DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 9 2020
Kenya belt Wales in Rugby Union Sevens. How can that be? The French Government limits crowds to 5,000 for sporting events, because of the Chinese flu. Sadly, that is not a problem for rugby league, with the exception of Catalans Dragons, and perhaps Toulouse Olympique.
Catalans beat Hull at Hull, with former Wallaby, Israel Folau’s leap crucial in James Maloney’s match winning try. The crowd is 12,000.
At Stafford Tavern, a visitor from Moura in Central Queensland, John Gannon, says the bowls club up there conducts a cow pooing competition as a fund raiser. Not sure how it works, but the mind boggles. A new barmaid’s name is Denim. I mention Marty Rhone’s song, ‘Denim and Lace’ and she has not heard of it – or Marty. Well, the song was a hit in 1975!
An international bridge competition is held on the Gold Coast, and is packed. No social distancing.
My Maitland mate, Greg Grainger sends photographs of the old Australian Hotel at Murwillumbah. I only drank there once or twice during my time at Murwillumbah. I recall one night, waking the publican, on behalf of a few Brothers’ teammates, to get a carton of beer from the cold room, for after-hours drinks!
I have delightful morning tea with a neighbour, Laurie Hickey; his sister, Margaret Ramsay (another neighbour) and Ross Moynihan, whose dad, Frank was a prominent rugby league referee, and then official. Ross loves the Grafton Races – so many bookmakers, at least, back in the good old days, there were.
Toowoomba rugby league product, Justin Murphy is coaching Toulon’s rugby league side, in France. Toulon is a rugby union stronghold.
Former Great Britain skipper and coach, Brian Noble has finished with the Toronto Wolfpack, citing difficulties with the owner, David Argyle. Noble says he is confident Toronto will be around for ‘a while’.
Australian Associated Press is to close in June. So sad. AAP have provided a wonderful news service for so many years, with the emphasis on news, not opinion, which, as we knew, everyone has.
My barber, Eric Pappas says the flamboyant Chris Elder was captain of Souths’ Opens in the 1980s, and was popular with the players because he had Sybils Night Club, in Adelaide Street, Chris was, a for a time, ‘The Mushroom’, the ‘stirrer’ at Brisbane Bullets’ basketball home games. Last time I saw him, he was working in a bottle shop at Kelvin Grove. I went to Sybil’s, once or twice.
There has been a rush on toilet paper, as people fear a lock down because of ‘the virus’. They have run out at the supermarket at Lutwyche. I remember our daughter, Melanie saying that toilet paper was the first thing to go from the shelves in Hong Kong, when there were fears of a previous pandemic.
News breaks that former Bronco, Carl Webb has motor neuron. The Men of League Foundation will assist. Carl, originally from Dalby, played colts with our eldest boy, Damien. Carl played for Australia in the Centenary Test against New Zealand at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2008, a match I covered for ‘The Courier-Mail’.
Broncos’ official season launch is held at Valley Music Hall. Chat to the likes of former Broncos’ CEO, Bruno Cullen; foundation sponsor, Bernie Power; former Crushers’ media man, Matthew Arthur, who now works for Bundaberg Rum; legendary Broncos’ trainer, Ken Rach (who is writing a book); former Broncos’ stars, Andrew Gee (a former football manager), Steve Renouf, Matt Gillette, Mick Hancock and Jack Reed and current player, Darius Boyd. Bruno Cullen mentions the courage of halfback, Peter Wallace when he played for the club. Steve Renouf mentions the night John Plath and I had a heated discussion, in Canberra, about the merits of Super League. Broncos’ assistant coach, Kurt Richards says to say hello to our eldest boy, Damien. Food is a bit scarce, so I adjourn to a nearby Japanese restaurant with Broncos’ media man, Trad McLean and Channel 7’s Chris Garry. Drinks at Royal George afterwards.
Ipswich Jets hold their launch at RAAF Base, Amberley.
The NRL’s ‘Simply the Best’ season promotion starts on television today. Australian rocker, Jimmy Barnes features in the FoxSports ads. Jimmy’s Australian roots are Adelaide, but he grew to love league during his time in the eastern states. I believe he once sponsored the Bilambil Jets in the Group 18 competition.
Former champion swimmer, Shane Kennedy, a friend of our family, speaks to the Nudgee College Swim Team.
One of our neighbours, former Broncos’ hooker, John Driscoll says Brothers are still alive in the bid for a new NRL licence in Brisbane. I think they are Buckley’s. The now defunct South Queensland Crushers once played on the fields on which our town house complex is built. Our son, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan stay at our place ahead of a flight to England for a 90th birthday and a wedding on Emma’s (nee Parker) side of the family. Damien and I watch former Townsville boy, Robert Lui star for Leeds in their win over Toronto in English Super League. Damien coached Robert at Townsville’s Kirwan High School.
The Courier-Mail’s Jim Tucker runs a nice piece in the paper about the Gold Coast/Northern Rivers history summary I wrote for the Gold Coast Titans, at the request of Mal Meninga.
Learn of the passing of Theo Burgess, one of rugby league’s first recruitment managers. I met him several times in my job.
Damien, Emma and the girls leave for the UK. Fingers crossed, given the Covid situation.
Rugby League ‘Immortal, Wally Lewis does a television funeral ad for George Hartnett. God, a bloke is getting old.
Elaine Margaret Thurgate (nee Weir), the mother of my wife’s sister-in-law, Jan Donnelly, has died aged 89. Elaine was a lovely, dignified lady, one of 13 children. She was born in Lismore and went to school at Eureka. Her late husband, Max, was heavily involved with Lower Clarence Rugby League at Maclean in Northern New South Wales, where he knew my grandfather, William Ricketts, from Wharf Street.
Roger Little from Wynnum gives the thumbs up to my Gold Coast/Northern Rivers History article, and mentions two Casino names I omitted – Bruce Olive and Ray Laurie. My later father-in-law, Kevin Donnelly was a great fan of Bruce’s. Roger plays golf with Murwillumbah Brothers’ legend, Gary Dobrich.
Italy has gone into lockdown. No toilet paper at Woolies, Paddington.
Big crowd at Wagga Wagga for Aussie rules match between Giants from Sydney and Richmond. It is a city divided between rugby league and Aussie rules, but I fear ‘cross country netball’ is winning the battle. Australian women demolish India in T20 cricket final. Well done, ladies.
I watch Third Test, Australia v Great Britain Rugby League, 1974. So good. But it was scary seeing Australian five eighth, Tim Pickup concussed and essentially being coerced into returning to the action, by trainer, Alf Richards.
1 AAP legend, Wayne ‘Ticker’ Heming (right) with (from left) Jacquelin Magnay, Karl De Kroo, Brent Read and Trad McLean
2 South Queensland Crushers 1995 squad
3 Media personalities, Ben Davis, Steve Ricketts and Pat Welsh with Broncos’ icon, Andrew Gee
4 Northern Rivers’ rugby league product, Steve Hage playing for Canterbury-Bankstown.