DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 19 2020
The bushland around Enoggera Dam in Brisbane’s west is the destination for my wife, Marie and I today, as we make the most of the easing of Covid restrictions. In France, people return to work. Our eldest son, Damien, deputy principal of East Ayr Primary, is worried that prep. kids will be upset returning to school after six weeks at home. It will be just like starting over again.
Red emperor for dinner is just about the best fish I have ever tasted. Bought it at Rufus, Ashgrove.
Australian Radio broadcaster, Alan Jones announces he will finish on 2GB/4BC and associated stations at the end of the month, to be succeeded by Ben Fordham in Sydney, and my former Courier-Mail sports editor, Neil Breen in Brisbane. Jones especially thanks John Brennan, for the role he played in convincing him that he was a natural for talk-back radio. ‘Brenno’ and I shared a car with Geoff ‘Pinkie’ Prenter, when we covered the 1982 Kangaroo tour in Britain. I first saw Jones, in the flesh, in 1985 when he was guest speaker at the New Zealand Sports Journalists’ annual dinner at North Harbour. I recall the ‘journos’ being miffed at the fact Jones was quite critical of the profession.
English author, Roger Grime’s book ‘Stormy Sixties’, about the French rugby league team’s fortunes in that decade, arrives in the post today. I helped Roger with some of the information about their visits to Australia in 1960, ’64 and ’68. Harry Edgar, former editor of Open Rugby magazine, has told all 25 copies sent to him by Roger.
I cook dinner – Spanish mackerel from Fraser Island. It is so good.
Nicola Hoffman phones about her grandfather, C M Robinson and a 1922 BRL Gold Medal that has been found among his belongings. Our QRL History Committee will go to work on the case.
Marie and I bush walk at Mt Gravatt, on Brisbane’s south side. Students from Mt Gravatt High, hoon up and down the road in their cars
It is four years since the passing of former Kangaroo centre, Ron Saddler, who was my hero when I was a kid at Murwillumbah and he was playing for Brothers.
My youngest brother, Stewart is 55 today. He was born at Murwillumbah, did his early schooling at Mt St Patrick, and then at Marist Brothers’ Lismore, before completing his studies at St Laurence’s in Brisbane. He lives at Runcorn on Brisbane’s southside and works as a storeman for Dan Murphy’s at Sunnybank. ‘Stew’ is a great fan of motor racing and rugby league, particularly Manly-Warringah. One of his fondest memories is of meeting Alan Jones, the motor racing legend, not the radio guy.
Marie and I undertake a pleasant walk around Kangaroo Point. Rock climbers do their stuff on the cliffs, as a City Cat, adorned with the Maroons’ State of Origin colours, cruises by. I buy a four pack of pale ale from Sea Legs Brewery, under the Story Bridge. As we leave, we see our nephew, Patrick Lynch walking by, but don’t stop because of the Covid situation. So sad. Marie is not happy with social distance arrangements at Bunnings at Stafford, and says she will not be going back.
Raby Bay in the Redlands Shire is the destination for Marie and I. We walk the bay’s western beaches and then buy fish and chips at Lighthouse, Cleveland, where council workers are removing Covid barriers from picnic tables.
Fellow History Committee member, Paul Hayes, known as ‘the ferret’, has picked up a cricket bat for $50, which was made for league great, Duncan Thompson, who played cricket when he first returned to Australia from the Western Front, in 1919.
Death of rugby league and union legend, Arthur Summons, aged 84. Summons played league as a junior, captaining Mt Pritchard to premierships in the Parramatta district. But his school, Homebush Boys’ High, played union and when he left, he joined Gordon Rugby Club, playing 10 Tests for the Wallabies before switching codes. He captained Australia in five of his nine league Test appearances. He played rugby league for Wests in Sydney and then Wagga Magpies, retiring in 1967. After his retirement as a player, he coached Australia in the 1970 home Ashes series loss to Britain. He is probably best known by today’s league followers, as the little bloke on the NRL’s most famous trophy. The other gladiator, the big bloke, is Norm Provan.
‘WalesOnline’ carries a story about black Welsh rugby union players, who were ignored by the 15-man code, but were accepted in British Rugby League, men like Billy Boston, Colin Dixon and Clive Sullivan.
Elliot and Linda Gibson, friends from Hawick in Scotland, urge us to have a rum and milk and to think of ‘The Hut’. It is this time of year when Hawick people traditionally stage the Common Riding Festival, with ‘The Hut’ a place where the men gather for morning drinks and a sing-a-long after their ride. I was honoured to be part of ‘The Hut’, thanks to Elliot, in 2014 when my wife and I visited the Gibsons. Now the Common Riding is a victim of Covid.
People to have phoned (radio guy) Alan Jones during the week, included Justin Langer, John Kirwan, Ricky Stuart, James Packer and John Elias.
Movies Marie and I watched: Man of Steel, The Accountant, The Favourite, Inside Job.
1 Stewart Ricketts (left) with racing car legend, Alan Jones
2 Ron Saddler playing for Easts against St George in 1970, wearing white boots five years before Graeme Langlands made them famous
3 Australian coach, Arthur Summons (centre) with ARL secretary, Ken Stephen (left) and British team manager, John Harding after Australia won the First Test at Lang Park in 1970
4 Elliot and Linda Gibson from Hawick, Scotland.