DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 39 2020.
It is 50 years since the great Harry Wells played his last game of rugby league – for Port Macquarie. The former Test centre was 38 at the time. Port played in the Group 3 competition against the likes of Wauchope, Wingham, Taree United and Gloucester.
Grange resident, Peter Skerman tells me he played for Brisbane Brothers against Wests Newcastle at Corbett Park, Grange, in 1970, with league Immortal, Johnny Raper captain-coach of Wests. Brothers won.
The colour purple is appearing on Jacarandas in our suburb. How beautiful it is, to see the seasons change.
Channel 7 sports guru, Pat Welsh and former Australian wicketkeeper, Ian Healy now do a morning radio gig on SEN Radio, providing competition for Radio TAB.
My wife, Marie returns to Pilates for the first time since Covid.
There are suggestions Junior Rugby League match days will become cashless. Hand over the credit cards to the kids, instead of a bit of spare change.
My sister, Gay Lynch and her husband, David, have been ‘out west’. They loved the dusk, river cruise on the Balonne at St George; and Cracow, a ‘ghost town’ where the pub is still alive. They walked at Expedition and Isla Gorge National Parks. But they got a shock when they arrived in Texas on a Sunday, and the pub wasn’t open.
My Maitland mate, Greg Grainger says he was shocked to see, on a recent New South Wales road trip, that so many shops at Wilcannia were ‘boarded up’.
Wigan are down 30-0 to arch rivals, St Helens when I turn on the television. The young Wigan side loses 42-0.
The ‘Cardiff Bay Code Breakers Project’ has been unveiled. The plan is to acknowledge the men who moved north from the Cardiff Bay area, to play rugby league. We are talking about some of the superstars of our game, men like Billy Boston, Clive Sullivan, Jim Sullivan and Gus Risman, who turned their back on rugby union, some because they weren’t getting a fair go.
Our QRL History Committee meeting is held via TEAMS, and my computer dies towards the end.
At Stafford Tavern, former Valleys and North Sydney forward, Kevin Tyach is amused when I show him a photograph taken of him during the 1976 Brisbane season. Peter Skerman tells a few yarns, when I show him an old Leprechaun Letter (Brothers Rugby League newsletter) which features a photograph of him with Ralph Bell. ‘Skermo’ says Bell’s brother was once manager of the Whiskey Au Go Go nightclub, in which 15 people perished when the place was fire bombed in 1973. Tyach says he was there early that night, but left early, to meet a girl at the Jet Club.
My wife, Marie, working at reception at Windsor International Hotel, checks in a Stephen Ricketts from Bundaberg, who is in town for table tennis titles. I was a bit of a whiz at table tennis. Well, I was OK. Which brings back memories of a headline in the old Brisbane ‘Telegraph’ in the 1970s. There was a Chinese table tennis team about to tour Australia, and it was supposed to be invincible. A sub editor put this heading on the story: ‘No Chinks in Chinese Team’. It got though, but only lasted one edition. True story.
Mick Jagger is part of the cast in Burnt Orange Heresy, a movie Marie and I watch at Palace Centro in James Street, after brunch at Harvey’s. We are the only ones in the cinema. There is an ‘insect handler’ in the long list of credits for the movie. What the hell does an inset handler do? Swat the flies. The movie is a bit different, a bit slow. A truck is picking up left-over grains from Range Brewery, as we walk past. Another truck is delivering VWs to a dealership at Newstead, before going on to Aspley. The driver, a Melbournian, is lost, and asks us for directions.
Our eldest boy, Damien has a beer with dual international rugby star, Wendell Sailor’s father-in-law at Ayr. He is a Life Member of the Alva Beach Surf club, where Damien and his wife, Emma are members, and their daughter, Parker, a nipper. Wendell’s wife went to East Ayr State School, where Damien is deputy principal. She still holds the 200-metre running record.
“Must be a Pommy thing”, Dual international, Timanu Tahu says about something Canterbury-Bankstown’s Luke Thompson does in a match. Tahu is part of the team on NITV’s “Over The Black Dot’.
A former Brisbane Brothers’ junior, Brett Potter comments on my April, 1976 Flashback, which covers Brothers’ win over Penrith in the Amco Cup, a match in which I played centre in the second half. “The good old days”, he says. Brett played with future Wallaby, Rod ‘Sergeant Slaughter’ McCall at Brothers rugby league juniors. Rod’s dad, Nev, was treasurer of the senior club. Last time I saw Nev, he was driving a cab, in which I was a passenger.
