DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 42 2019
There are four ‘Stop/Go’ people on duty at one tiny roundabout on a back street – Uxbridge Street, Grange – as workmen do their stuff nearby. It looks like overkill and probably is. Where would our unemployment rate be, without all these Stop/Go people, and of course, baristas?
Former Broncos’ rugby league hooker, John Driscoll has bought a house in Uxbridge Street. John was a regular in the Broncos’ first grade side in 1997.
At Stafford Tavern, a group of bouncers have drinks in one area, while Army guys arrive for food, a little later. I wonder which group has seen more action.
One of our group relates a story of poor service at Lutwyche’s Crown Hotel. “Haven’t you ever waited 10 minutes before, for a drink,” said the barmaid, quite curtly, to this chap, without a hint of apology at the appalling lack of service, at a time when things were quiet, as they nearly always are at ‘The Crown’.
Learn of the passing of New Zealand rugby league stalwart, Mike McClennan, who played one Test in 1971, and toured Britain and France later that year with the Kiwis. The Kiwis won that Test, 24-3 against Australia at Auckland’s Carlaw Park, with Mike at fullback. He played 11 matches on tour in Britain and France, where the Kiwis also won both Test series. He coached Tonga in rugby league’s 1995 World Cup. I interviewed his son, Brian, also known as ‘Bluey’, a number of times, in his role as coach of New Zealand. Brian was international coach of the year in 2006.
Radio TAB’S John McCoy and Paul Sawtell talk expansion, in the NRL, and John reflects on the games he called in Adelaide, for FoxSports, during the Rams’ two seasons, 1997 and ’98. John said he was surprised at the level of support for the code in Adelaide. I covered two Rams’ home games – both against the Broncos – and the crowds were substantial, and enthusiastic.
A dad drives into our estate, while on his phone. Horrible. A couple of lads on scooters were almost cleaned up by a motorist today. With Halloween fast approaching, there are some grotesque ‘decorations’ around the neighbourhood, including one of a decapitated person. The same family probably wouldn’t let their lad play rugby league, because it is too violent.
Catherine Sherwood from University of Queensland, is seeking information on Brisbane Natives and All Blacks rugby league sides, for her PHD. I start watching ‘Story of Rugby’ on FoxSports. It shows professional wrestling, in a Sydney Leagues club, when rugby league gets its brief mention in the ‘Story of Rugby’, along with highlights from a violent Australia v France match in Paris in 1959, with Australian halfback, Barry Muir conspicuous with a stiff-arm tackle. There is no mention of how rugby league threatened union’s number rating in France, until the Nazi backed Vichy Government banned the game during World War II, and seized all its assets. In essence, rugby league got a passing mention, all negative. Former Queensland cricketer, Andrew Courtice tells the Radio TAB crew he would rather watch Doc Martin replays, than rugby union.
While channel surfing, I come across a brilliant Kiwis v ‘Roos league match at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, and then former British league star, Jason Robinson starring for the English union side.
Radio TAB’s Gerard Daffy says he didn’t know France played rugby league. Well, he is a Victorian. But there are plenty of French people who don’t know. Mind you, there are plenty of Australians who don’t know the difference between league and union.
Drinks and dinner at Norths Leagues with university lecturer, Peter Long, who I met during our Scenic River European cruise earlier this year. He lives in an apartment overlooking Norths’ Juniors’ field, where I scored my only try for the Devils, in a trial against Maroochydore, in my only year with the club – 1979. Coach, Graham Lowe played me in first grade in the trials, and the official Woolies pre-season competition, before coming to the conclusion reserve grade was my level.
Peter Long went to Paris after our river cruise finished in Budapest. His cab drove into the midst of a yellow vest protest, and it was a scary experience, as protesters, all of African descent, banged on the side of the vehicle. As I arrived at Peter’s place, a neighbour’s dog jumped at me, with the owner doing nothing to call it off, and making no comment at all, to me, as she calls the dog over. Why do dog owners assume that other people are happy to have their dogs ‘maul’ them. And how are we to know that the approaching dog is friendly? They often say, ‘Don’t worry, he’s friendly,’ after the dog has slobbered over you. But if they weren’t friendly, it’s all too late then.
