DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 29 2019.
Rugby league cult hero, giant former Brisbane Norths’ prop, Campbell ‘Zulu’ Dews has agreed to be a guest speaker at a Men of League Foundation function in Brisbane. My wife Marie and I ran into ‘Zulu’ last night, at the Coolum Beach Hotel, on the Sunshine Coast. ‘Zulu’, who lives locally, but works as a fly-in fly-out miner in Central Queensland, told us the pub was well run. But, you wouldn’t believe it, as ‘Zulu’ was singing the pub’s praises, a giant brawl erupted, with one bloke glassed. I thought ‘Zulu’ was going to be required as a peace maker, but things calmed down before that was necessary. I was at the bar when the brawl broke out (and a fair distance from it, thankfully) and joked to the bloke next to me that that is what happens when they have AFL on the big screen (instead of NRL) – people go crazy. I don’t think he got the joke, or he was an AFL type!
I played alongside ‘Zulu’ at Norths in 1979, his first season in Brisbane, after he previously played in the Cronulla district. ‘Zulu’ had found his way to Brisbane, thanks to ‘Super Coach’, Jack Gibson, who lived at Cronulla, and recommended ‘Zulu’ to Norths’ president, Bob Bax, Brisbane’s own super coach, who guided Norths to seven premierships in the 1960s. Dews played for Norths from 1979 to 1985, before finishing his career at Keighley, in England.
“‘Baxy’ was an SP Bookie, and of course, Jack enjoyed a punt, so that’s how they knew each other,” ‘Zulu’ told me.
Before leaving Coolum, where we had stayed two nights, I walked quite some distance looking to buy ‘The Courier-Mail’, and to get a decent coffee. I found papers for sale at the bakery, where I also bought a coffee, which was insipid, even though I asked for a double shot.
Fish and chips from Mooloolaba Co-op on the way back to Brisbane. We are served by ‘Miss Grumpy’.
Back in Brisbane, I catch up with ‘the lads’ at Stafford Tavern, after walking past Valleys’ home ground, Emerson Park, Grange where a young bloke was practising his goal kicking, with his black cocker-spaniel chasing the ball for him.
Neighbour, Len O’Brien said he saw an Uber Eats guy cleaned up, at the busy intersection outside the Kedron Brook pub. They are accidents waiting to happen, those Uber Eats riders.
Brisbane Men of League Foundation Committee patron, Ron Atkins and I have a great chat about rugby league, in particular football on the Tweed, where I played most of my footy, and where Ron was born and grew up. He reminds me that Melbourne Storm Test centre, Will Chambers is the grandson of Tweed legend, Max Telford. Ron went to school with Paddy Morgan, a Tweed Seagulls and All Blacks’ star, who also had a stint with Wynnum-Manly and finished his career with Burleigh Bears. Ron and Paddy were born in 1935. Ron also knew my former captain-coach at Brothers, Murwillumbah, Ray McCarron, a Tugun lad, who married Carole Schrader from Tweed Heads. Ray’s brother, Bill, another front rower, had the nickname ‘Pluto’. Not sure why.
Ron, who played with Wests in Brisbane, was a handy goal kicker, and based his style on Australian Test winger, Noel Pidding, the former St George (Sydney) and Maitland star. But Ron’s favorite winger was former Great Britain star, Mick Sullivan. “He was a stiff-arm merchant, but a great player,'” Ron says.
Queensland Rugby League History Committee meeting, which I chair, hears of a request from the uncle of Gold Coast Titans’ star, A J (Alexander) Brimson, for a copy of the program for the 1966 Second Test between Australia and Great Britain at Lang Park. A J’s late father had played for Queensland Primary Schools in a curtain raiser. Our committee member, Paul Hayes, nickname ‘The Ferret’, has found a copy. A.J.’s uncle wanted to present a copy of the program to his nephew, at his 21st birthday party. I saw that Test, and all the curtain raisers, alongside my father, Jon and brother, Jeffrey, from the packed terraces of Lang Park. North Queensland History Committee member, Greg Shannon phones in from the Tully Show, where he is a volunteer.
For the first time in ages, I go to Stafford Tavern for meat tray raffles. The sports bar is crowded with young blokes from Brothers Juniors Rugby League, Golf Day. They include Brothers’ Juniors president, Terry O’Regan (a former first grader with Brothers) and Steve Baguley, the husband of Rebecca, the former PA to QRL managing director, the late Ross Livermore. Steve looks like former Queensland cricketer, Jimmy Maher. John Daly says I wrote a story about him when he played senior league for Brothers. I don’t recall the yarn.
