The first time I heard mention of the Ipswich suburb of Goodna, was when other kids told me, that’s where you finish up, if you go crazy.
I was living at Murwillumbah, in the Tweed Valley of New South Wales at the time, and had no idea what they were talking about.
It was only after asking questions of my parents, Jon and Lola, that it was revealed to me that there was a mental asylum at Goodna.
The next time I heard about Goodna was when Australian rugby league forward, Noel Kelly talked about his days growing up in the ‘town’ on the Brisbane River. His dad, Michael, was a butcher by trade, and also a qualified nurse at the asylum.
Kelly said, that as a kid, you had to make your own fun, which was the case across the nation in the 1950s and ’60s. He recounted some of the pranks he and mates like Reggie O’Day, Joey Richardson and Jeff Bauer would get up to on a Sunday night, when “the only sound, apart from the lapping of the water (from the Brisbane River), would be the occasional forlorn cry from some poor soul up at the mental hospital, which dominated that sleepy Queensland town”.
In his book ‘Hard Man’, Kelly also recalled the visits of Tex Morton Rodeos, which set up on the riverbank. Tex Morton’s side-kick for some time, was my aunt, Dorothy Ricketts, who went under the stage name, ‘Sister Dorrie’. Tex and ‘Dorrie’ are recognised at Tamworth, for their contributions to Country and Western music. Tex was a Kiwi by birth, while Dorrie came from Victoria.
My first memories of visiting Goodna are of playing touch footy there, with a team called ‘The Pomeroos’, made up of Aussies and Poms, as the name implies, and wearing t-shirts half green and gold, and half white, with blue and red.
The t-shirts were designed by the daughter of ‘Courier-Mail’ rugby league writer, Lawrie Kavanagh. Some of her best work.
I also recall taking my wife, Marie and our three children, Melanie, Damien and Lliam there, to see the Jacaranda boulevard on the banks of the river. But after you have seen Grafton in full bloom, it is a little disappointing.
I think the next time I went there, was as a guest of Ted Bradley from the Goodna Rugby League club, and that led to invitations to several subsequent functions, once as a guest speaker. I stayed behind on one occasion, to watch Goodna play bitter rivals, Brothers in the Ipswich club competition, enjoying a drink in the can bar, with former Queensland five eighth, Wayne Carr.
The Goodna Rugby league club was formed in 1912 when local men, mainly farmers, coal miners, factory laborers and shift workers at the asylum, formed a committee, with the intention of breaking away from rugby union and playing the new brand of rugby.
There was a great sense of community at Goodna in those days and, to a large degree, it remains, despite major changes in the demographics of the district.
Goodna’s very first game was played on the ‘Asylum Field’, against Starlights. (Please. No jokes about the crowd going mad).
In 1975, the year I moved to Queensland to live, from northern New South Wales, Goodna were beaten 14-7 by Brothers in the grand final, with goal kicking centre, Len Chemello, the hero for Brothers.
Although Covid19 has played havoc with sport in 2020, Goodna has not given up the ghost, and the club is contesting what is known as ‘The Volunteers’ Cup’, involving teams from Ipswich (Goodna, Norths and West End); Toowoomba (Valleys, Souths) and the Lockyer Valley (Gatton).
Other combined competitions are being played across the State. In the Brisbane Second Division, for instance, Beerwah, from the Sunshine Coast League, which has gone into recess, have been allowed into one of the competitions, and Brisbane Brothers made the trip to the Glasshouse Mountains’ township last weekend.
FOOTNOTE: Former Test centre, Tony Currie recalls a trip to Townsville to speak at a Men of League Foundation lunch, alongside Noel Kelly and Ron Coote. That night they went to the Cowboys’ game at Dairy Farmers’ Stadium, which is on the western fringes of the city, many miles from the accommodation for the esteemed trio.
After the game it was impossible to get a cab, and there was no way Noel was hopping on one of the ‘drunks’ buses’.
“Noel was limping around outside the stadium, swearing and going on, when he spotted Wally Lewis heading for the car park with another bloke, after his Channel 9 commentary duties,” Currie recalls. “‘Ned’ turned to me and said, “‘TC’. You know that bastard don’t you? Ask him if we can get a lift?
“So I approached ‘The King’ (Lewis), and he said ‘jump in boys’
“I was sandwiched between Noel and Ron in the back of the car, and Wally says: How are you going back there ‘TC’? I said: “Great. Why I wouldn’t be. I’m sitting between two members of the Team of the Century, and I’m being driven by an Immortal.” (And, naturally Wally was also in the Team of the Century).
Tony Currie’s successful Morningside business is now part of the Tyrepower group, and I can vouch for the excellent service and work. Ray Hadley gave the business a mention on his radio show this week.
1 Goodna’s first rugby league team – 1912
2 Noel Kelly, playing for Wests in Sydney, chats with the ref
3 Noel Kelly the butcher, the same trade as his dad, Michael.
4 Noel playing for Ipswich against Brisbane at Lang Park.