DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 30 2020
The Courier-Mail’s chief sports writer, Robert Craddock speculates on whether the Broncos will drop young forward, Andrew Fifita after he signs with Gold Coast Titans for next season. ‘Crash’ reflects on then coach, Wayne Bennett’s decision to drop Justin Hodges back to Queensland Cup – in 2001 – after Hodges revealed he would sign with Sydney Roosters. This sparked a mixed reaction from Broncos’ fans, and resulted in ‘The Courier-Mail’ deciding to headline the controversy. As Chief Rugby League writer, I was under pressure to keep coming up with stories. Bennett hated the daily drama, and as a result, refused to talk to me for three years. When Hodges moved to Sydney, he lived with league great, Arthur Beetson for 10 months, and today describes Artie as one of the greatest influences on his career.
Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt is interviewed on FoxSports, with reporter, James Hooper referring to him as “an old front rower’, which is true. But Dennis, originally from Kingaroy, started as a fullback and represented Wide Bay in that position, back in the 1970s.
Neighbour, Brian Flaherty, a former teacher at Brisbane’s Nudgee College, tells me he played rugby union in New Zealand, where his sister is a Catholic nun. He hails from Ross, on the West Coast of the South Island. The West Coast is a league stronghold. Victorian barmaid at Stafford Tavern has no idea about the difference between league and union. It is just rugby to her. Pub regular, Peter Skerman tells a great story about a publican at Dirranbandi (a Queensland town at the end of the South West Rail line) who helped a work team dig a ditch. Then, when they had dinner at another pub in the town, he came back and filled the ditch in. “Dirran bloody bandi,” Skermo calls the town.
My wife, Marie and I were supposed to leave for Denmark today, on the first leg of what was to be a magic Euro experience, to mark her 70th birthday (Aug 3). We were to do a Silversea cruise, leaving Copenhagen and finishing in London, after exploring the Norwegian fjords. Then we were to do a Scenic River cruise from Paris. Oh. Well! Lots of people are worse off than us, during this Covid crisis. The people I feel sorry for are those who have just retired, and are planning a once in a life time trip overseas. Marie and I have been to Britain and Europe 20 times (see travel section, this website). The others I feel particularly sorry for are those just finishing school, who were looking forward to the big overseas adventure. You’re only young once.
Former Test centre, Gene Miles, now the head of FOGS (Former Origin Greats) takes Brisbane Men of League Foundation patron, Ron Atkins for morning tea at Broncos Leagues Club.
Our former neighbour at Zillmere, solicitor, Jeff Biggs, a real gentleman, turns 70.
Peak hour traffic into Caloundra is horrendous. There are so many housing developments to the west and south of Caloundra now. Walk from Shelly Beach to Moffat Beach, a glorious coastal route. Padua College (Brisbane) students are on an excursion and explore the rock pools at Shelly. Neighbour, Peter Skerman remembers collecting bags of shell grit at Shelly Beach, as part of a commercial enterprise, to do with pet birds. The shell grit is a source of calcium for egg shell production, and aids digestion, evidently. I buy Summer Ale (from Moffat Beach Brewing Company) and it tastes of passionfruit.
Stafford Tavern barmaid wears a mask. First time I have seen that, in the pub. I’m not having a go at her, because that is her right, and she is looking after us, as well as herself. But, to me, it looks kind of spooky – ‘un-Australian’. Wrong, I know. I sound like Donald Trump. The fact the barmaid is brusque and lacking in charm, makes her seem even more sinister.
My sister-in-law, Carolyn Soward phones Marie to thank her for a gift package, containing paprika from Hungary, and family photos. Carolyn, who lives at Lismore in northern New South Wales, has been lonely during these Covid times, and the sisters have not been able to get together.
I interview former Queensland forward, Keith Gee (about the 50 years of the Beaudesert Kingfishers Rugby League club), for Men of League magazine. Keith played for the State in 1987, against Bay of Plenty at Rotorua, and then against the touring Kiwis at Suncorp Stadium. An inaugural Bronco, Keith lives at Beaudesert, and is a stalwart of the local footy club. In 2017, Gee coached Beaudesert to a win over Runaway Bay in the Gold Coast Reserve Grade grand final at Pizzey Park, Miami. “We only fielded a reserve grade team that year, and had 22 players to call on, all of them Beaudesert juniors,” Gee told me. “Winning the game was the biggest thrill of my career. It beat playing for Queensland or the Broncos.” It might have had something to do with the fact that team included Mark’s sons, Alex, Sam and Charlie. Keith’s younger brothers, Mark and Andrew also played top level league, for Gold Coast and the Broncos respectively, with Andrew representing Australia.
