DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 14 2020
Former Socceroo, Mark Viduka has some damning things to say about our national team, going back a few years, and in particular has a shot at former skipper, Lucas Neil. I met Viduka during the 2000 Rugby League World Cup in Europe, when the Australian team visited Leeds United’s training base. I organised a photograph of Australian forward, Gorden Tallis with Viduka, who was Leeds’ ‘man of the moment’, given he had scored five goals in his previous two matches. Viduka won over the Kangaroos, with his sense of humour and enthusiasm, telling the Chris Anderson coached team he had unsuccessfully tried to get a bet on with his teammates, that Australia would win the tournament.
On Radio TAB, Peter Psaltis and Paul Sawtell talk about best sporting weekends away. As a paying fan, my most memorable weekend away was to the Sydney Grand final in 1971, when I had just turned 19. As a reporter, the 1985 Trans-Tasman rugby double in Auckland takes some beating. On the Saturday I covered the Bledisloe Cup rugby union match at Eden Park, and on the Sunday the league Test at Carlaw Park. Peter says he knows people who went on all four Kangaroo tours of Britain and France between 1982 and 1994, and says that I might have taken a couple of supporters’ tours. CORRECT. I covered the ’82 and ’86 tours for the ‘Telegraph’, and led supporters’ tours in 1990 and ’94.
Former Wallaby skipper, Nick Farr-Jones says rugby in Australia in 2020, is ‘un-bankable’. Farr-Jones says that fans who were previously rusted on, have no interest now.
My wife, Marie and I try to watch at least one movie a day, given we have Fox movies free for three months, as we all experience lock-down. Today’s movie of choice, ‘Swimming with Men’, is just OK. Also watch three-part series, ‘A Very English Scandal’. It is excellent
My brother, Jeffery and his wife, Ann have been stand-up paddle boarding on the Tweed River and have spotted lots of sting rays.
Zach Robba, a former student of Iona College at Lindum, on Brisbane’s southern bayside, has been taken by a shark, off Gladstone in Central Queensland. My brother, Andrew, who taught at Iona, knew the family.
The Ekka (Royal Brisbane Show) has been cancelled.
There are lots of teddy bears in the front windows, and on the landings of houses around our suburb, and all over Brisbane, I assume. ‘Happiness boosters’ for kids, during Covid. Our sons, Damien and Lliam swap ideas to keep kids busy. It is so quiet in Uxbridge Street. I see only one cyclist, on my way to the corner store. Normally they are whizzing by with great regularity. Singapore goes into lockdown until May 7.
On FoxSports, New South Wales’ coach, Brad Fittler says we should pick Tongans for State of Origin. Queensland coach, Kevin Walters disagrees. Thank heavens for that. It is New South Wales v Queensland, and if we cannot get enough quality players who are ‘true blue’ New South Welshmen and Queenslanders, call the whole thing off.
Actress, Honor Blackman dies, aged 94. She was Pussy Galore in James Bond movie, Goldfinger.
An article I wrote for Men of League magazine, about former Brothers’ and Queensland rugby league forward, Len Dittmar, is to be run in the Mooloolaba Surf Club magazine. Len, a Life Member of Mooloolaba, was a fine swim competitor in the surf, and then in boats. Sue Hoban, a former journalist with the Sydney Telegraph, Financial Review and Manly (Sydney) Daily, asked for permission to reprint the article. She now lives at Toowong, in Brisbane’s west. Former Australian forward, David Wright, a great mate of Len’s, sends out a Corona poem, ‘Advance Australia Care’.
Former Broncos’ performance director, Jeremy Hickmans now has that role with Netball Australia.
My wife, Marie does a tidy, and is surprised at how many squash trophies she has won. Our eldest boy, Damien reckons he and his sister, Melanie and brother, Lliam should have got trophies for being late night, raffle ticket sellers, at various squash centres.
Movie – latest version of ‘A Star is Born’. Quite good.
Wuhan in China, has (allegedly) lifted its lockdown.