Former Australian skipper, Brad Fittler is a great fan of Cronulla’s Billy Magoulious, who made his first grade debut in the Sharks’ 16-14 home win over the Cowboys last night, with our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison in attendance. Paul Gallen was inspirational for Cronulla.
Pool tournament at Derek Barea’s house at Bridgeman Downs in honor of recently departed mate, Rocky Pagano. We all wear beanies, down a Guinness, followed by grappa. Doesn’t make me play any better.
Marie and I attend Red Hill Fair, where a stage show preaches ecology and being kind to others. I attend Brothers (18) v Wests Mitchelton (30) rugby league match at Gibson Park, Stafford. The try of the match is scored by the Brothers’ fullback. Chat to another former Brothers’ fullback, Jim Boyd, while watching the match. Almon Gadd, 65, runs the line and then afterwards referees a kid’s game. It is hilarious watching the kids warm up, like the NRL guys. So unnecessary at that age, but cute. Two beers at Stafford Tavern on way home. A lady asks for the TV to be switched from All Blacks v Springboks rugby union Test, to the NRL. A woman after my own heart.
At Ayr in North Queensland, our son, Damien and his wife Emma and daughter, Parker attend a junior rugby league match between the local Roosters and a Townsville club. GPS (Schoolboyd) Rugby Union is underway, and I am told former Queensland State of Origin forward, Danny Nutley’s son, Ronin, (what a great movie), is a star player for the Nudgee First XV.
My former Murwillumbah Brothers’ captain-coach, Milton Whybrow has died, aged 76. That means he was 31, when he was my captain-coach in 1974. A product of the Harden-Murrumburrah club in the Riverina, Milton came from a famous local family, and was a skilful, canny player. He started the ’74 season in sensational form, winning selection in the Group 18 representative side. But as the season wore on, he lost a bit of zip, and I think age had caught up with him. He told me he came to the Tweed for a number of reasons, one being he thought the competition might be a bit easier than down in the Riverina. While he still regarded Riverina football as stronger, he was surprised by the strength of the Group 18-Gold Coast comp., which featured 11 clubs. We were eliminated by Surfers Paradise Pirates in a play-off for fifth spot, with Clovelly legend, John Chisholm captaining Surfers. Milton and his wife returned to Harden Murrumburrah at the end of the ’74 season, and Milton got a job, behind the bar at the Harden Golf Club. He had worked behind the bar at the Murwillumbah Hotel, during his time at Brothers. I stayed at his place at Harden, on my way back from the Melbourne Cup in 1974. The last time I saw him was at Bruce Stadium, Canberra at a Raiders’ match which I was covering for ‘The Courier-Mail’. But I had spoken to him on the phone a couple of times since my retirement.
Greg Grainger, a teammate of mine under Milton’s coaching, sends a video of his grandson, Hayden playing for Maitland against Souths in the Newcastle competition – setting up a try – as well as highlights from a match against Kurri Kurri, including a huge hit.
On ABC Radio, Macca (Ian McNamara) plays ‘Baby Come Back’ by ‘Players’ – a great dance tune
Channel Nine commentator, Scott Sattler, the former Penrith star, praises Souths-Logan five eighth, Guy Hamilton’s pass.
Jockey, Sheridan Tomlinson lands a double at Sunshine Coast races. He is a son of Glen Tomlinson, from Caboolture, who made a name for himself in English rugby league, playing for Bradford, Hull, Wakefield and finally, Batley.
Former Australian opening batsman, Sam Trimble has died, aged 84. Sam toured the Wests Indies with the Australian side in 1965, but could not crack the Test team because of the presence of Bob Simpson and Bill Lawry. Originally from Booyong, in northern New South Wales, the cricket oval at nearby Bexhill is named after Sam. I interviewed him and his son, Glenn, another fine cricketer, a number of times when I covered cricket for the Telegraph in the 1980s. Sam played 144 first class matches and was the only non-Test player chosen in the Queensland Team of the Century.
1 Campell ‘Zulu’ Dews has his beard cut for charity at Keighley, West Yorkshire in 1985
2 Pool tournament, Bridgeman Downs – (from left) Dennis Olive, Kevin White, Paul Grady, Derek Barea and Harry Linari
3 Milton Whybrow (centre). On his right is Surfers’ prop, Ray Staff and on his left Brothers’ prop, Kevin ‘Porky’ Weaver.
4 Steve Ricketts (left) and Clovelly legend, John Chisholm.