DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 28 2020
Legendary sports sponsor, Ron McConnell is feted at a lunch at Brisbane’s Pineapple Hotel, with most of those in attendance from the car sales industry, where he made his mark. McConnell was responsible for bringing Test batsmen, Allan Border and Kepler Wessels to Brisbane. I had to ghost write Wessels’ column for the ‘Telegraph’ newspaper, and it was hard work, because he is a reserved sort of bloke, not prone to controversial statements, unlike Jeff Thomson and Glenn Lazarus, two other sports stars I have ghosted. Also, in attendance the McConnell do, is QRL director, Darryl Van de Velde. I meet former Broncos’ media manager, Trad McLean for lunch at the same pub, and licensee, Bob Singleton shouts us a drink. Also having lunch at ‘The Piney’ is former Broncos’ star, Chris Johns, who, of course, is sipping on a VB. None of that fancy craft beer for ‘Johnsy’. Trad’s mum has retired from the nursing profession, aged 70. Trad gets emotional recalling the funeral of legendary Gold Coast/Tweed league identity, Tom Searle, a service which Trad attended, with his father, Mick ‘Dolly’ McLean. Tom, at his own request, made a road trip to Sydney (via his home town, Tamworth) with his son Michael and grandson, Nate, not long before he died.
Supply Partners launch a new national advertising campaign. Our youngest son, Lliam is one of the directors of this solar energy distribution company, which employs 80 people and is based at 17 Mile Rocks.
A 747 flies low overhead as Marie and I play with Lliam’s son, Connor at the park, next to Grange Library. It turns out the aircraft was doing its last lap of the city, before retirement. Marie and I flew out of Brisbane on a 747 – The City of Darwin – on our first trip to the UK, in October, 1977.
“Queensland is now the home of footy”, says an AFL commentator, a reference to the fact so many AFL sides are based here, because of Covid being allowed to run rampant in Victoria by an incompetent State Government. Queensland has long been the home of footy – real footy, rugby league football, not cross-country netball.
Former Manly-Warringah halfback, Geoff Toovey says Queensland’s David Manson was his favourite referee, partly because Manson was always polite to the players.
Melbourne Storm assistant coach and former player, Ryan Hinchcliffe impresses in an interview on Radio TAB
The chef is sent home ill, as my wife, Marie and I finish our popcorn chicken tacos and fish cakes at Brewery Tap in Oxford Street, Bulimba. Should he have come in at all, that is the question, in these Covid times? We had already eaten, when this gentleman, of Indian or Pakistani origin, I think, leaves the premises at the urging of the manager. (Most of the kitchen staff around Brisbane seem to be of the same origin). I drank a pint of Brouhaha Milk Stout with my meal. Hopefully it killed any germs from the chef’s handling of our food. The meal was very tasty, by the way. Afterwards, Marie and I walk around Bulimba from Vic Lucas Park, which is named after a yachtsman. Get seafood from the Fish Factory, Morningside and then meat from Morningside Meats, next door.
Canberra Raiders play their first match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, since their 18-8 loss to Manly in the 1987 grand final.
One of the journalists hits the keyboard with a heavy hand as Raiders’ coach, Ricky Stuart gives his post-match press-conference. Paul Crawley and Christian Nicolussi are the prime suspects. It is often essential, because of deadlines, for journalists to write their stories as the press conference unfolds. I had to do that on many occasions for The Courier-Mail, and I’m sure my heavy tap, tap, tap on the keyboards was distracting to those being interviewed.
4BC Breakfast Radio man, Neil Breen, my former sports editor, tells Ray Hadley he is taking his son to the rugby, to see the Reds play. “What has he done to deserve that?” says Hadley. My thoughts exactly. Jono Lance, the son of former Canberra Raiders’ hit man, Dean Lance, is to captain the Force against the Reds. The Reds are probably better value than the Broncos, who go down 48-0 to the Tigers. Unbelievable. Former Redcliffe prop, James Taylor, a Kiwi, has signed with Hunter Valley club, Maitland for a shortened season, which also involves Sydney lower tier clubs.
Marie and I have a drinks at Grange Bowls, where local families are out in droves, with kids allowed to play on the greens, where there are jumping castles.
Leeds United are back in the Premier League. If I supported a soccer team at all, and I don’t, I suppose Leeds would be the go. I remember watching Match of the Day on the ABC, back in the early 1970s, when Leeds had the likes of Allan Clarke and Billy Bremner. Bremner looked like he would make a good rugby league halfback, while Clarke reminded me of Paul McCartney from the Beatles. Also, my good mate, Andrew Varley is official photographer for Leeds United (and Leeds Rhinos rugby league), so promotion from the Championship is good business for him. The only soccer match I saw in 20 visits to the UK, was Leeds v Huddersfield at Elland Road, in a 1986 Milk Cup tie. (See ‘Leeds was once a Rugby Town’ on this website). Unless you count a FA Cup tie in Bridport, Dorset, or our son, Damien playing in a Sunday morning comp in London.
It’s official – the voluntary tackle rule is dead. Newcastle Knights’ players are guilty of two shockers against South Sydney, and there is no action from the referee. In my day – I know – if someone did a voluntary tackle, they were called a cat, or worse, a winger. It is Souths’ coach, Wayne Bennett’s 850th game in the NRL, or its equivalents. Really, one should also take into account his nine years coaching in the Brisbane Rugby League, when he had stints with Souths and Brothers.
1 Leeds United montage from ‘The Game’ magazine
2 Barry Seabourne scores a try for Leeds’ Rugby League at Headingley
3 Steve Ricketts on the tarmac, in Darwin in 1977, with City of Darwin 747 in the background
4 Dejected Canberra players after their 1987 grand final loss to Manly
5 Wayne Bennett (far left) playing for Souths at Lang Park in 1977. Brothers’ five eighth, Chris Ryan has the ball. That’s Darryl Van de Velde on the right.