DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 43 2019
Murwillumbah Brothers’ rugby league stalwart, Bill Carroll receives positive feedback from those who attended yesterday’s reunion for the 1969 A grade premiership winning side. Kel Sherry, who played under-18s that year, and later went on to play for Easts and Souths in Sydney, gives the day the thumbs up from his home near Casino. It was great to see Paul ‘Bomber’ Reynolds there, especially as he has not been in the best of health. A number of the ex-players brought their partners, among them block busting winger, Athol Gear, whose wife, Cathy was a Banana Festival Queen, and looked lovely, as always. My former teammate, Geoff Nunan, wants me to write the history of Murwillumbah Brothers. It has gone in the ‘too hard basket’ at this stage.
Former Australian halfback, Greg Oliphant donates his 1978 Australian jumper to our Queensland Rugby League History Committee, via Paul Hayes. A New Zealand reader of this site comments that former Kiwi rugby league star, Gordon Smith was a fine axeman, and represented New Zealand in the veterans’ category. I have a story on this site about Gordon.
Drinks at Felon’s Brewery on the fabulous Howard Smith Wharves development on the Brisbane River. The English barman has had a charisma bypass, although I suspect he thinks he is a Hollywood actor, waiting to be discovered, and that serving an Aussie baby boomer is below his station in life. They say when baby boomers discover trendy places, that is the end of their trendiness. Dinner at ‘Greca’ at the wharves complex, is just OK (prawns, ox tail, fish roe, calamari, chips and bread) and the wait staff are ‘false’ – nice, but not natural. Sounds like I am a real narc! I hate it when the wait staff say: ‘And how are we tonight?’ I mean, how about. ‘How are you. I hope you enjoy the evening.’
Former New South Wales rugby league skipper, Paul Gallen is on Radio TAB promoting his book ‘Heart and Soul’. I interviewed ‘Gal’ in Melbourne, ahead of his Origin debut in 2006, and he was self-assured, even then.
Learn of the passing of Brisbane Norths’ legend, Jim Hannam. He was captain of the Devils’ 1964 premiership side. Former Valleys’ prop, Frank Clancy recalls being stiff armed by Hannam. “But I got him back with an elbow,” Clancy said.
South Sydney rugby league star, Sam Burgess announces his retirement, the story running under the rugby union banner in England’s ‘Independent’ newspaper. Sam played five union Tests for England, but the Dewsbury (Yorkshire) born forward is league through and through.
The French rugby league side beats Western Division at Orange in a fiery game. France had contested the World Nines in Sydney, and later played the Junior Kangaroos in a televised match in Wollongong. It wasn’t France’s strongest team, far from it. But to me there was something undignified about this proud league nation having to play the Junior ‘Roos, and not our Test side.
Former Valleys’ winger, Mark Conway and his wife, Jenny are in Brisbane, one of the ports of call on their cruise with ‘Ruby Princess’. We catch up with them at Plough Inn. Mark was a policeman when he played with Valleys in the 1970s, and his precinct included what is now South Bank, where the Plough is located. “There were lots of vagrants here in those days,” says Mark. Now, it is ‘back packer central’. The pub does not have ginger beer! That is un-Queensland.
Broncos’ Test forward, Matt Gillett retires after on-going neck problems. I don’t like to boast, but I recall commenting to Broncos’ media man, Trad McLean, well before Gillett became an established first grader, that he was going to be a star. In those early days he reminded me of a young British Test lock, Mal Reilly, the way he ran, like a panther on the prowl.
It is Kindergarten orientation day for our granddaughter, Parker Ricketts, at Ayr in North Queensland.
Queensland Rugby League Referees’ boss, Eddie Ward retires. Eddie refereed 10 Test matches; five State of Origin Games as well as grand finals in Brisbane and Sydney. He was one of the game’s most respected whistle blowers, and did not stand for any nonsense. At times I thought he was pedantic, and could have let play flow, but rules are rules. Eddie was only 27 when he controlled his first Test – a Trans-Tasman clash at the SCG, making him the code’s youngest Test referee. I played at Brisbane Brothers with his brother, Jim, who also went on to become a first grade referee.
