DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 22 2019.
Spring Bluff Rail Station and Ravensbourne National Park are our destinations, as Marie and I drive west from Brisbane. The rail station, which was badly damaged in the 2011 floods, is beautifully kept, and the walking track at the national park is in good order. We do a 10km circuit, which takes us past a property where there are big trucks coming and going. We had signed the visitors’ book at Spring Bluff, and one those before us was a ‘Dardengo’, from Lismore in New South Wales. I know a Terry Dardengo, who played top level rugby league for Tweed Heads Seagulls, after previously playing for Marist Brothers, Lismore. During our drive, we buy rhubarb from a property near the Borneo Barracks, which were established during World War 1 and now act as a base for the 7th Signal Corps. Also drive past (great self control, Steve) the Farmers Arms at Carbalah, which looks like a fine pub.
There is a story out of Sydney that crew from Chinese naval ships in Sydney Harbor, have been emptying stores of baby formula.
A statue of former Ipswich Jets, Brisbane Broncos, Warrington (England), Queensland and Australian rugby league halfback, Allan Langer is unveiled in the northern precinct of Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Langer, or ‘Alfie’ as he is more widely known, gets emotional recalling his late father. ‘Alfie’ goes out of his way to shake my hand, which is nice. I interviewed him many times throughout his career, the first time way back in 1985 when he played for Ipswich. I also wrote a chapter about ‘Alfie’ in my book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’. ‘Alfie’ revealed that ‘super coach’ Wayne Bennett had made an approach to him to play with Brisbane Souths in 1985, but the best Bennett could promise him was a run in C grade, and ‘Alfie’ wasn’t leaving the Ipswich Jets for that. It turned out to be the best move he ever made, because former Test halfback, Tom Raudonikis was appointed coach of the Jets in ’85. “Wayne Bennett has been the biggest influence on my life, but I got my competitive spirit from Tommy,” Langer said. There would have been a big media turn-out, whatever the day of Alfie’s statue ceremony, but because the first State of Origin match is to be played tomorrow night, at the stadium, there is a massive turn-out. I chat to the likes of James Hooper (FoxSports), Phil Lutton (Brisbane Times), Chris Garry (Ch 7), Wally Lewis (Ch 9), Bill Walker (Ch 10) as well as league author, Steve Haddan and Queensland’s unofficial poet laureate, Rupert McCall. Cricketer, Chris Lynn, himself a former league player, is also there, along with Randall Coolwell from the indigenous family that took in Greg Inglis, when his senior career kicked off at Brisbane Norths. ‘Alfie’ goes straight from the statue ceremony to the FOGS (Former Origin Greats) lunch inside the stadium. Guest comedian, Sam Kekovich slays them, I am told.
Our eldest son, Damien sends a lovely video of daughter, Evan Joan, who was born last week. She is so alert. ‘She has been here before’, says my wife.
Courier-Mail columnist, Mike Colman has a lovely yarn about inter-state footy, before Origin. He has interviewed Easts’ legend, Des Morris and former Brothers’ star, Reg Cannon, after I suggested they might be the ‘go to’ men.
Former Broncos, Queensland and Australian winger, Michael Hancock chats (on RadioTAB) about Allan Langer’s amazing ability to strip the ball from rivals, and his controversial ‘Cumberland throw’ tackling style. Hancock also criticises the structured play of rugby league today, even at junior level, and in ‘the bush’. There won’t be another ‘Alfie’ emerge from this system.
Marie and I have drinks in the ‘Garden Bar’ at Suncorp Stadium, with lots of Blatchy’s Blues (NSW supporters) around us. The 4 Pines beer tastes watered down. Former Brisbane Valleys’ hooker, Englishman, Colin Maskill has a group here, from Wakefield in Yorkshire.
In the stands, Marie and I sit beside fellow History Committee member, Paul Hayes and his mate, Michael Mead, while behind us there is former Origin referee, Eddie Ward and fellow QRL staffer, Rebecca Trimble, a relative of former Australian cricketer, Sam Trimble.
Queensland win 18-14 in a terrific game, with Maroons’ winger, Dane Gagai man of the match. From where we are sitting, we get a sensational view of the lead-up work by NSW five eighth, Casino product, Cody Walker, for Jake Trbojevic’s try.
