DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 49 2019
On assignment for Rugby League History Committee at St George in South West Queensland, with QRL Government Relations Manager, Arthur Eustace-Earle and Human Resources chief, Darren Schooth. The prime purpose of the visit is to, hopefully, facilitate a suitable home for the historic collection currently under the care of local ‘Mr Rugby League’, John Barrett, a former ARL and QRL director and Australian team manager. Arthur, Darren and myself are staying at the Australian Hotel. Our waitress at breakfast is from Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, England.
John’s collection is housed in an air-conditioned shipping container at the local footy grounds, Rowden Park. We are joined by St George Rugby League secretary, Majella Morris. After lunch, Arthur, Darren and I meet with Balonne Shire Council, including Mayor, Richard Marsh, who has the local newsagency and is a former head of the Queensland Stock Exchange. Another councillor, Ian Todd went to school in Toowoomba with my fellow History Committee member, Steve Haddan. Ian is what I would call an Aussie of the old school, a bloke with class. Fellow councillor, Robyn Fuhrmeister is a friend of Dr Sarah Casey, a sister of our neighbour, Madonna.
Rump steak at ‘The Australian’ for dinner. A former publican is Steve Lean, who played front row for Brisbane Brothers.
In New Zealand the ‘White Island’ volcano, erupts with tourists there on a day trip. That trip was an option, when my wife and I went on a cruise around New Zealand in 2014. We were docked in Tauranga, but opted for a drive to Rotorua.
Drive to Thallon, to see the silos which were painted by Brisbane artists, Joel Fergie and Travis Vinson. Lunch stop at Nindigully Pub, where a television ad for Iron Jack beer was filmed.
The Moonee River has hardly any water. Barman, surname Horsfall, played league with and against former Australian reps, Darren and Jason Smith, and big Mark Tookey, a league cult hero. While we are there, a bloke asks for a stubby holder. ‘Swearing or non-swearing?’ says Horsfall. Got to love the west. Great pub, but the beer could have been colder. Ice cream stop at Surat, then into Roma where Arthur and Darren meet with Royal Hotel publican, Josh Garvie, who gives the run-down on local junior league dramas. He is a go-getter. His uncle is former Queensland rep., Chris Anderson, not to be confused with the Canterbury-Bankstown Chris Anderson, who played for, and coached Australia. The Queensland Anderson played for Redcliffe, but came from Wollongong.
Roma is the end of my trip, as I have to be back in Brisbane. I fly from Roma, from where Darren and Arthur are to continue their road trip tomorrow.
Former Queensland State of Origin forwards, Wally Fullerton Smith and Gavin Allen are my interview subjects at Men of League Foundation Christmas lunch at Broncos Leagues. Gavin, who hasn’t done public speaking engagements, is a natural. Wally tells funny yarns about his former Leeds’ (England) coach, the late Maurice Bamford. Also comments on how weird the dressing rooms are these days – prayer groups, shaved bodies, showering in undies/tights, no beer. Extremely Weird. No Beer!!! Gavin, who is part of the Qld Origin management staff, says there are only 30 players in the NRL eligible for Queensland. The rest are eligible for New South Wales, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands and England. Bit of a worry. Might have to drag blokes out of the Qld Cup. Comes back to my repeated claims that weight discrepancies in our game are turning away prospective athletes, who choose to play sports like soccer and Aussie rules, which are based more on running, and minimal physical contact. You might say, they are not suited to rugby league anyway. Rubbish. There are plenty of potential league stars who have been bashed out of the game before they could mature.
Former Australian rugby league centre, Harry ‘Dealer’ Wells has had to be evacuated from his Telegraph Point (North Coast of New South Wales) property twice, because of bush fires. In England, former Australian coach, Tim Sheens is to coach Widnes in Cheshire. Hopefully Tim will get them back in the top flight. Widnes are ‘my’ English club.
The Ipswich Jets and Newcastle Knights have forged a partnership, which makes sense, given their shared coal mining and RAAF Heritage.
Former Test halfback, Tom Raudonikis, a former Ipswich Jets’ coach, is advertising a Kangaroo Supporters’ tour for next year. Tom has battled ill health, but nothing is going to keep him down.
FoxSport show highlights from 1968 Easts Roosters v South Sydney match, in which former Murwillumbah Brothers’ fullback, Cliff Boyd is playing. Easts’ forward, Kevin Ashley kicks an amazing 50 plus metres field goal.
Learn of the passing of former New Zealand Olympic triple Gold Medal winner, Peter Snell, aged 80. One of the great middle-distance runners.
On a footpath near our residence, a young lad says to his dad: ‘Shut up. It’s not my fault, dickhead’, as the dad rides off with a toddler on the back of his bike. Dad!! Come back and….!!
‘Macca’ (Ian McNamara) on the ABC, fields a lovely call from the wife of a dairy farmer from an area to the north of Toowoomba. The wife says a lovely couple from Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast brought them a Christmas hamper. A lass from Germany phones. An anaesthetist, she has made Australia home, but says a lot of recent arrivals do not want to integrate.
NITV show matches from the Koori rugby league carnival on the NSW Central Coast. I watch part of Maitland v Narrandera match. Players of all shapes and sizes, which is good to see.
Learn of the passing of Brisbane Brothers’ rugby league stalwart, Paul ‘Stretch’ Gorman, aged 67. Also learn of the passing of former Wynnum-Manly forward, Bill Greenhill, who played Bulimba Cup (inter-city) football for Brisbane.
‘The Sunday-Mail’ carry a lovely story about Queensland’s unofficial ‘Poet Laureate’, Rupert McCall and his friendship with New York fireman, Liam Flaherty.
1 St George’s Mr Rugby League, John Barrett and his collection
2 More of John Barrett’s collection
3 St George cheer leaders
4 Thallon’s silos
5 The Moonee River
6 Nindigully pub
7 Nindigully Pub
9 A sight not be seen in today’s rugby league dressing rooms