DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 35 2020
Former NRL referee, Tim Mander is electioneering at Airlie Beach Yacht Club, as Marie and I stop in for a drink. I wish him all the best at the forthcoming State elections. I interviewed Tim a number of times, when I was a rugby league writer, and more recently at a Men of League function at the Broncos. His brother, Dan was a fine footballer with Souths, Brisbane, but never went on with things.
Dinner (lamb loin chops, moi; garlic prawns, Marie) at our motel, the Colonial Palms, which is run by a couple from West Wyalong in New South Wales, who previously had a quarry. They have only had the motel for a month. The roof had to be replaced after Cyclone Debbie, in 2017. We talk about rugby league, in particular former Test forward, Ron Crowe, who came from West Wyalong, and after whom the local oval is named. My Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Adrian ‘Champs’ Chapman and I made a pilgrimage to the ground, on our way to the Melbourne Cup, in 1974.
The ferry to Daydream Island is less than a quarter full, and includes a few golfers, on their way to Hamilton Island. After checking-in, we walk the island (which isn’t difficult) with a couple (John and Jenny) from Currumbin Waters on the Gold Coast, and we spot a turtle in the waters off the eastern side of the island. John was a forward scout in the Australian Army, in the Vietnam war. Jenny’s mum, who grew up at Canterbury in Sydney, and now lives on the Tweed, turns 100 in October. A whale frolics in the waters, just off the island, as we enjoy our happy hour drinks. Then we watch the sunset at Lovers’ Cove, as a curlew hunts for scraps under our table, and the female singer, from Mackay, entertains. She is UK born, and Aussie raised. Her dad was a helicopter pilot in the RAF. Curry at ‘Infinity’ Restaurant is excellent. Marie has the duck, while I opt for crab. Our Chardonnay is from Collector in New South Wales. Our waiter, from Portsmouth in England, studied at university in Bristol. He was impressed that I knew all about Portsmouth’s chines, which are deep, wooded ravines, leading down to the beach. I walked down the ‘Middle Chine’ in 1982, when I was staying in Bournemouth, on the first night of a short holiday, before heading north to cover the Kangaroo rugby league tour. Read of the passing of Dick McNair, 92, ex RAAF, and an ex-cook on Daydream Island. He then became a shearer, and after that, a cook for Antarctic expeditions. He was awarded the Polar Medal in 1956. A life well lived.
Aggressive crows (are there any other sort) make breakfast a trial, as they fearlessly enter the restaurant. There are also cockatoos, curlews and Tullawongs, but those bloody crows!!! Barista says he will give me a free coffee, if I guess where he is from. I rattle off about 40 countries and then concede. He is from Israel!! I knew a dentist from Israel, but not a barista. At ‘Happy Hour’, a couple from Bribie Island, who were married on Daydream seven years ago, detail the shortcomings of the current set-up, and there are quite a few. One staff member concedes that the place is ‘poorly run’.
Woken by emergency alarm – false of course. It rang for 23 minutes!! Female barista is from Argentina. At Lovers’ Cove, a father (of Indian descent) tells his son that the fact there is dead coral on the beach, is partly man’s fault and partly the fault of climate change. Two bikini girls, with Botox lips, pose at the jetty. A little girl goes Ooh la la, as she arrives, and takes in the beautiful vista. There is supposed to be a bar, as there was last night, but no — the barman left the island unexpectedly. There is no Plan B. Not good enough.
My former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate. Greg Grainger sends a lovely photo of Billy Smith, visiting his 1967-68 Kangaroo tour teammate, Ron Saddler in a nursing home at Murwillumbah. Ron died on May 12, 2016.
Andrew Abdo, a chap of South African descent, is the new NRL CEO.
The Broncos lose to Penrith, and they are now officially Brisbane’s worst ever team.
Our motel manager (the chap from West Wyalong) is there to collect Marie and I when the ferry arrives at Airlie from Daydream. Can’t beat country people. Stop at Anzac Park, Ayr for a leg stretch, and there are two female, indigenous welfare officers having a smoke. Great example.
Explanation required here: Marie and I have gone north again, to collect our car from Subaru, Townsville. It had broken down at Yellow Gin Creek, south of Home Hill, on our way to Ayr to stay with our eldest lad, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan.
It cost $5,000 to fix it. In other words, it burst a phoo phoo valve.
We returned our hire car – a MG from Meteor – and then collected the Subaru, which, according to those in the service department, should be good for another 100,000km.
We stay at our son’s place, and have the run of the joint, because he and the girls are having a break at Bowen.
Joe Gorman has won the major prize in the Queensland Literary Awards, for his book ‘Heartland. How Rugby League Explains Queensland’. Joe, an independent journalist, has had his work featured in a number of publications. He interviewed me several times, in the writing of the book.
Lots of locals are running at Mt Inkerman, as we head south to Bowen, for morning tea with Damien and the girls, at Horseshoe Bay, where two young lads are showing good skills with the Steeden. Makes a pleasant change from a Sherrin or Gilbert.
Buy Sarina Range Honey, bananas, peas and other produce at a Bruce Highway road stop south of Mackay, where there are great views of birdlife, in the nearby wetlands.
Check-in at Echelon Apartments, Yeppoon, where we stayed on the trip north.
In Victoria, the cops arrest anti-lock down protestors. I wish they were as keen in rounding up African gang members. Sorry, those gangs don’t exist.
Former All Blacks’ coach, Steve Hansen says dual rugby star, Sonny Bill Williams is the best athlete he has coached, and Richie McCaw the best footballer. Sonny is back playing for the Roosters. Luke Keary is hit with a crusher tackle charge, in the win over Canberra, but one commentator says he didn’t mean it. I’m sorry. There is no excuse for this tackle.
I turn 68. I really am an old man now. I was woken in the early hours by 10 youths making a noise in the street below. Fonzie Abbot coffee from Chapter is excellent. Brad Cox, from the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, provides live entertainment at the Strand Pub.
Australian Rugby League Life Member, Kevin Brasch from Brisbane, reminds me that US servicemen held rodeos at Ballymore, at what is now headquarters of Queensland Rugby Union. Other rodeos were held at Bell’s Paddock (which is now Mitchelton).
1 Steve Ricketts at Ron Crowe Oval in 1974, with his Valiant Galant
2 Daydream Island
3 The Whitsundays
4 Lovers’ Cove
5 Stephen and Marie Ricketts at Lovers’ Cove
6 A curlew in the Daydream Island Bar
7 Ron Saddler (left) is visited by Billy Smith (right); Lionel Alexander and Ron’s son, Brent
8 Horseshoe Bay, Bowen.