Former Queensland forward, Shane McNally is now coaching director at Carina, in Brisbane’s east. He is a former first grade coach of Easts in Brisbane, as well as Wakefield Trinity in England.
Broncos’ forward, Pat Carrigan is the recipient of a University of Queensland ‘Blue’. Carrigan and Thomas Flegler were joint winners of the Broncos’ Rookie of the year Award for 2019.
Channel 7’s veteran sports reporter, Pat Welsh has no problem pronouncing ‘Constantinople’, in reference to the thoroughbred horse of that name. Constantinople, the city, is now Istanbul. A number of other newsreaders have stumbled over the name this week, I suspect because they don’t know their history and have never heard of Constantinople.
Tonga beat Australia 16-12 at Eden Park, Auckland on what is a black day for the iconic Kangaroos’ emblem. Beaten by Tonga!! I can’t imagine the All Blacks being beaten by Tonga. The Wallabies, yes. In fact, they were beaten by Tonga, back in 1973, at Ballymore in Brisbane. Former Australian rugby league captain, Brad Fittler says the Kangaroos let their country down, and he is correct. Former Australian forward, Sam Thaiday says Tonga played for their country, the insinuation being that the Australians didn’t! Reports emerge that some of the Australian players were out riding scooters, at 1 a.m., on match day. Our eldest son, Damien says our halves (Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans) were ‘atrocious’. Former Broncos and Penrith coach, Anthony Griffin is part of Tonga’s coaching staff – their secret weapon. (See ‘Origin Football at Crossroads’ on this site, for my previous thoughts on our loss to Tonga).
Earlier, I had watched New Zealand beat Great Britain 12-8 as part of the Eden Park triple header – even though the Kiwis lost five eighth, Kieran Foran early – going in low and mis-timing his tackle on James Graham. And before the match, Brandon Smith had been ruled out of the Kiwi line-up for a breach of protocol. Fiji defeated Samoa 44-18 in the first match.
Former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Adrian ‘Champs’ Chapman is recovering from illness at his home at Lake Cargelligo in Western New South Wales. It is raining there for the first time in three years. Ulceration from an old football boot sprig mark is the cause his health dramas, he says.
Marie and I watch first episode of ‘Katherine the Great’, starring Helen Mirren. It is raunchy, which is not unusual, in a show staring Helen.
At Hawick in Scotland, our dear friend, Linda Gibson retires from work at a local woollen mill.
FoxSports shows a 1982 Sydney rugby league match in which my former Bray Park (Murwillumbah) neighbour, Ross Conlon is playing for Wests Magpies.
The quarterly Men of League Foundation magazine carries a story about South Sydney legend, Bob McCarthy and former Widnes (England) forward, Bob Blackwood catching up in Sydney to relive old days, in particular the 1973 tour of Britain and France when McCarthy was vice-captain. The Kangaroos beat Widnes 25-10 at Naughton Park in a match best remembered for the flare-ups, rather than the football. McCarthy and Blackwood were both send off by referee, Harry Hunt, from the village of Prestbury, late in the first half, after separate incidents. Blackwood was marched after head butted Australian forward, John O’Neill, leaving him with a fractured cheek bone, which ruled him out of all three Tests against Britain. McCarthy went after an incident involving Widnes halfback, Reg Bowden, who had tried to tackle McCarthy off the ball. ‘Big Macca’ incensed the fans when he stood on the chest of Bowden, after he had crashed to the ground. Late in the game a spectator threw a punch at Australian trainer, Alf Richards. hey Sydney get-together of Blackwood and McCarthy was arranged by former television commentator, Barry Ross, who wrote the article for the MOL magazine. Blackwood had one Australian stint as a player, with the Wollongong club in the Illawarra Division. His grandson was a member of the British Academy side which toured Australia in October. (John O’Neill died in 1999).
1 Greg Oliphant playing for Australia against the Kiwis in 1978
2 Test rugby league referee, Eddie Ward
3 Bob McCarthy – sent off against Widnes in the top photo; on the fly with Reg Bowden clutching at him in the second
4 Bob Blackwood’s head butt on John O’Neill. Action photographs from Rugby League Week’s Tour Special
5 Bob Blackwood (left) and Bob McCarthy in 2019 (picture Barry Ross).