DIARY OF RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 5 2019
Englishman, Shaun Wane succeeds Australian, Wayne Bennett as coach of the Great Britain Rugby League side. It is wonderful to see a Pom back in charge, not that I have anything against Bennett. I met Shaun once or twice, in England and Australia, most notably at the Crown Plaza, Coogee Beach when he was here on a recruiting drive for Wigan. Shaun, a Wigan lad, played one Test for Britain – against France in Avignon in 1986, a match which finished in a 10-10 draw. I am told the playing areas of rugby league fields in the UK have been modified for health and safety reasons, with the touch lines and in-goal areas at many stadiums presenting a real danger for the players, who risk crashing into fences or walls, particularly in the act of following an in-goal kick. In the French Elite One competition, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, the club I support, beat St Esteve 34-30 at Villeneuve, a town which has produced many fine footballers. I recall my father, Jon, talking about Paul Bartoletti, one of the stars of the great French side of the early 1950s. The skilful prop started his senior career at Villeneuve, before switching to Bordeaux. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre, with citation, for his war service, so nothing on the footy field was going to worry him.
Ipswich Jets’ coach, Kieron Lander is a guest of Newcastle Knights, during their pre-season. Kieron was an inspirational figure as a player for the Jets, and I’m sure he will have the same effect as a coach. My fellow league historian, Greg Mallory is researching the old ‘Shiftworkers’ competition.
Mark and Jenny Conway, friends of ours from Newcastle, love cruising, and today they are heading somewhere on the Ruby Princess.
A Brisbane train driver tells me the Park Road to Beenleigh stretch is the worst for bad behaviour among passengers in south east Queensland.
Alan Jones, aged 101, has bought a season ticket for St Helens’ 2020 rugby league campaign.
Former Cronulla, Gold Coast and St Helens’ prop, Luke Douglas has been appointed captain-coach of Ballina Seagulls, in the Northern Rivers (New South Wales League) replacing former St Helens’ star, Jamie Lyon.
Former Army dentist, Pat Jackman has written his biography. He is the uncle of award-winning journalist, Christine Jackman. Pat’s brother, Kevin once wrote a letter to Sir Donald Bradman, after Bradman said wicket keeper, Wally Grout was too long in the tooth to be picked for Australia, and ‘The Don’ responded. Not sure what he wrote.
My good mate from Maitland, Greg Grainger, sends photographs of Oak Avenue in the Tweed Valley. This stretch of the Pacific Highway looked great from the air, but, on the ground, it was unforgiving for motorists, if they happened to stray from the concrete surface. I remember going to Fingal, in a car driven by Murwillumbah Old Boys’ winger, Glen Stewart, with the trees whizzing by, as Glen hit high speed. His girlfriend, Wendy Wise was in the front seat. I was in the back with Wendy’s younger sister, Kay, and was very relaxed about it all. As teenagers you think nothing bad will happen to you. Ultimately the trees came down, for safety reasons, and now there are just sugar cane fields on either side of what is a four lane stretch of road.
My wife, Marie and I watch BBC movie, Torvill and Dean. Barmaid at Stafford Tavern has never heard of the ice-skating legends. ‘Last Man Standing’ lager is available at Stafford Tavern. It is brewed by Australia’s own Olympic ice-skating gold medal winner, Steve Bradbury. Pub patron, Peter Skerman recalls a huge fight in the bar under the Frank Burke Stand at Lang Park, over darts.
Brisbane Wests’ rugby league identity, Adrian Coolwell is in Alice Springs for the Indigenous Cricket Carnival. Adrian was a first grade cricketer with the Valley club.
Former Great Britain fullback, Paul Charlton, who lives in Australia, is presented with a heritage certificate by Salford. Charlton was a member of Great Britain’s 1972 World Cup winning outfit. Paul’s son, Gary, who coaches Whitehaven in England, had a stint with Gold Coast Giants in 1988.
