DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 21 2019
Queensland State of Origin coach, Kevin Walters is emotional at the naming of the Maroons’ squad for Game 1 of the series against New South Wales. He says this is war! It seems ticket sales have been a bit slow. NSW, under their coach, Brad Fittler, have already gone into camp at Bondi. Kevvie ditches the underdog tag, and says Queensland will win Game 1 in Brisbane.
In England, Ipswich (Queensland) product, Matt Parcell is banned for one match after being found guilty of ‘bumping’ a referee. Parcell, the son of former Queensland Residents’ star, Steve Parcell, plays for Leeds.
On FoxSports, ‘The Fan’, host Andrew Voss ‘revisits’ the Australia v Russia World Cup rugby league match played at ‘The Boulevard,’ Hull in November, 2000. I covered the match for News Limited, and the headline on my story read: ‘Roos take sickle to Russia’. Australia won 110-4 with Wendell Sailor scoring four tries. It was proud night for Townsville’s Gorden Tallis, who was given the honor of captaining the Kangaroos. One of the ‘Russian’ players (under the grandparent rule), Matt Donovan tells ‘Vossy’ that the Russian Mafia paid the players – in cash. There was a supporters’ group of around 50, from Moscow, at ‘The Boulevard’ that night. I don’t whether the ‘Mafia’ paid their way. Donovan scored Russia’s only try, from a grubber kick by Redcliffe prop, Rob ‘Bertie’ Campbell (who also boasted a Russian grandparent), who caught out Wendell with his placement.
ABC broadcast standards have fallen. Female announcer delivers an ‘um’ and a ‘sort of’ in the one sentence. James Dibble would roll in his grave.
Our eldest boy, Damien and his wife, Emma are parents for the second time, with the birth, in Townsville, of their second daughter, Evan Joan, a sister for Parker Kerri. Damien sends a lovely photograph of Emma and Evan going home.
I chair a special meeting of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, called to discuss the Terms of Reference, under which we must operate. It is my first meeting in the chair, following the retirement of Kevin Brasch AM.
The Courier-Mail’s Jim Tucker says, that for many years, his mother thought there was a rugby league team called ‘Hulking Stone Rovers’. It is of course, Hull Kingston Rovers. Not sure whether Jim is pulling my leg.
After the brilliant news about the birth of our second grand daughter, the day ends on a worrying note, with former television sports commentator and Sydney Wests’ rugby league skipper, Warren Boland phoning to say my former Courier-Mail colleague, Paul Malone is in a bad way, after a fall at the Wesley Hospital, where he had an appointment! Warren, Paul and I were scheduled to meet for drinks at Quincy’s Bar, Grange tomorrow night. Warren says ‘Scobie’ is in intensive care, after surgery to fuse a vertebrae. They are waiting for the swelling to go down, and Paul faces at least three months in hospital.
Former television and radio commentator, the late Billy J Smith is the latest addition to the Media Wall of Fame at Suncorp Stadium, joining Jack Reardon, George Lovejoy, Frank O’Callaghan (all deceased), Gerry Collins, Barry Dick, Wayne Heming and yours truly in the ‘exclusive club’. Collins, now based in Newcastle, and ‘Ticker’ Heming are present. Wayne and I have a good chat to Stadiums Queensland chief, Harvey Lister and Billy’s son, John. Harvey recalls the glam rock band, ‘Hush’ as we talk about music from Billy J’s era.
My remedial massage specialist, Paula Nutting had a great time on a recent trip to the UK and Ireland, with a Brisbane choir. The choir performed at a number of places, including Blarney Castle in County Cork. In Cork City, she ‘hung out’ at a Mexican restaurant, while in Dublin her favorite pub was the ‘Gravediggers’. Paula, a keen golfer, managed one game on the trip. In London, she saw the musical, ‘Hamilton’.
Former Test hooker, John Lang says his former captain at Brisbane Easts, Des ‘DJ’ Morris was a man you could count on, when it was time for ‘the big play’.
“In that respect, he was like Wally Lewis,” Lang said. “The best leaders always deliver the coup de gras”.
In our kitchen – strawberries come from Bundaberg; blueberries from Lismore in New South Wales and the artichokes (in a jar) from Spain.
Pool tournament at home of Derek Barea, Bridgemann Downs. Also there are Paul Grady and Dennis Olive. Derek recalls being expelled from Catholic School at Stanthorpe, on Queensland’s Granite Belt, by a young nun, who eventually left the Order. Derek then went to Cottonvale State School.
Marie and I have drinks at Quincy’s, where a bloke brings his greyhound, Chester into the bar, just briefly, thank heavens. The dog was too big for the tiny bar.
Former Australian (and Fiji) Test prop, Petero Civoniceva is interviewed by Zane Bojak on ABC Radio. The topic of the Australian National Anthem, and whether it should be sung by all those representing this country, is raised, with Zane wondering whether ‘Advance Australia Fair’ really represents Pacific people. I would have thought that people coming here from the Pacific, through their own choice, would be happy to stand for our anthem, even if the lyrics went ‘zippity doo dah’, or ‘Singing Aye Aye Yippee Yippee Aye’. Wait – Petero has sung that last one, while representing Queensland.
Macca (Ian McNamara) interviews a rodeo exponent, who also played rugby league for 20 years. He must have aching bones.
Greg ‘Brandy’ Alexander has helped make a road safety video, illustrating the ‘knock-on effect’ of a death or serious injury from a drink driving incident. His younger brother, Ben, was killed in one such incident, in 1992.
Canberra Raiders’ English Test forward, Elliot Whitehead says his first memories of rugby league were playing for the West Bowling under-14s, a team from the Bradford area, in West Yorkshire. Most Australian league kids have played six years of footy by the time they reach under-14s. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing. It did me no harm, no harm, no harm..
Western Australian rugby league is on NITV – Ellenbrook Rabbitohs v Rockingham Sharks. The standard is not great, but it is a level above South Australian rugby union, which also gets a run on the indigenous station. I think it’s great that these comps get exposure like this.
Channel 9 interview Brisbane Norths’ English star, Herbie Farnworth, an ex Salford player. His uncle, Brian Foley was a talent scout for Wigan. Herbie’s home village is Blacko, which straddles two counties, Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Name comes from ‘Black Ho’, black hill. It is in the Vale of Pendle, infamous for so called witch craft in the 17th Century. The nearest, ‘big’ rugby league town is Keighley, and that’s where Herbie started out.
Ch 9 commentator, former Gold Coast, Crusher and Penrith forward, Scott Sattler says that if the first contact in a tackle is above the waist, there should be no contact below the waist afterwards. Sounds fair to me.
‘Penrith’ supremo, Phil ‘Gus’ Gould has had lunch with coaching elder, Paul Broughton, and the topics were wide ranging, one the need to get the Asian community more involved in the game.
Evan has weighed in with an extra 100 grams.
1 An advertisement for the rugby league commentary duo, Billy J Smith and Ross Lawson
2 The Media Wall of Fame at Suncorp Stadium
3 Des Morris
4 Derek Barea (glass raised) hosts friends at his Bridgeman Downs bar. Back row: Steve Ricketts, Kevin White, Derek Barea, Dennis Oliver. Front row: Paul Grady, Rocky Pagano, Harry Linari.