Easts Tigers’ star, Jarred Tuite is the son of Jeff Tuite, who was a training buddy with me at Lane’s Gym, Chermside back in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Jeff would go there with rugby league hooker, Billy Johnstone. Jarred was 14 when Jeff died. Jeff’s other son, Mitch was 17 then, and now plays with Souths Toowoomba.
Wayne Bennett is appointed coach of the Queensland State of Origin side. ‘The Australian’ newspaper has a huge feature on British rugby league star, Sam Burgess, and some of his alleged off-field ‘antics’.
Channel 9 seek photos, from me, of the old Lang Park, to help build a ‘virtual stadium’ for their Origin coverage.
I visit former Courier-Mail colleague, Paul Malone at his Wilston home, which has been renovated to accommodate his needs, given he is now a quadriplegic, after a fall.
Marie and I have drinks at our busy, local craft brewery, Happy Valley. She has a strawberry beer, but doesn’t like it. They will have cider in the not-too-distant future. I have a USA Pale Ale and then a summer brown.
Learn of the passing of former Tweed Heads Seagulls halfback, Ray Small, 71. He came from Goondiwindi, I believe, and played at Mt Isa and also coached Charleville Railways. Also learn of the passing of former Balmain and Penrith halfback, Laurie Fagan, who represented New South Wales against the all-conquering 1962 Great Britain touring side.
The Courier-Mail’s State of Origin magazine is on sale. I wrote a number of articles for the publication. It is not available at the large Windsor Newsagency, which I find amazing. Instead, I get a copy at Coles, Newmarket. Bush turkeys fight in our community garden. They had been eating the radishes, which my wife had planted. She is hoping for a bad outcome for both turkeys.
Marie and I walk Ithaca Creek, Bardon and there are some strange residences along the way, one with sculptures in the garden, one a hoarder’s nest. There are lot of signs promoting State Labor Party candidate, Jonty Bush, who was Young Australian of the Year in 2009.
I attend Second Division league finals at Emerson Park, Grange. Bloke on the gate says he let in a lot of Polynesian families for free. They had refused to pay anyway, and, as a volunteer, he wasn’t going to argue. Brothers are beaten by St Josephs (Virginia) in the reserves, and Redlands in the firsts. The chants from the Redlands’ fans brings back memories of the great Wynnum teams of the 1980s, who attracted the same sort of dirge from the terraces. I chat to a few Joeys’ people, most notably Gary Jones, who was there when our sons, Damien and Lliam played for the club in the 1990s. Former Brisbane Rothmans Medal winner, Alan Wieland says his father, Vic, like Alan a former Valleys’ star, has joined the grey nomads.
In 1975, former Test forward and noted rugby league coach, Henry Holloway made a court appearance at Redcliffe, and the Telegraph assigned me to cover it. I drove over the Hornibrook Highway (bridge) to the peninsula city; covered the matter and then returned the same way. But when I got to the bridge, I discovered there was a toll for the return journey. I think it was only five cents, but I didn’t have a penny on me. I probably could have been arrested for vagrancy. So, I had to turn around and return to Brisbane via Mango Hill. I had only moved to Brisbane to live (from Taree) in August that year, and was still trying to find my way around the place. I raise this matter because it is 85 years ago this week, that the Hornibrook Highway (bridge) opened. The toll was removed late in 1975.
Fellow History Committee member, Greg Shannon interviews former Queensland forward, Harry Griffiths for our audio project. Griffiths scored a try for Ipswich against the 1950 Great Britain side, at North Ipswich Reserve. He played club footy for Booval Swifts in Ipswich, as well as having stints at Cunnamulla and Charleville.
My former Courier-Mail colleague, Kate McKenna is now part of the ABC News team.
South Sydney five eighth, Cody Walker donates his $1,000 man of the match award to his old club, Casino.
My elbows are bruised from pressing pedestrian crossing buttons. My thumbs are OK. I don’t text that much.
1 Kevin Tyach in his Valleys’ days
2 The program for a 1976 Amco Cup match. Brothers won
3 Ithaca Creek walk
4 Gary Jones (centre) at Emerson Park for the Second Division finals