DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 11 2020
Some of the regulars at Stafford Tavern are sceptical about the ‘Chinese flu’, despite the fact non-essential workers have been told to work from home, and gatherings of more than 500 people have been canned. But one bloke is resigned to his European cruise not going ahead, and stands to lose $50,000.
Lots of cancellations (including table tennis people) at Windsor International Hotel, where my wife, Marie works, as a receptionist. Brisbane Table Tennis HQ is nearby. Empty shelves at Chemist Warehouse, over the road from the hotel.
NRL boss, Peter V’landys makes an inspirational speech about the future of the game, given the consequences of sport being called off because of the virus, and that looks like being the case. FoxSports’ reporter, James Hooper rates the speech ‘first class’, while veteran News Ltd journalist, Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield rates V’landy’s potentially the best chairman, since the great Ken ‘Arko’ Arthurson.
The AFL announce that their season has been cut back to 17 weeks.
It was 35 years ago today that Canterbury rugby league hooker, Mark Bugden broke the jaw of Cronulla’s legendary centre, Steve Rogers at Belmore Oval in a Round 1 clash. It was an off-the-ball incident, which escaped the notice of referee, Kevin ‘Bilko’ Roberts, and the touch judges. I covered the match for the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’. I was primarily in Sydney to cover the Sheffield Shield Cricket Final between Queensland and New South Wales at the SCG, but as the Telegraph did not publish on Saturday or Sunday, I ‘snuck off’ to the football (my first love). I can say, in all honesty, that I saw the Bugden hit. It was an occasion when I didn’t follow the ball. I put my hand up to the fact that I did not see Terry Lamb’s late hit on English star, Ellery Hanley in the 1988 grand final, a match I covered for ‘The Courier-Mail’.
In Singapore, our daughter, Melanie says things have gone into shut-down mode. There is talk of Qantas shutting down all international flights. In England, our son, Damien and wife, Emma take their two little daughters, Parker and Evan, to Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.
Top News Ltd columnist, Mike Colman takes a redundancy package. Mike, a devoted North Sydney rugby league fan, has been a journalist for 40 odd years, working on ‘The Australian’, ‘The Sun’ (England), the North Shore Times (Sydney), Sydney Sun, Sydney Telegraph and ‘The Courier-Mail’. He has written a number of books, including ‘Fatty – The strife and Times of Paul Vautin’; ‘Over to you Blocker’ and ‘Super League. The Inside Story’.
Borders are closing, as ‘the virus’ situation worsens. Super League in England is postponed.
My wife, Marie’s first cousin, Michael Vidler has been 54 years at a tyre business at Casino, in northern New South Wales.
Our daughter-in-law, Channelle’s brother, Jack is to come home from Canada, where he has been working at Whistler Resort. Up to 75 percent of bookings at Whistler have been cancelled.
Noted rugby league historian/author, Roger Grime from St Helens in England, has released his latest book, ‘Stormy Sixties’, about the French Rugby League team’s Test match endeavours in that decade. They played 50 Tests in those 10 years, winning 21; drawing four and losing 25. The highlights were home series wins over the Kiwis in 1965 and the Kangaroos in 1967-68; a World Cup final berth in Sydney in 1968, and Jean Galia Cup Tri-series win in 1969 (the other countries were Wales and England).
Our car has its scheduled service at Subaru, Newstead. I woke at 5 a.m., but thought it was 6, for some reason. I couldn’t get over how quiet the roads were, driving from our place at Grange, and put it down to ‘the virus’. But when I got to Subaru, it was still an hour until opening time.
There is a ban on gatherings, over 100, indoors. The restaurant at Stafford Tavern is to close.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison gives an address to the nation at 9 a.m. A biosecurity emergency has been declared. At Zone Fresh supermarket, Windsor, virtually all the packaged meat has gone.
Our son, Lliam is preparing for staff at his Supply Partners business at Seventeen Mile Rocks, to work from home.
I have dental appointment with Trent Dunlop at Newmarket, who says there have been cancellations, but the slack has been taken up by those working from home, who now feel it is time to have their teeth checked. Security on hand at the supermarket to ensure only the elderly get-in for early shopping. They turn away several young blokes.
I was to interview Queensland State of Origin icon, Billy Moore at a Men of League Foundation function at Mooloolaba tonight, but local committee chairman, Don Oxenham confirms it has been called off. Former Rugby League Week editor, Tony Durkin is the usual MC, but he is taking a step back after 13 years of devotion to the MOL cause. He has been rewarded with Life Membership.
It is weird watching the NRL, played in an empty stadium. (No Roosters jokes, please).
Greg Inglis, Johathan Thurston and Matt Scott are my interview subjects at Rosalie Theatre, on behalf of the Queensland Rugby League, the final instalment of their 40 Years of Origin film project. ‘JT’ (Thurston) says it is a good thing I am not on camera. Thanks mate. All three men talk about what might have been if Jharal Yow Yeh’s career had not been cut short by a sickening injury in Perth, when he was playing for Broncos against Souths. The QRL’s Caitlan Devin has fractured her arm, playing rugby league. Inglis heads to Noosa after the filming, leaving his wallet behind, but theatre staff save the day.
Australia’s borders have been closed to non-residents.
My wife, Marie has to take a meal to a guest at Windsor International Hotel. The woman is isolated in her room, because of the virus. Lettuce has hit $10. We don’t have any! A lot of scary stories are emerging, and a total lockdown seems inevitable. Local plumber says to me we should all be wearing face masks.
The Roosters v Manly match is the first between the two clubs, at Leichhardt Oval, since the Amco Cup days in the 1970s. Hardy fans watch from scaffolding outside the ground. There is an attendant in the scoreboard. Lots of passion displayed in the Sharks v Storm match at Kogarah, despite the absence of fans.
When I walk up Uxbridge Street, to get the newspaper, there is a Kenny Rogers’ song playing loudly from a residence, where the ‘owner’ has boats. Kenny died yesterday. A caller tells ABC’s Ian McNamara that he is taking a whaler (horse) from Bathurst in New South Wales to Gatton in Queensland, to be serviced. The Anglican Bishop of Tasmania says (religious) services will go on-line for the time being. The AFL postpone for two months, at least.
Learn of the passing of Jan Rose Edwards, 80, a former Librarian at Queensland Newspapers. Librarians are a thing of the past at QN.
1 Mark Bugden’s tackle on Steve Rogers at Belmore in 1985
2 Scene from France v New Zealand Test, Marseilles, 1965. Kiwi, Maunga Emery (Auckland) shapes up to Henri Marracq (St Gaudens)
3 Steve Ricketts and Ken Arthurson
4 Tony Durkin and his wife, Angela
5 Matt Scott, Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis are filmed by the QRL’s Bill Scurfield at Rosalie Theatre.