At the club, Peter and I watch the Trans-Tasman Test in Wollongong, Benji Marshall’s 20th as skipper of the Kiwis. The Aussies win 26-4. Hooker, Damien Cook is man of the match. It was the first Test played in Wollongong. Also in the club are the Rovelli brothers, Troy and Grant. Troy is Norths’ CEO, while Grant is the former New Zealand Warriors and North Queensland Cowboys’ halfback. Broncos’ recruitment chief, Peter Nolan and my former Courier-Mail editor, Michael Crutcher, are also there, after attending a sportsmen’s lunch, where the MC was former Courier-Mail turf editor, Bart Sinclair and the guests, Courier-Mail chief sports writer, Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock and former Test cricketer, Mike Whitney.
My young Indian cabbie talks cricket incessantly.
Walk to Norths Leagues (to get my car) along Kedron Brook path, stopping to watch the cricket (Norths v Redlands) at Shaw Park (where there is also a young bloke practising his goal kicking on Norths’ union field); as well as stopping to pay my respects at a plaque at Toombul, placed in honor of a local (Eagle Junction) soldier killed at Pozieres in France in World War 1, and whose remains were only found this year.
Marie’s brother, Kevin left a plaque at his late wife, Beth’s favorite camping spot on the Canning Stock Route, during his recent Outback travels. Beth died in 2018. My wife, Marie had visited Kevin at Alstonville on her way home from a few days in Lismore with her sister, Carolyn.
Marie brings plants from the Lismore markets, as well as onions from her Uncle Jim Donnelly’s garden at Casino.
Dual rugby international, Shontayne Hape (league – New Zealand; union England) is a commentator on SKY Sports for their rugby league coverage. He says he has a soft spot for the Bradford Bulls rugby league club where he spent six seasons.
Emotional day at reunion for my old club, Murwillumbah Brothers, where the 1969 A grade premiership winning side takes centre stage at Mustangs Leagues Club, West Murwillumbah. Former Maitland prop forward, Bob Pannowitz, was captain-coach. Bob’s daughter, Terri made the trip from Newcastle, to represent her late father. She reminds me that when she was a little girl, she broke her arm at our place – 27 Tumbulgum Road, Murwillumbah. She was friends with my little sister, Gay (now Gay Lynch). Another former teammate, John O’Brien tells me he played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, in a Catholic Schools’ rep side, alongside his brothers, Jim and Michael. Amazing. I spoke at the reunion, at the invitation of MC, Bill Carroll, whose younger brother, Terry is up from Sydney, which is good to see. Terry was manager of junior league sides I coached at Murwillumbah. One of the other speakers was 1969 A grade lock, Keith Kermond. I remember the first night I saw him at training, at Murwillumbah Showgrounds, he was wearing a light blue track suit. I had never seen a track suit before, and through it looked so cool. Bob Swales, who played for all three town clubs – Brothers, Souths and Old Boys – drops in for a brief visit. Bob, who lives at Nambour in Queensland, has been seeing his mother. Bob tells me former Murwillumbah High Agriculture teacher, Mr Don Bartholomew has died, aged 90. He was the father of champion surfer, Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Batholomew.
I got a lift to and from Murwillumbah with Alan Nunan, the hooker in the 1969 Brothers’ side. Alan played first grade in Brisbane with Norths and Redcliffe and represented Brisbane. His twin, Geoff, also played first grade in Brisbane, with Souths. Alan and Geoff were members of the 1968 Brothers’ under-18 premiership side, coached by former Sydney Easts’ lock, Brian Tracey. I played fullback in that side, my first year in under-18s.
1 Australia’s Arthur Beetson loses the ball, under pressure from the French defence in a rugby league Test in Toulouse in 1972.
2 French rugby league players in Sydney in 1957
3 Members of Murwillumbah Brothers’ 1969 A grade premiership winning side at a reunion at Mustangs Leagues (from left) Owen Maye, Gary ‘Mouse’ Dowling, John Curtis, Brian ‘Tussles’ Alexander, Brian Farrell, Terri Pannowitz, Geoff Nunan, Athol Gear, Keith Kermond (with microphone), Alan Nunan
4 Twins Alan and Geoff Nunan with Keith Kermond.