DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 33 2019
Weight divisions in the two rugby codes is a subject for debate on Radio MMM, and naturally the Polynesian influence is front and centre. Childhood obesity also comes into play. The debate touches on whether competitive sport should be banned for under-18s. I believe weight divisions should be introduced, to help stem the dramatic fall-off in junior registrations.
FoxSports’ Paul Kent criticises Melbourne Storm’s wrestling tactics. ‘Let’s hurt people’, seems to be the Storm’s mantra, Kent suggests. He also reminds coaches they have to show accountability to the game which gives them a living. Thumbs up from me, on both counts.
Fog above a high rise at Bowen Hills in Brisbane’s inner north, gives the appearance of a towering inferno. I return our Subaru to the dealers at Newstead, for the free repair of valve spring faults, part of a national recall. Steve Haddan, a fellow member of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, of which I am chairman, has a regular guest spot on SKYNews, which requires him to visit Queensland Newspapers offices at Bowen Hills at 9 p.m. He says the place is virtually deserted at that hour. When I worked for ‘The Courier-Mail’, the place was buzzing at 9, which was approaching deadline.
QSport boss, Peter Cummiskey seeks the input of the QRL History Committee, re rugby league nominations for the next State, Hall of Fame intake. Peter meets with yours truly and fellow committee members, John McCoy; Greg Adermann and Steve Haddan at Darling and Co., Paddington. Former Test prop, David Shillington says hello.
It is a big news day in rugby league – North Queensland Cowboys’ Test prop, Matt Scott (34) has had a stroke, and Newcastle have sacked coach, Nathan Brown. Actor, Bryan Brown (no relation) is a guest on FoxSports. He is my age, and, like me, was brought up in an era when Australia v Great Britain Tests were the ultimate, not Origin or grand finals.
Former South Sydney prop, Richie Powell has died, aged 80. Powell, whose best years were the early 1960s, was the half-brother of dual rugby international, Stephen Knight. A wharfie, Powell was a strong man, as Knight found out on a visit to the docks. Stephen, one of the biggest centres to play the game, had trouble lifting one bag of produce, whereas Richie could lift two at a time.
My wife, Marie sees former Queensland premier, Campbell Newman, jogging along Kedron Brook, Grange.
Interview former Great Britain Test skipper, Tommy Bishop and current Norths’, Queensland Cup coach, Rohan Smith at Men of League lunch at Norths Leagues, Nundah. Bishop coached Norths in 1974-75. It was good to get the perspective of the old and the new. The first time I saw Tommy play was the Second Test against Australia at Lang Park in 1966, a match won 6-4 by Australia, after Britain had won the First Test in Sydney. Tommy still reckons the tourists should have won in Brisbane. “Without it sounding like sour grapes, the refereeing was a factor in our loss,” he said. “We had Jack Bradley in the First Test, and he allowed us to play the ball, English style, as long as we didn’t do it too stupidly. We played it more or less the same way in Brisbane, but Col Pearce penalised us for it.” Those in the audience at Norths, include former Norths’ players, Ziggy Strasser and Shane ‘Cocky’ McMahon and former Brisbane representative, Johnny Tapp, who had a stint with South Sydney. His dad, John Snr., was a champion boxer, and later trainer.
Former Wide Bay prop, Richie Somers goes out of his way to say hello.
Marie and I fly to Singapore today, on Singapore Airlines. Movies – ‘Vice’, ‘Red Joan’ and ‘Aftermath’. Marie watched ‘Mule’ and ‘Red Joan’. We stay at our daughter, Melanie and her fiancee, Greg Mariotto’s place. Greg takes me to his local – Georges – for a couple of Tiger beers. Chilli mud crab for dinner at Jumbos in East Coast Park, looking out towards hundreds of ships, which are giving an awesome impression of a floating city.
Learn of the passing of Lena Mary Baird, 96, widow of Wally Baird, who was general manager, when I was a young journalist at the Tweed Daily News, Murwillumbah. Wally, who insisted I cover his Rotary Club meetings at the Australian Hotel, was very patient with me, given I could be a bit ‘loose’, as they say in today’s lingo. Lena and Wally’s twin daughters, Lesley and Ann were in my class at Murwillumbah High School, and their old brother, Ian played rugby league for the Opens.
Also learn of the passing of former Roosters’ hooker, Peter Moscatt, who I interviewed, when he was president of the players’ association.
Bacon, cooked on the BBQ, to start the day, along with tasty grapes, from Mexico. Singapore Slings at the legendary Raffles Hotel. One ale at McGettigan’s Bar, before a harbor cruise, followed by a lovely night at the Boomerang Bar, with Brett Mather, whose family hail from Murwillumbah. Stay up late watching the Ashes cricket from England and the Challenge Cup rugby league from Wembley, with Warrington defeating St Helens 18-4. Marie and I were there this time last year, when Warrington went down to French club, Catalans Dragons. Noted Brisbane league historian, Greg Mallory is in the crowd at Wembley, his first time at the stadium since the Halifax v St Helens match in 1987. St Helens lost on that occasion as well.
Beautiful seafood lunch at Sofitel, Sentosa. Crabs from Dungeness (USA); oysters from County Clare, Ireland; lobster from Boston, USA. After lunch, there is a cable car trip, as P & O’s Pacific Dawn leaves port. One drink at a bar on Palawan Beach. Stay up to watch the cricket, and the Poms steal the Third Test in Leeds. We blew it, after getting them out for 67 in the first innings. Spot two blokes wearing Australian rugby league jumpers, in the Headingley crowd.
News has broken in Australia, that former Logan City and Cronulla utility star, Paul Fisher is battling motor neuron disease. I had been told about this some time ago, by Brisbane Men of League patron, Ron Atkins. I interviewed Paul a number of times, for The Courier-Mail.
Macleay Valley defeat Wauchope 34-24 in the Group 3 rugby league grand final. Wauchope won the G3 title in 1975, the year I played for Wingham. Macleay Valley were part of Group 2 in those days, although they were called Kempsey Cowboys back then.
1 Stephen Knight
2 Melanie Ricketts and Greg Mariotto
3 Melanie Ricketts and her mum, Marie
4 Greg Mariotto and Steve Ricketts at Georges Bar, Singapore