Wade Graham is sensational for Cronulla in their win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
It is 60 years since the Malaya Emergency was declared over, by the Malayan Government. There were 39 Australians killed during the Emergency, which began after communist rebels murdered three European estate managers, in 1948. Another 27 Australians were wounded during the lengthy campaign.
My wife has her first hair style since Covid hit.
Brothers play Beerwah, at Beerwah, in the Glass House Mountains region, in a Brisbane Second Division match. There is usually no admission charge in Brisbane, for Second Division clashes, so Brothers’ supporters who travelled north to Beerwah, were shocked to be slugged $7 at the gate. But I suppose, one has to take into account, that for a small country community, gate takings are part and parcel of their fund raising. Beerwah usually play in the Sunshine Coast League, but it has been suspended because of Covid. The referee at Beerwah is Brisbane Referees’ Association Life Member, Ian Irwin.
There is a quality passage of play, involving quick hands, in a rugby union clash in Hamilton, New Zealand, between the Crusaders and Chiefs, with Crusaders number 8, Tom Sanders, crashing over for a try in a brave tackle by Chiefs’ fullback, Damian McKenzie.
Former Brisbane Wests’ centre, Col Weir has died, aged 84, after a short battle with cancer. Weir was chosen for Australia from Brisbane Wests in 1960, for a Test against France at the SCG, but did not get on the field, so is not credited with a Test cap.
Learn of the passing of John Gibson, a veteran of the Brisbane Beer and Beef Club, “a lovable rogue, a great raconteur and a lover of fine food and wine”. I am the resident ‘MC’ for Beer and Beef Club lunches. ‘Gibbo’ traditionally looked after the raffles, but also found time to tell the odd joke, and, on one occasion, was our guest speaker, talking about his Army days.
Channel 9 commentators list their favorite indigenous players. Peter Sterling opts for Arthur Beetson; Paul Gallen for David Peachey and Brad Fittler goes for Matt Sing. Australian coach, Mal Meninga says his former Canberra Raiders’ teammate, John ‘Chicka’ Ferguson is his favorite. Mal recalls “Chicka’ (playing for Wigan) getting outside Hull’s Kiwi international, Dane O’Hara for a try at Wembley Stadium in the 1985 Challenge Cup final. ‘Chicka’ had no room, but still got past his man.
Former Easts’ Roosters’ star, Ron Saddler is my favorite indigenous player, given I saw him play for my club, Murwillumbah Brothers, when I was 10, and then followed his career. when he moved to Sydney. But ‘Artie’ is right up there, along with the likes of ‘Chicka’, Larry Corowa, Ronnie ‘Rambo’ Gibbs, Greg Inglis, Matt Bowen, Steve Renouf, Tony Currie, Noel ‘Chips’ Harrington, Johnathan Thurston, Cliff Lyons and Ewan McGrady, to name a few. And that’s without mentioning some of the great indigenous footballers I grew up with on the Tweed. Jimmy McDermott from Tweed Heads Seagulls was ‘the gun’ in my age/weight category. Griffith born, indigenous media identity, Stan Grant is a guest on Matt Johns’ Show on FoxSports. Matty coached Stan’s son in junior league.
Juventus are crowned champions of Italy’s Serie A Football League, but the presentation ceremony is so sterile, because of the absence of fans.
Parramatta wear black arm bands in honor of foundation player, Don Regan. I met Don’s son, James on our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest last year.
Da Nang, Vietnam, where my brother, Andrew lives, has been placed in lock down until August 16.
1 Col Weir (far right) pictured with Queensland teammates (from left) Frank Drake, Lionel Morgan and Barry Muir, in 1962
2 Keith Gee with his sons Sam, Charlie and Alex after Beaudesert defeated Runaway Bay in the 2017 Gold Coast Reserve Grade grand final
3 Andrew Gee
4 Larry Corowa holds the 1987 Group 18 premiership trophy aloft after South Tweed’s win over Cudgen in the first-grade grand-final at Tweed Heads. That’s league writer/official/Tweed Shire councillor, Tom Hogan, on the far right. The bloke in the centre was a representative of a poker machine company, I believe.
5 Ron ‘Rambo’ Gibbs
6 Ewan McGrady