DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 33 2020
My former ‘Telegraph’ and ‘Courier-Mail’ newspaper colleague Mark Oberhardt retires from mainstream journalism after an eternity in ‘the game’. ‘Obie’ has an amazing intellect, and I’m sure he could have succeeded in any career of his choosing. He was also a fine rugby union player. In 1971 he was captain of the Brisbane Grammar side, beaten for the premiership by Nudgee College, when Paul McLean kicked a 40-metre penalty goal, from the sideline, after the fulltime hooter. In 1981, Mark featured for Queensland in the last ever, inter-state journalists’ rugby league match – at Corbett Park, Grange, refereed by the great Bernie Pramberg. I was captain of that side, and I can vouch for the fact ‘Obie’ ran onto the ball as hard as anyone, and was a great contributor to our victory. We won’t say anything about his punting prowess, and I am not referring to the rugby ball. Journalists rugby league was a high standard in the 1960s, ’70s and into the early ’80s. Ray Price played ‘journos’ league in Sydney in the 1970s (for the ‘Telegraph’) under an assumed name, when he was still a Wallaby. A member of the 1981 Queensland side was current Gold Coast Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt, who played lock.
My wife Marie and I are having a break, at up-market Spicer’s Peak resort at Maryvale, on the way from Brisbane to Warwick. We paid extra for a private lodge with a spa, overlooking the valley below, but the bloody spa doesn’t work. We attend a gin class, and our lecturer is excellent. Lunch and dinner also quality. Lunch – lamb neck linguini (moi); spicy chicken sandwich (Marie). Dinner – Kilcoy short rib, accompanied by 2017 Fox Creek Cab Sav.
There is some dispute about how much we should be compensated for the spa not working. Ultimately, we get $800, after management had offered a miserly $300. Breakfast was excellent, although we could have done without the chef loudly telling others in the kitchen, about what he is up to, or will be up to. Says he is crook, which is also something you don’t want to hear in these times.
Wests Tigers’ former Australian rugby league centre, Chris Lawrence announces he will retire at season’s end. It seems only yesterday I was interviewing him ahead of his Test debut for Australia, in 2010. I also met his parents, a lovely couple.
My Maitland based former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Greg Grainger sends me photographs of his grandson, Zach, a promising footballer.
Our youngest son, Lliam turns 36, and celebrates at our Grange residence, with his wife, Channelle and two little boys, Ethan and Connor, and of course, his parents. At Lliam’s request, Marie makes roast lamb.
I have a lovely chat to former Ipswich Rugby League forward, Stu Pankhoff, who played against Great Britain in 1950, and the American All Stars three years later, from the now defunct Tivoli club. He worked for 10 months on the Inkerman (sugar) Mill duplication project at Home Hill, in the Burdekin region of North Queensland. He remembers the bosses shouting the men three tallies of beer at the end of a hard shift. He stayed at the Delta Hotel. “I had two boilermakers with me, and they were magnificent (workers),” he said. Stu has had a few health battles and required eight stents in the heart. He calls his cardiologist a ‘bonzer bloke”. Such a great Aussie expression.
Prominent league journalist, Andrew Webster is writing the Cameron Smith (Melbourne Storm rugby league skipper) biography, which I am sure will make for entertaining reading, given Andrew is a fine writer, and Cameron an intelligent bloke.
The start of a trip north for Marie and I, with the main aim to see our eldest boy, Damien; his wife, Emma and their daughters, Parker and Evan.
Picnic lunch at Gympie, where there is a bloke picking up litter in the park. Not a council worker, just a bloke disgusted by the fact people drop their food wrappings where they eat. We buy peanuts and peanut butter at Childers. Lots of tail-gaters on the Bruce Highway, as usual.
Our apartment at Bargara on the Burnett Coast is huge, and lovely.
Walk to Kelly’s Beach, along the esplanade, and there are a number of plaques, one in memory of two Royal Australian Air Force lads, lost when a Beaufort crashed off here, in 1942. The avenue of pines is a tribute to a husband and wife, killed in a sugar cane fire. The rock pool at Kelly’s Beach (The Basin) was built by Kanakas, the South Sea Islanders who once worked in the district’s cane-fields. The settlers’ statue still stands, which is amazing, given some of the antics of Cancel Culture protesters.
