DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 16 2020
Legendary Brothers’ rugby league strapper, Jimmy Johnson, 84, is in St Andrews Hospital, Brisbane, after having a second leg amputation. He lost the first limb as a young man, in a motor bike accident. The second one has had to come off, as the result of an infection received during a fishing trip to the north of Brisbane. Jimmy is in a wheel chair when I speak to him over the phone, but he continues to have a positive outlook on life. One of his sons is ‘stuck in the Middle East’ (where he works as a green keeper) by Covid.
Todd Greenberg quits as CEO of the National Rugby League. Former ARL supremo, Ken Arthurson expresses his surprise at the high staff levels at NRL HQ. There is widespread speculation about who will replace Greenberg, with Shane Richardson and Don Furner Jnr’s names thrown up.
Dr Betty Lee, my late mother’s GP, has written a book – ‘Right Man, Right Place, Worst Time’ – about her uncle, Commander Eric Feldt, who was in charge of the ‘Coast Watchers’ to Australia’s north, during World War II.
My wife, Marie orders seeds from Uralla in New South Wales, to plant in the community garden here at our Hermitage Gardens Estate at Grange, in Brisbane’s inner north.
Marie and I walk to the top of Constitution Hill, Wilston, where the view is affected by a burn-off on Army land at Enoggera. The Hand of Ulster flag flies from a house, which seems to have a flag for every occasion.
Aldwin Tong, a former workmate at Queensland Newspapers, wants my views on the best players and coaches to emerge from the Wests Mitchelton Rugby League Club. Aldwin was a decent first grader with Wests.
Learn of the passing of Murwillumbah Brothers’ stalwart, Paul ‘Bomber’ Reynolds, one of nature’s gentlemen. Tweed Daily News’ league writer, Tom Hogan, in ’50 years of Rugby League on the Tweed’ (published in 1964) wrote: ‘Players who emerged as improved footballers in the six years of Brothers’ existence are: Ron Saddler (NSW Country representative), Cliff Boyd (Sydney Eastern Suburbs), Ted Conlon, Terry Twohill, Brian Lazenby, Kevin Dawson, Arthur Brookes, Peter Smith, Tom Butcher, Paul Reynolds and Brian Leslight.
On FoxSports, there is a story about former Test halfback, Tom Raudonikis telling former Wallaby, Russell Fairfax he was going to kill him, in the first game in which they met. ‘Fairy’ Fairfax lived to tell the tale, just. FoxSports commentator, Braith Anasta says Roosters’ coach, Trent Robinson really appreciates the history of the game. How refreshing.
Beautiful Stradbroke Island prawns (bought at Rufus King, Ashgrove) for lunch. We had had Central Queensland sweet-lip the previous night, and a nice young bloke at Rufus King had cut the fillets to my liking.
I interview former Wynnum-Manly halfback, Terry Saunders for this website, who works as a fly-in fly-out miner in Central Queensland. Terry was chosen for the Queensland State of Origin side in 1981, but was ruled out through injury.
There is a nostalgia piece about Corona (cars) in The Courier-Mail motoring section. We had a Corona for many years, but it thought it was a four-wheel-drive!!
My wife, Marie makes ANZAC biscuits.
Marie and I, and most of our neighbours, pay respects to the Anzacs, with a driveway vigil, spoilt only by the sound of barking dogs. It is an Anzac Day like no other, and all because of the…..(Don’t go there Steve). The RSL called on the nation to participate in its ‘Light up the Dawn’ service. Our son-in-law, Greg Mariotto, (ex-Navy), has a Tiger beer at dawn, in Singapore. Greg Grainger, a former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate of mine, sends photos of his late father-in-law, Pat Dowling, during his World War II service. Pat was a fine rugby league player, and his son, John played State of Origin for Queensland.
Jimmy Johnson died at 4.25 a.m. Former Brothers’ skipper, Trevor Bailey alerted me to the sad news.
On Channel 9, Peter Fitzsimons mentions the (pro-Nazi) Vichy Government’s seizure of rugby league’s assets in France in World War II. Amazing on several fronts, given former Wallaby, ‘Fitzy’s disdain for all things league. Also amazing that he acknowledges that league exists in France.
ABC’s ‘Landline’ carries a story about Jean Berthe, who, as a child, was ‘adopted’ by Australian soldiers in France in World War 1, and brought back to Australia. Landline also covers the story of soldier/settlers, many of whom farmed, with varying degrees of success, on Queensland’s Granite Belt.
A farm machinery owner from Yatala in Queensland, phones Macca (ABC) suggesting that people should pick up one piece of rubbish a day. I have been doing that for 30 years, but I’m not doing it now, not with Covid.
Movies that Marie and I have watched this week include: Spectre, The Front Runner, Ride Like a Girl and Long Tan, the latter on Anzac Day. Thumbs up to all of them.
Marie also watched Eddie the Eagle and Muriel’s Wedding. We gave up on Elizabethtown.
1 Paul ‘Bomber’ Reynolds (left) and his wife, Madeleine. Also in the photo is former star fullback with Brothers and Wests (Lismore), Ken Boyd and his wife, Jan
2Russell Fairfax in action for the Roosters against Souths in 1975
3 Terry Saunders
4 Marie Ricketts makes ANZAC biscuits
5 Murwillumbah’s Pat Dowling.