1968 Rock classic, ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’, by Jeff Beck, belts out over the PA system at Halliwell Jones Stadium, after home side, Warrington beat St Helens 19-0 in English Super League.
I chair a meeting of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee at League HQ, Milton. There are lots of meetings taking place, with former chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission, John Grant one of those walking the halls of power. After our meeting, foundation committee member, John McCoy is guest of honor at a lunch at the Story Bridge Hotel, hosted by former Radio TAB workmates, after John announced his retirement from broadcasting.
Marie and I to Grange Bowls for drinks, with dinner coming from a food van. So many young couples and their children are in attendance, and it is wonderful to see this community asset being utilised. At a table near us, Grange Thistle soccer people talk coaching and merchandising matters, ahead of the 2020 season.
Former Australian rugby league coach, Frank Stanton turns 80. The first time I saw Frank play was for Manly in the mid-1960s, in a televised match with Rex Mossop as the commentator. The first time I interviewed Frank was ahead of the Australia v France Second Test at Lang Park in 1981. The following year I covered the Kangaroo tour of Britain and France, with Frank the coach.
Watch last 25 minutes of the Hull rugby league derby between FC and Rovers. Good stuff. Former Australian halfback, Peter Sterling, who had a stint with Hull FC in 1984-85, watches the action from the stands, seated alongside former Great Britain forward, Lee Crooks, another Hull legend.
Ahead of the match against Toronto Wolfpack, Salford acknowledge some of their former champions, including Pat Tunney, from Killasser in County Mayo, the first Irishman to play an international rugby league match. He represented England – in a match against ‘Other Nationalities’ at Wigan on April 5, 1904, in the first league international. Family members are presented with Tunney’s certificate. Other former players to be recognised are Maurice Richards, Stewart Williams, Chris McGreal and Alan Grice. I saw the elegant Richards, a dual rugby international, play for Salford against Widnes at Naughton Park, Widnes in 1977.
Marie and I walk around Paddington, having one drink at Kettle & Tin – American Pale Ale and Broome Alcoholic Lemonade (Marie). The Brisbane Broncos’ Fan Day at nearby Suncorp Stadium, is well attended, and there are high hopes for the Anthony Siebold coached team.
Our eldest boy, Damien gets a mention in the Ayr Advocate as a local sporting star. Damien had a season with Ayr Roosters rugby league and was leading points scorer.
I telephone close friend, Taree based Brian Atherton to wish him a happy 71st birthday. Brian is a former Widnes (England) rugby league player.
Learn of the passing of American actor, Robert Conrad. He was so smooth.
Fraser Island Cod for dinner.
A lady phones the ABC’s ‘Macca’ (Ian McNamara) on her way to the School of the Air at Broken Hill. My brother, Jeffrey worked at the School of the Air in the 1970s, looking after isolated students. A lady from Western Australia says the hay from that state is the best in the country. What makes the grass grow in Texas? ‘The bullshit, the bullshit’.
Hear that the song ‘Rain’, was written by John Lennon from ‘The Beatles’ in 1966, after he heard Sydney people complain about the weather. I first heard the song one rainy day at Nobby’s Creek in the Tweed Valley, when I was staying with good mate, Andrew Clarke and his family. There has been lots of rain in Brisbane of late, with minor flooding at Kedron Brook, near our residence at Grange.
The Yorkshire Post carries a story about rugby league in Batley, West Yorkshire, and what it says about Brexit. Written by John Morgan, the article says that in many towns across the north of England, people find solace in watching rugby league, a sport that reflects the rebellious nature of British politics.
SBS has a special about Australia ‘Through the Ages’. It is generally very good, but, not unexpectedly, given it is SBS, there is some sarcasm about Anglo-Celtic Australians and the way they built this country.
1 Paul Bartoletti attacks for France against Other Nationalities in Hull in 1951. Pat Devery makes the tackle, while fellow Australian, Brian Bevan braces for impact
3 Jeff Ricketts and his wife, Ann with Marie Ricketts
4 Kedron Brook, Grange