeed won the election. Amazing. What will happen to all that champagne the Labor faithful had on ice? Perhaps they will donate it to the proletariat.
Marie and I have lunch at the Eaton’s Hill Hotel, our first time there. Amazing place. Huge. Battered red jew (moi), seafood chowder (Marie). There is live music, and the first song of the set is ‘These Boots Are made For Walking’. Sounds like a song for Bill Shorten. The Newcastle v St George Illawarra match from Mudgee is on the big screen behind the stage.
Our newly re-elected Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is in the crowd at PointsBet Stadium, where the home side, his beloved Cronulla Sharks, lose 24-14 to Manly. You can’t win them all. Sitting behind ‘ScoMo’ is Cronulla legend, Gavin Miller. Channel 9 commentator, Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns wonders whether ScoMo can scull a beer like the late Bob Hawke.
My barber, Eric Pappas is at my home town, Murwillumbah to see his daughter, Sophia play hockey. Next door to the hockey fields, Murwillumbah Mustangs are disposing of Byron Bay, 23-10 in Northern Rivers Rugby League action.
A crowd of 31,555 is on hand in Barcelona, Spain for the Catalans Dragons v Wigan rugby league match. Wow. ‘The Guardian’ has a good positive yarn about the day.
Our friend, Margaret Barea from Bridgeman Downs, and originally from Stanthorpe, turns 60. She certainly doesn’t look it.
1 Halifax in action back in the 1980s
2 Steve Ricketts interviews former Test forward, Jim Paterson
3 Margaret Barea (left) and her husband Derek. That’s Lyn Grady on the right. To Maragaret’s right is Rocky Pagano and standing is Harry Linari.