Marie and I have one drink each, at Club Bargara (golf), where staff are a bit loose, when it comes to entry regulations around Covid.
Former Australian rugby league centre, Keith Middleton dies, aged 89. Originally from Bermagui on the NSW South Coast, he played in the 1950 Ashes decider, against Great Britain, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which Australia won 5-2, thanks to a try by St George (Sydney) winger, Ron Roberts, who, for a time (after his footy career) had a pub in Maryborough, Queensland. It was Middleton (North Sydney) who delivered the final pass to Roberts.
Start the day with a lovely walk, north to bushland which adjoins the Mon Repos Turtle Reserve. There are board-riders out in front of the surf club, and the caravan park is chockers. Coffee from Journey Cafe in the arcade is lovely, but $5.50 is a bit rich. Staff at our apartment complex are getting Covid instructions, when I return.
Lovely lunch (squid, Marie; prawn pasta, moi) at Rick’s, with Marie’s cousin, Donna Geraghty; her daughter, Bec and grandson Astin. There are lots of backpackers sunbaking on the beach front. That afternoon we drive south to Elliott Heads, buying sweet potatoes and strawberries on the way. In the strawberry shed, most of the people are of Asian descent. A magpie viciously attacks walkers at Elliott Heads, and the bird’s antics certainly curtail our plans.
Fish and chips dinner from Bradlee’s, after my first choice, See Street Seafood, was closing. Female proprietor of See Street says I would be best off buying Asian takeaway. She didn’t have a big wrap on opposition chippies. Our cod is passable.
Although our accommodation is of a high standard, it still has one of the most irritating of faults. When people in the apartment above move their furniture around, it sounds like the heavens rumbling. These unit complexes should not be approved until thorough sound testing is done. Another bugbear of apartment/and/or motel accommodation are doors to adjoining rooms. We usually remember to insist on a room without such a door, because invariably the noise comes through.
A dolphin frolics off-shore, as we walk again to Kelly’s Beach. The Don Pancho Resort is showing its age. I stayed there in 1984, with Yorkshire Post league writer, Ray Fletcher and English photographer, Andrew Varley, while covering Great Britain’s tour of Australia. The Lions, coached by Frank Myler, played Wide Bay at Salter Oval, Bundaberg, and won 28-18. I remember having the most garlicy, garlic prawns at Don Pancho’s restaurant.
Coffee from ‘The Journey’ is not as good as yesterday. Bogans in front of me have decaf. What is the point! The owner of ‘The Journey’ is a long-distance runner of some renown. Middle aged, to elderly swimmers tackle the bay, and are a great advertisement for physical fitness.
Marie and I drive north, stopping for the famous crab sandwiches at Miriam Vale. Lots of roadworks.
Buy local mackerel at Rosslyn Bay.
Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast is booked out, for eighth weekend in a row, and mainly by people from nearby Rockhampton and surrounds. Thank God we booked ahead – at excellent Echelon Apartments.
My brother, Andrew phones from Vietnam, where he is totally bored, as the country continues in lock-down.
Lovely walk at Double Head, back at Rosslyn Bay, and then around Kemp Beach Headland, where Marie spots a black snake. There are lots of fishermen in boats on the eastern side of Bluff Rock.
Dinner at ‘Pie Alley Blues’ bar, back at Yeppoon, where there is live music and excellent eye fillet steak. The Waterline Restaurant at Rosslyn Bay was serving local Banana Station Beef, as well as local seafood.
1 Marie Ricketts at Spicer’s Peak
2 Lliam Ricketts celebrates his 36th birthday with boys, Connor and Ethan and parents, Steve and Marie
3 Marie Ricketts; cousin, Donna Geraghty; Donna’s daughter, Bec and grandson, Astin at Bargara
5 Yeppoon backwater
6 Marie Ricketts on Kemp Beach Headland.