DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 10 2020
Wake to Juventus v Inter Milan in front an empty stadium. A sign of things to come here in Australia, perhaps. Canada beat South Africa in Vancouver Sevens rugby union. Perhaps there are some potential recruits there for Toronto Wolfpack.
My wife, Marie’s boxing trainer, Trent Williamson plays rugby league for Brighton Roosters, and sports a black eye after the weekend’s game. Our eldest boy, Damien won an under-17 premiership with Brighton. Damien, his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan have arrived in London for a 90th, and a wedding, and stay at Queens Park.
Our youngest son, Lliam tries on a virus mask, the first in the family to do so.
The lads at Stafford Tavern’s ‘Table of Knowledge’, have lots of virus jokes. You know the ones – e.g. ‘John Travolta tested negative for coronavirus last night. Turns out it was just Saturday Night Fever’.
Watch Michael Portillo’s East Coast rail trip in Australia, finishing in Brisbane. He makes a pilgrimage to Ballymore, the dilapidated home of the Queensland Reds rugby union side, as if that is THE venue for Queensland sports fan. He features the Reds, not the legendary League Maroons. Lang Park is the foremost venue for either code of rugby union. But Michael, whose shows I enjoy, seems very much in love with the 15-man game. Either that, or he didn’t do his homework, about what makes Queenslanders tick. By the way Michael – Ballymore was once the home ground of Brothers Rugby League.
Our blueberries are from Hastings in New Zealand!
The funeral of former Australian rugby league player, Don ‘Bandy’ Adams is held at Scone, in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. Adams once coached Gloucester, a club I played against in 1975, when contracted to Wingham. He played five Tests for Australia in 1956-57, from the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers club.
Gold Coast Titans’ assistant coach, Jim Lenihan is interviewed on Radio TAB and speaks well. I interviewed Jim when he made his first grade debut for Ipswich Jets. From there he went to St George in Sydney, and Huddersfield in England. On FoxSports, Matty Johns and Paul Kent talk top English players in Sydney rugby league. Matt loves Raiders’ halfback, George Williams. My favorite Brits were: David Bolton (1960s); Mal Reilly (1970s); Ellery Hanley (1980s); Johnathan Davies (1990s); Adrian Morley (2000s); Sam Burgess (current period).
Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach says Wingham product, Mitch Barnett is in for a cracker of a season at Newcastle.
My wife, Marie and I book into Burleigh Surf Apartments at North Burleigh on the Gold Coast. There is an advertisement for Burleigh Bears Rugby League Club on the back of our room key. Walk to nearest look-out, and, on the beach below, surf club nippers are sprint training. Great to see. We dine at North Burleigh Surf Club. Blokes at Miami Pub love my Roosters polo. And why wouldn’t they.
In London, our eldest boy, Damien takes his daughter, Parker to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. ‘Do we get to see the Queen?” Parker asks. “No. It’s not allowed”, her dad says. “What if we ask nicely?’ says Parker. Damien has his first London Pride of the trip – at the Lamb and Flag.
Marie’s sister, Carolyn Soward has stopped volunteering at Lismore Base Hospital, because of virus fears.
Surf at North Burleigh, followed by spa at our unit complex. Joined by two ladies, one from Beenleigh and the other from New Mexico. Coffee from Caffeine Kings is excellent.
The NRL gets underway, with Parramatta defeating Canterbury 8-2 at Bank West Stadium in front of a crowd of a sold-out crowd. But they say 4,000 ticket holders stayed away, because of virus fears. The NBA is suspended because of the virus. Actor, Tom Hanks has the virus. Our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison makes a sombre address – not about Tom, but about the virus in general, and tough times ahead. He announces an economic stimulus package.
Australian jazz legend, Don Burrows, has died, aged 91. I saw him and his band at Rockdale Town Hall, Sydney in 1970 when I attended Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations, as school captain of Murwillumbah High.
Watch Super League match between Hull and Warrington with Anthony Gelling back for Warrington, after an off-field drama. Commentator, Terry O’Connor mentions Gavin (‘The Pinch’) Clinch, after a successful ball steal. Clinch, a Cronulla junior, who had a long career in England, must have been a noted ball thief. Hull sack coach, Lee Radford minutes after the 38-4 loss. Hull FC CEO, Adam Pearson tells a live television interview Radford has been sacked. At that stage, the players had not even been informed!
