DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 41 2019
Japan beat Scotland in rugby union’s World Cup overnight, and as a result, The Courier-Mail’s rugby writer, Jim Tucker contacts me wanting a phone number for Queensland Rugby League chief executive, Rob Moore. Why? Well Rob’s son, James, an Easts’ rugby league junior, plays for Japan, eligible under residency rules. Jim hadn’t been aware, until I told him last week.
Local lady here at Grange, now in her 50s, says she went on a Cosmos European Tour in her ’30s, with her sister and their mother. She wasn’t impressed with the Indians on the trip. At Stafford Tavern, an England born drinker tells of his Munich Beer Fest experience, as a younger man. He said there was a lot of disgusting behaviour by patrons, Australians in particular – something about a ‘100 Club’! He tells this story, as an English chap, wearing a New Zealand Warriors’ rugby league jersey, orders a jug of beer at ‘The Stafford’.
John McCoy and Peter Psaltis, on Radio TAB, discuss what might have been, if the split of 1895 had not taken place, the split which saw the ‘northern’ rugby clubs in England rewrite the rules, and reduce the number of players on the field, from 15 to 13. Officially, the Rugby Football Union stipulated, up until 1880, that the only money allowed in the game was for the travel expenses of international players. But it was common knowledge, even then, that cash was changing hands at club level. ‘The Great Schism’, as some called it, was inevitable. In 1987, rugby was still ‘amateur’, but McCoy recalls seeing the home of one of the All Blacks that year, a palatial residence near Rotorua. There was no way his job afforded him that luxury.
My wife, Marie and I fly to Townsville. Our cabbie to Brisbane Airport comes from the Punjab (as many seem to), and lives at North Lakes. In Townsville, we buy some of the fresh catch – including grunter and prawns – at Ingham Road Seafood, before driving south to Ayr, to see our eldest son, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters Parker and Evan. Damien is deputy principal at East Ayr Primary, where a close friend, Chris Wicks, is principal. Extensive road works on the Haughton Flood Plain. Bush-fires have wreaked havoc around Alligator Creek.
‘Black snow’ (sugar cane trash) falls from the sky, as burning takes place in fields near Damien’s place.
Attend swimming lessons for Parker, at an indoor pool in Ayr, and she goes very well. Later, we spend time on a map of Australia, jig saw puzzle. Damien has gone to a Year 5, school camp on Magnetic Island, off Townsville.
I read to Parker – ‘Why I Love My Daddy’; ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ and ‘Blue Chameleon’.
Wynnum-Manly Rugby League Club have new website, put together by club historian, Paul Comber. It is called ‘Seagulls Forever’.
Breakfast at fascinating Claredale Pastures Cafe and College, at Clare, in the Burdekin Valley. The complex has a rugby field, as you would expect. The breakfast is lovely, but $5.90 for a coffee! I think that is the most I have ever paid. Fellow History Committee member, Greg Shannon taught there, when it was the Burdekin Agricultural College. The complex is now owned by the Mio family. We buy corned beef from the butcher shop, as well as local honey. Sugar cane harvesting is in full swing, and it is fascinating to see the trams lined up, ready to go to the mills. I grew up with sugar cane harvesting, as part of the landscape – in the Tweed Valley in Northern New South Wales – but it wasn’t on the huge scale I am seeing here.
Drama back at Damien’s place, when their dog, Torres gets out of the house, as Emma puts Evan in the car. Torres spent a bit of time playing on the Bruce Highway, but survived and was rescued, after a council mower man pointed him out, resting behind a tree.
Author, Murray Barnett phones. He is writing the Kerry Boustead biography. Boustead, originally from Innisfail in North Queensland, played 25 Rugby League Tests for Australia between 1978 and 1984, and was the inaugural North Queensland Cowboys CEO.
Valleys’ rugby league stalwarts, such as Frank Clancy and Ron Gurnett, travel to Ballina in northern New South Wales to see former teammate, Ross Threlfo , who is battling brain cancer. The Valleys’ Old Boys do a great job.
Queensland State of Origin rugby league legend, Gary Larson is on the same Med cruise as my mate, Greg Grainger and his wife, Maree. Greg tells Gary that his sons, Brendan and Aaron, idolised him.
Geoff Edwards, a rival of mine in Tweed Rugby League, and a former Newtown Jets’ player, is towing a caravan around Australia with his wife, Deborah. They call into Adelaide to catch-up with Geoff’s former Murwillumbah Old Boys’ teammate, John Crowley, who was a police officer, when I was a cadet journalist at the Tweed Daily News.
Damien listens to former North Queensland Cowboys’ coach, Grant Bell’s sports show on local ABC Radio. Penrith’s 2003 grand final hero, Scott Sattler is a guest. Grant, who works fulltime as a parole officer, had tried to contact me when I was overseas, to be a guest on the show.
We have a Mexican takeaway lunch, at Ayr Swimming Pool, where there are lots of backpackers and local indigenous. Damien sees some of his pupils. Four lads in Burdekin Roosters’ rugby league gear walk by, brandishing fishing rods. Ah. The bush. Damien and Emma have dinner at Q Street Grill. Beaudesert boy, Rick Price, who had a huge hit with ‘Not a Day Goes By’, is appearing at the Ayr Theatre.
To Lynch’s Beach, where Damien and Emma are members of the surf life saving club. The beach, at the village of Alva, is part of the Burdekin River delta. Say our goodbyes, and head to Townsville for the flight home. Drive past Townsville’s impressive new stadium. Marie and I have fish and chips, on ‘The Strand’, bought from ‘Simply Tops’ in Palmer Street, South Townsville. Former Cowboys, New Zealand Warriors and Huddersfield (England), hooker George Gatis was a former proprietor. George represented Greece in rugby league. Driveway service at Shell garage, Belgian Gardens. Didn’t know it still happened in Australia. Interesting photographic display at Townsville Airport, about American, General Douglas Macarthur, who often visited Townsville from his Brisbane base, during his time as chief of the Pacific War campaign against the Japanese. Our female cabbie in Brisbane is an excellent driver, and actually stops at ‘STOP’ signs.
1 Sugar cane fire near Ayr
2 Marie Ricketts with son Damien and Granddaughter Evan
3 Emma and daughter, Parker at Lynch’s Beach
4 General Douglas Macarthur in Townsville.