There are lovely scenes of jubilation from the Qld sheds, on the Channel 9 telecast. Evidently climate change crusader, Al Gore was a guest at the game, and thought it was ‘hot’.
Our daughter, Melanie and her fiancee Greg Mariotto watched the match at the Boomerang Bar in Singapore, where NSW supporters outnumbered those from Qld.
‘Smokin’ Joe Kilroy is the star attraction at the Broncos’ Old Boys’ lunch at Gambaro’s. Joe, who I played a couple of games alongside at Norths in Brisbane in 1979, lives on North Stradbroke Island, and doesn’t often make it to the mainland. But he made a special effort on this occasion, given the lunch commemorates Brisbane’s gutsy win over Illawarra Steelers in the 1989 Pansonic Cup final at Parramatta Stadium. It was the Broncos’ first piece of silverware, with the club only entering the then NSWRL in 1988. Multi-media personality, Steve Haddan is MC for the Old Boys do, but it is my job to interview Kilroy; Greg Dowling and Gene Miles. ‘GD’ (Dowling) arrived at Gambaro’s at the same time as me, smoking a cigar and looking larger than life. Guest comedian, Luke Heggie is seated at my table, and we have a good chat. He is from Mt Gravatt in Brisbane, originally, I think. His style of humor is ‘a bit over the top’. Some loved it, some hated it. He had lots of bottle shop jokes, because he once worked in a bottle shop. I’ve got a bottle shop joke – XXXX Gold.
Steve Haddan praises my interviewing skills. ‘Ripper work, Steve. We put on a good show for the punters,’ he says.
After the function, enjoy a few drinks downstairs with victorious Queensland State of Origin coach, Kevin Walters (who played for Canberra Raiders in ’89), Chris Johns and John Plath (all Broncos Old Boys) and former USA and Pia (France) rugby league player, Mark Cantoni, a graduate of Malanda High in North Queensland, and a mate of our eldest son, Damien. Mark, a succesful businessman, played for the USA against Australia at Wrexham in Wales in the 2013 World Cup. Also chat to a bloke from Monto in the Central Burnett region of Queensland, where Mal Meninga’s dad played footy and worked, at one stage. This bloke reckons the Meninga family got a hard time from (some of) the locals.
My cabbie home is from the Pubjab (shock) and is a former hockey player.
Our neighbors, Brett and Emma Thompson leave for Adelaide today, for a holiday on Kangaroo Island.
Melbourne Storm, with fullback, Jahrome Hughes in great touch, beat New Zealand Warriors 32-10 to claim the Michael Moore Trophy, named after the Storm’s former football manager, who died in an accident in Auckland in 2000, after the opening game of the season between the two clubs.
Gold Coast Titans have a shock 26-18 win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, with centre, Brian Kelly scoring two tries. Maybe the players had been revved up by Tom Raudonikis, who they visited yesterday. Tom has been battling ill health for some time.
Marie and I had two drinks at Gambaro’s before the match. The barmaid was so sour. Obviously had a personality by-pass. $17 for a glass of Rose and $9 for a Tooheys. We won’t be back. Dinner at Enzos’, the former Stattler and Waldorf. Toilets disgusting. Another patron says they remind him of Vietnam.
After our bus trip back to Lutwyche, we walk home along Kedron Brook. Soccer is being played at Prentice Park, and several dodgy looking characters from the small fans base, walk down to the Brook as we pass by. I look over my shoulder all the way home.
Former Great Britain rugby league prop, Bill Bryant has died, aged 78. Bryant played five Tests between 1964 and ’67, three against France and two against Australia. He had a pub in Castleford and a bar in Teneriffe. On the 1966 tour of Australia he played in Britain’s 17-13 win in the First Test at the SCG (a match I watched live on television) but lost his place to Bill Ramsay from Hunslet, for the return match at Lang Park, Brisbane, a match I attended with my father, Jon. Ramsay was sent off in Britain’s 6-4 loss.
2 Allan Langer at the unveiling of his statue
3 Michael Moore playing for Brisbane Brothers
4 The 1966 Great Britain touring squad. Bill Bryant is third from right, in the seated row.