Marie and I have lunch upstairs at ‘Burleigh Pavilion’, overlooking the beach. An ‘up-herself’ lass asks if we are aware this an a-la-carte venue? I mean really, doesn’t she know who I am. Marie has calamari, I have braised lamb shoulder. Hygiene steps are not good. The virus is not happening on the Gold Coast, it seems.
Walk back to our apartment, via crowded Black Hops Brewery. The ale is excellent.
In France, the Toulouse rugby league and union clubs hold a joint training session. Nice to see, in a country where the two codes rarely mingle. The funeral for former Kiwi and Queensland Rugby League prop, Robert Orchard takes place today. (See ‘Vale Robert Orchard’, this website).
My wife, Marie’s close friend, Margaret Heisner is not ‘greeting’ at Brisbane Airport any more, because of the virus. Staff at Queensland Rugby League headquarters are told to work from home.
George Doniger is my interview subject for next Men of League magazine. I spend a delightful two hours with the former Brothers’ goal-kicking ace and prominent television commentator, at his local surf club, North Kirra, where he is a Life Member.
Marie and I have dinner at Burleigh’s Light Years Hotel, which is crowded with young people. No social distancing. The bloke beside us is a Maori, who played rugby league for Keebra Park High. While waiting for a table, we had drinks at a nearby Mexican restaurant, (‘Cartel’ beer) where we chatted to Men of League magazine editor, Neil Cadigan and his wife, who live nearby.
After his side’s 22-18 win over Cronulla, South Sydney coach, Wayne Bennett says they don’t build monuments to critics. Not totally correct, because there is a statue dedicated to former French rugby league writer, Andre Passamar, who I met when he covered France’s 1981 tour of Australia and New Zealand. I took Andre’ to The Journalists Club at Bowen Hills, for lunch. To be fair, the statue was primarily built to honor his period as mayor of a town, near Toulouse.
In France, Pont du Gard is shut, along with most other major monuments. Leeds Rugby League Club opt not to travel to Perpignan for their game against Catalans.
Pay $5.30 for a small double shot flat white at a cafe in James Street, Burleigh. The proprietor is a smart arse. But the coffee is good. It is so busy here at Burleigh, while in Brisbane, the Queen Street Mall is a ghost town. There are queues at one James Street shop, for some exotic fruit drink.
Marie and I watch Burleigh thrash Wynnum-Manly in a Round One Intrust Super Cup (Queensland Cup) match at Pizzey Park, Miami.
QRL director, Brad Tallon predicts there will be no crowds soon, and licensed premises will shut. How depressing. Also chat to Bears’ CEO, Damian Driscoll, a former first grade player with Gold Coast, who is worried about his staff, and what the future holds. It all seems so surreal, seeing as everything appears normal, here on the Coast, and the sun is shining. And the hamburgers from the canteen are sensational. Former Australian rugby league skipper, Laurie Daley admits he thought the virus was a joke. Halfback, Jamal Fogarty is in great form for Burleigh. The Bears claim the Adam Watene Memorial Trophy, named after the late Cook Islander, who played for the Bears, as well as Castleford, Bradford and Wakefield in England. Adam’s son makes the presentation.
Burleigh Bears’ stalwart, Jamie Dowling is playing for Currumbin, in the Gold Coast League.
They are washing footballs at Brookvale, before returning them to the field of play, in the Manly v Melbourne match. Seriously!
Our daughter, Melanie says Covid fears mean the wedding ceremony she and Greg Mariotto had planned for Koh Samui, has had to be postponed. So sad. My brother, Andrew is isolation in Vietnam, after a trip to Cambodia.
Marie’s cousin, Donna Geraghty from Bundaberg, is 70 today.
1 Nippers train at Burleigh
2 Sunset at North Burleigh Surf Club
3 The beach at Burleigh
4 Cheers at ‘The Pavilion’, says Marie Ricketts
5 George Doniger at North Kirra Surf Club
6 George Doniger (left) and ‘The Farmer’, Mick Veivers during their television commentary days
7 The scene at Pizzey Park, Miami for the Round 1 Queensland Cup match between Burleigh Bears and Wynnum-Manly.