DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 36 2020
Instead of flying back into Brisbane today, following a six-week European adventure, my wife, Marie and I are into the last eight days of a 26-day Queensland road trip. Bloody Covid. But we’re not slashing our wrists, especially as we have travelled so extensively in the northern hemisphere, although it was meant to be Marie’s 70th birthday trip. Never mind. We are thinking of the money we have saved, and we are putting some of it into the Queensland economy.
Calliope Historic Village is our lunch stop, as we head south, following two nights at Yeppoon on the Capricornia Coast. The village includes the relocated Clyde Hotel and Yarwun Railway Station.
Check into 1770 Lagoon Central Apartments, in the Town of 1770.
Former Valleys and North Sydney rugby league centre, Kelly Egan has been appointed CEO of ‘Clubs Queensland’. I first saw Kelly, when he played for Mt Carmel College from Charters Towers, in the State final of the James Foots Cup at Neumann Oval (Now Allan Border Field) in Brisbane.
Owen Farrell, the son of rugby league great, Andy Farrell, is sent off for a bad high tackle. Farrell was playing for Saracens against Wasps.
My former Courier-Mail colleague, Ben Dorries rings at 7.20 a.m. to say former top news photographer, Geoff McLachlan, has died, aged 78, from leukemia. Geoff was like a second father to Ben, who lost his dad at a young age. Ben writes for ‘Racenet’, which has been bought by News Ltd. Geoff was a solid five eighth for the Queensland Journalists’ Rugby League side, and while he could photograph anything, sport was his forte. Another former Telegraph journalist, Paul Wicks recalls the touch footy side we entered in the police competition at Davies Park, West End. Geoff was an enthusiastic player, in a high standard competition, which featured the likes of Test star, Mal Meninga and Brisbane first graders such as Ash Lumby, Chris Kealey, Steve Glynn and Brian McGrath, who were all police officers at the time. (see ‘Vale Geoff McLachlan’ on this website).
There is a memorial to the crew of the trawler, Dianne, at 1770 Headland. It went down the first time we stayed here, in October, 2017. Bushfires came close to 1770 in November last year, and that is evident from the still charred forest, just above houses. We chat to a bloke from Nundah in Brisbane, who has been on the road five years. His boat is named ‘Bar Crusher’, and just recently he caught a stack of fish off Gladstone. He played junior rugby league for Norths Devils.
Marie and I walk in the beautiful paperbark forest, just to the south of Agnes Waters, and then join scores of other people watching surf board riders take advantage of magnificent conditions. I had no idea the surf could be so good, this far north. There has been a fatal shark attack at Greenmount on the Gold Coast, one of my regular swimming spots as a young man.
Marie and I enjoy two drinks at 1770 Beach Pub where, the barman earns his money, serving drinks and wiping tables.
Indigenous gentleman, Max Ford is on NITV talking about his uncle, Ron Richards, the champion boxer. Former Test halfback, Scott Prince says his former Broncos and Queensland teammate, Justin Hodges was the master of verbal abuse, on the field, describing some of his sledges as ‘amazing’.
After leaving 1770, we detour to Moore Park, on the Burnett Coast, enjoying takeaway fish and chips, beside a lagoon. Buy potatoes at two stalls along Moore Park Road. Drive to Hervey Bay, via Goodwood, Torbanlea and Toogoom, enjoying an ice cream at the latter. (Found out later police, had arrested a bloke at Toogoom for border hopping. I thought we were one country). Traffic so heavy, driving into Hervey Bay. See a bloke wearing a Wests (Sydney) rugby league jersey, with Victa the sponsor. Leg-stretch at Krait Memorial Park, looking across to Fraser Island. The Krait was a fishing trawler used by Australian commandoes, on a raid on Japanese shipping in Singapore waters, during World War II. Check into Ramada Hotel, and dine in their restaurant, Waitress asks if I want a cup with my beer.
At Urangan Harbor, something is cooking – sea cucumbers, I think. After a waterside walk, we head back to our hotel, via Dayman General Store, which is now a nice cafe. I buy coffee and citrus tart, both excellent.
Walk in the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens, where there is a line of trees, planted in honour of people from the area, who had turned 100.
At Government House in Sydney, my wife, Marie’s cousin, Marlene Jordan represents the family, as Ray Geraghty, their uncle, is recognised for his bravery during the Fall of Singapore in World War II. Ray was 17 when he was executed by the Japanese. The ceremony is live streamed on www.governor.nsw.gov.au
Check-out of the Ramada, and drive south to Poona on Great Sandy trait. The first time I heard of this sleepy little place, was when our youngest son, Lliam took his family there. It turns out, one of my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ rugby league teammates, Paul Weaver (captain of our under-18 side in 1969) lives there, as does a former rival on the Tweed, Seagulls’ prop, Paul Thwaites. I tried to contact Paul Weaver by phone, without any luck, whereas Paul Thwaites and his wife were on the road, staying at Bouldercombe, near Rockhampton.
Drive through Kin Kin (where Marie and our daughter, Melanie went to a cookery school, many moons ago), buying avocadoes from a roadside stall. At Pomona, many shops are closed, because of a show holiday. But Marie is able to get local strawberries at the fruit ship.
Our (pre-booked) accommodation, the Ramada at Marcoola is full, largely because of a wedding.
Buy raffle tickets at the adjoining sports bar, where the staff are efficient. A bloke, with a broad Scots’ accent, says (sarcastically) ‘Happy Days’ as he applies hand gel, on the way to the bar.
There is a rugby league reunion in Tully, Far North Queensland, to mark the opening of the impressive new grandstand, which replaces a 90-year-old structure, which was condemned a few years back. Greg Shannon represents our QRL History Committee at the event. The Tully Tigers play a Cairns Pride selection.
A mural in the Marcoola shopping centre, describes the heady days of Surf Air, which was opened in 1971. Evidently gangsters would fly in from Melbourne for the weekend; top bands would play at the venue (e.g. Midnight Oil) and elaborate stage acts, such as the Peter Moselle Show, also drew crowds. The old Surf Air, is now part of the Ramada complex.
Molong product, Cody Ramsay makes his NRL debut for St George Illawarra.
Former NSW Premier, John Fahey has died, aged 75. I didn’t realise that John was born in Wellington, New Zealand, his family moving to Australia, with John taking up rugby league at Picton. He played two seasons (1965-66) with Canterbury Bankstown, and in 1968 represented Southern Division from Oakdale. Mr Fahey was founding patron of the Men of League Foundation.
Lunch at the Ramada is good value, and they have Black Hops Beer from the Gold Coast, on tap. I have rib-on-the-bone, while Marie tucks into calamari. We walk to Mudjimba Beach and have drinks at trendy corner bar. Excellent tacos for dinner at a restaurant back at Marcoola, accompanied by Noosa rice beer. Different. A feral family in a van roll up. One of their kids pees on the footpath in front of the restaurant, and then they leave the dog to bark in the van, while they go to the laundromat.
There has been a fatal, gang related stabbing at O’Callaghan Park, Zillmere. I wish I had $10 for every lap of O’Callaghan Park I ran back in the 1980s and 1990s when we lived at Zillmere. Sad to hear things have come to this.
1 1770 Headland
2 Paperbark forest, Agnes Waters
3 Surf’s Up at Agnes Waters
4 Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens
5 Marie Ricketts at the grave of her uncle, Ray Geraghty in Singapore. Ray was Marie’s mother’s brother
6 Marie Ricketts at Marcoola.