DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 23, 2019
Bob Dimond is the last surviving member of the 28-man Kangaroo rugby league squad which left these shores in August, 1948 for a six month tour of Britain and France. Today, it is my honor to interview him, for Men of League magazine, at his Mermaid Waters’ home on the Gold Coast. The interview has been arranged with the help of former Test hooker, John Lang (a 1973 Kangaroo tourist) who lives on the Coast and has been visiting Bob on a regular basis.
A decorated firefighter, Bob’s life has been full of adventure and achievement. The older brother of 1963-64 Kangaroo tourist, Peter Dimond, 89-year-old Bob was a product of the Dapto club in the Illawarra region, making his first grade debut at 16. Bob and Peter remain the only two players to represent Australia as teenagers.
Bob played 15 matches on tour in ’48-49, but did not play a Test. He represented New South Wales three times against Queensland, and was renowned first grader for Wests Magpies in Sydney.
Bob’s wife, Elsie was a lovely host during my stay at their Mermaid Waters’ home. Their daughter, Jenny, who also lives at the Mermaid Waters’ residence, was a professional tennis player, and played against Yvonne Goolagong at Wimbledon.
I played against Peter Dimond, in 1973, the year I turned 21. Peter, who now lives at Kiama on the South Coast of New South Wales, was licensee of the Imperial Hotel, Murwillumbah and was persuaded to have one last season, with one of the three town clubs, Old Boys, who conducted their raffle sales at the pub. (There were 11 clubs in the Group 18/Gold Coast competition, three at Murwillumbah – Old Boys, Souths and Brothers). My club, Brothers, met Old Boys in the 1973 knock-out semi at Murwillumbah Oval (now Stan Sercombe Oval) and we won, progressing to the grand final, (via a win over All Blacks in the prelim.), where we were beaten by Tweed Seagulls. That Old Boys’ backline boasted two international centres, Dimond and Ron Saddler, and a former Tweed representative five eighth, Neville ‘Knocker’ O’Connor, and I reckon their combined age would have been over 100. I also coached Peter’s son, Craig in the Murwillumbah juniors, and Craig went on to play first grade for Illawarra, Cronulla and Canberra.
The Dimond boys’ parents were Irish, the father from Kilkenny and the mother from Carlow.
During my time at Bob’s, we are visited by an Anglicare nurse, who is a niece of legendary bush footballer and former Balmain Tiger, Roosters’ and Canberra Raider, Terry Regan, and lives next door to former Test halfback, Tom Raudonikis. Matt Johns’ character, Reg Reagan, is partly based on the exploits of Terry Regan, who first rose to prominence as a NSW Country rep., chosen from Cessnock.
My former coach at Brisbane Norths, New Zealander, Graham Lowe, is now Sir Graham Lowe after being made a Knight in the Queen’s Birthday honors. Queensland stalwarts, Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston receive AMs, along with tennis legend, Frank Sedgman, a pigeon toed, natural athlete. I am pigeon toed, and that was the first time I heard of Sedgman, when my father, Jon, mentioned us in the same breath. Sedgman won Wimbledon in 1952, the year I was born.
On RadioTAB, Paul Sawtell jokes that some players in rugby union’s under-20s World Cup would be well over 20. I presume he is referring to the Pacific Island teams, and perhaps the dubious accuracy of birth records.
I love the interview with Canterbury-Bankstown back-line rising star, Jayden Okunbor in ‘Big League’ magazine. He says he started in soccer at Mascot in Sydney, but then got into footy’ – meaning rugby league. Calling league, ‘footy’, and ‘football’, soccer upsets the soccer zealots. ‘The Game’ magazine, the Marshall Cavendish (British) Encyclopedia of World Sports, has a massive chapter devoted to ‘Soccer’.
Sam Mitchell from Capalaba Warriors is a guest at Men of League Foundation’s Brisbane Committee meeting at Broncos Leagues Club. Capalaba and Men of League have been co-operating in fund raising initiatives.
RadioTAB’s John McCoy says he played rugby league with top swim coach, Bill Sweetnam at Mount Isa.
Former Australian, Queensland and North Sydney forward, Billy Moore is sensational as our special guest at Beer and Beef Club lunch at Breakfast Creek Hotel. ‘Pirate Life’ beer from South Australia is the guest ale, served up by our joint sponsors, Carlton and United. Club member, Reeve Kruck, the owner of Titans Sheds, has to leave immediately after Billy’s interview, to attend the Gold Coast Titans’ match against the Warriors at Robina, given he is an ardent Titans’ supporter. They lose.
After lunch, I have a couple of beers ‘off the wood’, in the Breakfast Creek Hotel’s Saloon Bar, with former Courier-Mail work colleague, Greg Kemp, who is also a member of the club. Next, it is next door, to the public bar, for drinks with Brisbane Markets big wig, Paul Alroe, who is recovering from a big night. My cabbie home is a Kurd from Iran, a former school teacher, who says he spent four years in jail in Iran before coming to Australia for the freedom this country provides.
Easts’ rugby league stalwart, Elaine Smart and her daughter, Kym shout my wife, Marie and I dinner at Easts Leagues, Stones Corner, to say thanks for the eulogy I delivered, on behalf of the family, at the funeral of their husband/father, Brian Smart, a former Easts’ player and long serving chief executive. We are joined for post dinner drinks by Deb Phillips, the wife of football club president, Keith Phillips, who is in Mackay, where the Tigers are playing the local side in the Intrust Super Cup. Deb says the club’s coaching staff includes former first grader, Andrew Neave and Kiwi, Denvour Johnstone, from Wellington, who played two Tests for the Kiwis against Australia in 1993.
I am able to watch a little of the NRL on the big screen at Easts. Newcastle’s Mitchell Barnett, originally from Wingham, is guilty of a shocking crusher tackle on Melbourne Storm’s Jahrome Hughes. Barnett is later banned for three matches.
My wife and I head to Broadbeach, on the Gold Coast, for a break. Our lunch at Japanese restaurant Mamasan, is excellent.
A security guard comes onto the field as players wrestle in an AFL game in Tasmania. I mean, really? That’s what the umpires are there for. This bloke doesn’t look as if he has a clue about the culture of the game.
1 Bob Dimond and his wife Elsie
2 Bob Dimond, 18, in the middle, back row of this New South Wales’ team shot
3 Wests’ centre, Peter Dimond tackles St George’s dual rugby Test prop, Kevin Ryan at the SCG.
4 Australia’s Frank Sedgman with the 1952 Wimbledon Trophy.