Take delivery of new (Sony) television. The parents of one of the technicians (surname Milsom) live at Ballina. The technician’s dad called ‘the greyhounds’, for a radio station at Dubbo. My former Courier-Mail colleague’ Karl De Kroo’s father, Leo worked at the station at the same time, as a breakfast announcer. Leo was one half of the De Kroo Brothers singing duo, back in the 1960s.
Eighty people are allowed to a funeral, at Mackay, for a prominent indigenous person. Elsewhere, congregations are restricted to 10. And we are told the indigenous community are more susceptible to the virus, than the community at large. Stradbroke Island is free of Corona (certainly not the beer) and many over there want visitors banned.
Bundaberg boy, Pat Welsh has been 45 years at Channel 7. I appeared on SportScene with Pat, back in 1982-83. Former Queensland Origin player, Chris Flannery, who is now CEO of the Sunshine Coast Falcons, blasts the ‘bloated pay scales’ at the top of the game’s administration.
My wife, Marie walks to the top of Constitution Hill, which she describes as ‘crow central’. There are lots of crows in urban areas because of the easy pickings, with people leaving food scraps on the ground, or overloading their garbage bins. Marie watches remake of ‘Storm Boy’, after lunch. Not as good as the original, she says.
There are reports a former Brisbane Rothmans Rugby League Gold Medal winner has his medal up for sale, for $3,000. He has fallen on hard times. So sad.
ABC North Queensland Grandstand host, Grant Bell interviews me about sport and travel. Grant, a Newcastle boy, was coach of New South Wales under-19s in 1987. He was the North Queensland Cowboys’ foundation coach, after being an assistant to Wally Lewis at Gold Coast Seagulls. Grant has been a regional manager for Queensland Corrective Services for nine years. He interviewed 1982 Commonwealth Games 400 metres hurdles Gold Medal winner, Garry Brown, before it was my turn.
Chat to former Murwillumbah High School classmate, Rod Jenkins. Rod reminds me he won a reserve grade rugby league premiership with my old club, Murwillumbah Brothers in 1977. I think of Rod primarily as a hockey player and cricketer, but he was a handy football. He captained South/Arm Burringbar cricket for 20 years, and most recently has been coach of the Australian Over-40s, Indoor Cricket side. He has been to five World Cups with our national side. Birmingham (England) was the best, he says.
Our daughter, Melanie Mariotto and husband, Greg do an on-line quiz, with three other couples, to entertain themselves during lockdown in Singapore. I am sent a video of a little kid saying ‘fuckin’ Chinese’, mimicking something his parents no doubt say, as a result of this horrible virus from Wuhan. Not me, of course.
(EASTER) SUNDAY, APRIL 12
Watch a little of the Pope’s Easter Sunday Mass. No congregation. Vatican authorities might have made an exception if there was a visiting indigenous group from Mackay. North Stradbroke is quiet for Easter. The locals should be delighted. I know, I’m a sarcastic bastard.
On FoxSports, Gorden Tallis recalls tough, former Queensland forward, Will Tarry, who played for Cessnock in the Newcastle competition. Tarry played one game for Queensland, in 1980, when he was playing at Emerald. FoxSports’ Bryan Fletcher says the Vietnamese community at Cabramatta ‘love (the) Chooks’. I think he means they love the Sydney Roosters! Rugby League Immortal, Johnny Raper is 81 today. The first time I saw Raper play was the Second Test between Australia and New Zealand at Lang Park, Brisbane on July 1, 1967. He scored a try in Australia’s series clinching 35-22 win over the Kiwis. Reg Gasnier captained Australia, while Roger Bailey led the Kiwis. I interviewed Raper a number of times, mainly in his role as a New South Wales and/or Australian selector.
Movie – Mary Queen of Scots. Not bad.
1 Gorden Tallis (left) and Mark Viduka in Leeds in 2000. Photo, Andrew Varley.
2 Bledisloe Test, Eden Park, Auckland, 1985
3 Teddy Bears at Grange
4 Marie Ricketts with some of her squash trophies
5 Rod Jenkins (second from left, middle row) in Murwillumbah High School’s nine stone seven rugby league side
6 The 1967 Australian Rugby League side.