DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 45 2019
Remembrance Day is observed with respect, as I shop in Coles, Lutwyche after a medical appointment at 10.15 a.m. I had just run into a former Courier-Mail workmate, Craig Poulter, who now works for Pagemasters, the mob who sub-edit journalists’ work. Everything is outsourced these days. An old Asian lady goes about her business as normal, while the rest of us stand to attention and observe a minute’s silence at 11 a.m. I don’t think she was intentionally disrespectful – just unconscious or unaware.
NITV run an excellent World War 1 special about Australians fighting in Europe, with an emphasis on General Monash.
Brisbane’s famous old Normanby Pub has had a re-fit, but history has not been forgotten, with one room devoted primarily to the old Normanby Rugby League Club, which was based there for many years. People are camped outside Suncorp Stadium, ahead of the U2 concert. One of U2’s support crew wears a Slade concert T-shirt. I still have a Slade vinyl, from the 1970s. I meet with Queensland Rugby League CEO, Rob Moore; Media Officer, Michael Hillier and South East Division Manager, Michael ‘Treacle’ Pease, to discuss upcoming State conference on the Gold Coast. I am chairman of the QRL History Committee. We have lunch at Newstead Brewery, next to the QRL. I have loaned an old pair of footy boots and Queensland track suit top to the QRL, for the shooting of a State of Origin promotional video in 2020, when the code will celebrate the inaugural game, played in 1980. In Caxton Street, it is sad to see that Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall has closed. Pest inspectors at our place are both league men. One goes for the Warriors (he is a Kiwi), while the other supports the Cowboys in the NRL, and Easts in the Intrust Super (Queensland) Cup.
Lennox Head on the Richmond Coast of New South Wales is to be the holiday base for my wife, Marie and I for the next few nights. Fish (local whiting) and chips at Chinderah on the way, and the village pub has a new look. We can’t see Mt Warning because of smoke from all the bush fires around the place. We have drinks at Lennox ‘Bowlo’, including a Seven Mile American Pale Ale, brewed at nearby Ballina. Dinner at Lex Thai, where our waiter is Paraguayan.
Learn of the passing of former Great Britain Rugby League prop, Dennis Hartley, aged 83. I never saw him play live, as he was not chosen for the First Test of the Lions’ 1970 tour of Australia, with Dave Chisnall from Leigh preferred. The Poms lost that Test, at Lang Park, Brisbane, a match I attended with my father, Jon. Chisnall was dropped for the return match, with Castleford’s Hartley joining Cliff Watson (St Helens) in the front row, and Britain went on to win the series. My wife and I met Dennis, at Castleford, in January, 1978. He acted as barman in the chairman’s lounge, after a game against Hull Kingston Rovers, which was played on an icy pitch, with spectators throwing snow balls at Hull KR’s Roger Millward, as he attempted a shot at goal. We had been driven to the match by referee, Mick Naughton from Widnes, where we were staying with Paddy and May Hart. Hartley played 11 Tests between 1964 and 1970, making his debut against France in Perpignan, from the Hunslet club. He played 590 first grade games between 1956 and 1975, for Doncaster, Hunslet and then Castleford.
Marie and I celebrate our 44th wedding anniversary at ‘Shelter’, Lennox Head. We walk past the Lennox Pub, which is packed, as patrons watch the NRL. The band, ‘Ruby Tuesdays’ was to play at 10 p.m. Marie has scallops and pork fillet, while I tuck into snapper for main course, after having a tomato starter, with the tomatoes coming from Coopers Shoot, in the Byron Bay hinterland. ‘Shelter’ manager says he was raised on a dairy farm near Wagga Wagga.
Smoke haze is horrendous. We walk to the headland, returning via the ‘Shorty’ Connor steps, named after a legend of surfing here in the 1960s and ’70s. There is a sign on the beach-side path, warning of snakes in the rocks! Lots of dog poo on the paths. A bloke on a wing keeled surfboard is filmed by his mate.
Marie spots former Australian rugby league centre, Jamie Lyon in the IGA. He was captain-coach of Ballina Seagulls this year, when they won the Northern Rivers’ title. A delivery guy goes out of his way to say hello, when he sees my Roosters’ polo. Junior cricket game is being played. Surprising really, given the smoke pollution.
Marie and I go to Shorty’s for ‘Happy Hour’. Our Armidale born waiter talks about Orcas rounding up whales at Eden on the South Coast of NSW.
Papua New Guinea beat Britain 28-10 in Port Moresby. PNG have come a long way in recent times, but Britain have gone backwards. It did not help that British prop, James Graham was knocked out, making the first tackle of the match, on Luke Page.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition at local hall. Boy, are they are a fit, and, dare I say, intimidating looking mob.
Lunch with Marie’s siblings, Carolyn Galea and Kevin Donnelly at the WOK Chinese restaurant in our apartment complex. ‘Old Mr Parmenter’, a former neighbour of Marie’s at Keerrong, comes in for a takeaway. Keerrong is near Nimbin, and my wife’s parents had a dairy farm. Carolyn and Kevin would drive into Lismore, from Keerrong, and do ‘blockies’ (laps of the town centre) in their cars
Back in Queensland, bush fires have cut the Cunningham Highway, the route from Brisbane to Warwick on the Southern Darling Downs. It seems as if the whole of Australia is burning. My wife checked-in firefighters from New Zealand at the Windsor International Hotel, just before our trip south. (She is a receptionist). The Courier-Mail have even published a bush-fire survival guide, and I think that would be a first. Marie finishes book ‘Three Gold Coins’ by Josephine Moon.
1 Lennox Head
2 Keeled surf boards
3 Bush fire sky
4 Dennis Hartley (far left) playing for Britain against Australia in Leeds in 1970.