DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 41 2020
Gilgandra’s rugby league players are enjoying ‘Mad Monday’, as my good mates, Greg Grainger and Mark Conway, and their wives, Maree and Jenny, from Maitland, arrive in town, on a road trip. Gilgandra had lost to Dunedoo, in the Castlereagh Cup grand-final, the day before. Former Queensland Men of League administration officer, Tegan Jennings (nee Meyer) hails from Gilgandra.
Brisbane Men of League patron, Ron Atkins reminds me that Jim Lewis, father of League Immortal, Wally, once played for Wests. Jim’s father was a barber at Paddington, in the heart of Wests’ territory. A Gilbert Road, Gordon Park house proudly displays a ‘Go Lions. You Good Things’ AFL banner. Rubbing salt into the wound, after the Broncos finished with the NRL wooden spoon.
I have dinner and drinks at Queens Arms Hotel, New Farm with our youngest, son, Lliam. Trivia is taking place in dining area, so we eat in public bar. I get Uber for first time, for trip home. Lliam organised it for me. Driver efficient.
Andrew Voss, on FoxSports ‘The Fan’, shows clip from ‘The Sure Thing’ movie, in which American actor, John Cusack is wearing an Australian Rugby League Test jersey.
My former Courier-Mail sports editor, Brian Burke tells me about the bushfires which tore through the Tewantin area, where he and his wife, Anne have property. We are visiting our former colleague, Paul Malone at his Wilston home. Paul is a quadriplegic, as a result of a fall last year. Also there is Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock. Anne Burke, the daughter of former Telegraph journalist and Rugby League News (Brisbane program) editor, Neil Groom, teaches English to migrants at Goodna, in Ipswich.
On FoxSports, Manly-Warringah stalwart, Geoff Toovey recalls the ‘poop patrol’ at Brookvale Oval, the ground where the Sea Eagles play. It is a council ground, open to the public during the week, and people walk their dogs across the field. Of course, they would always pick up their dogs’ droppings. Of course!!
Radio SEN morning hosts, Pat Welsh and Ian Healy discuss who was the greater captain of Australia and Queensland – Wally Lewis or Cameron Smith. My vote is for Wally, because he had to physically take on more than Cameron, to get his teams over the line. Noted commentator, Mark Braybrook says League does not pay enough respect to its history, but AFL does. No argument from me. Former Ashgrove Marists teacher, and now Valleys’ league official, Chris Leeson wants to interview me for a Brisbane Rugby League podcast. He is the brother-in-law of my former Brothers’ teammate, Mark Thomas, who played for Australia in 1977. Former Valleys, Souths and Broncos’ fullback, David Bourke already has a ‘When They were Kings’ podcast, about the BRL. Former Queensland Residents’ winger, Gerard Kerr is at the Stafford Tavern when I call in for an ale.
Tom Smethurst contacts our QRL History committee in regards to a gold premiership medal he has found, from his late grandfather’s possessions. It says ‘Imperials, Premiers 1918’ and has L Smethurst engraved on the back. We surmise it might have had something to do with Armed Forces football.
Gerard Walsh has retired after 29 years writing sport for Warwick Daily News. His first cousin is Dennis Garvey, who represented Central Queensland in rugby league, and lives at Yeppoon.
Former Great Britain halfback, Tommy Bishop turns 80. I first saw Tommy play in the 1966 Ashes series in Australia.
David Munden from The Tremiloes has died. I enjoy their music, particularly ‘Silence is Golden’, and ‘Do You Love Me?’
My wife, Marie and I drive into the hills around Brookfield, in Brisbane’s far west. Lunch at historic Brookfield General Store and Cafe, where the staff forget about us. When the brisket roll (moi) and steak sandwich (Marie) finally arrive, they are first class. A female patron is terrified of a spider, and her husband (a Kiwi) is no better.
News breaks that the iconic Kirra Beach pub, built in 1956, is to be demolished, to make way for a high rise. I didn’t patronise the Kirra as a young bloke, living at Murwillumbah, even though I regularly travelled to the Coast. The Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta (now gone); Currumbin Hotel (now gone); The Playroom, Tallebudgera (now gone) and Seagulls Leagues Club, West Tweed Heads, were my regular haunts, along with El Rancho Steak House at Surfers Paradise, and the Chuck Wagon at Tugun, both now gone. Otherwise, it was the Murwillumbah Hotel (Murray’s); the Tumbulgum Hotel and the Cabarita Hotel. We’re talking about a five year period – 1970-75.
Tamworth based former Brisbane Norths’ strapper, Joe Morris wants to contact my former journalistic colleague, David Falkenmire.
Storm skipper, Cameron Smith is carried from the field by teammates after Melbourne’s 30-10, preliminary final win over Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium. One would surmise it was Smith’s farewell to Brisbane. Canberra’s English forward, John Bateman is in tears as Corey Parker (FoxSports) interviews him. Bateman is to return to England’s Super League, and he was desperate to bow out of the NRL with a premiership. Storm”s media conference goes forever, and is hilarious, but is too long.
Hawkes Bay rugby union halfback, Folau Fakatava, who has the worst haircut ever, makes a great cover defending tackle, in provincial match.
Marie and I drive to Scarborough, walking to Queen’s Beach, before breakfasting at Brazil and Co. There is a full-on, boot camp on the beach, and lots of fisher folk out on the water. Did you like that – folk. Look, they were all men. So, replace folk with fishermen. One house has a Rabbitohs’ flag, another is painted in the colors of the local rugby league side, Redcliffe Dolphins. Buy wild caught barramundi and Pacific oysters at Morgan’s, Scarborough Harbour, where eastern lobsters are on sale at $109kg.
There are reports of massive street brawls at Ballina, after the Northern Rivers Rugby League grand-final. I chat to Lismore based friend, Doug Kaden about footy in the region, and he recalls Barry Davidson calling local footy on 2LM. I met Barry a couple of times.
Former All Black and Kiwi rugby league rep., John Timu’s son, a Dunedin university student, scores two tries for Otago in New Zealand union.
Charlie ‘hitman’ Frith is a guest at Men of League Foundation Golf Day at Roma in Western Queensland. Frith’s power in defence, playing for the likes of Valleys (Brisbane) and South Sydney, in the 1970s, was something to behold.
My wife, Marie attends Grange Forest bush care working bee, planting trees and watering others. I chat to neighbour, John Driscoll, a former first grade rugby league hooker at the Broncos. He won the Wests Old Boys award a number of times. He is shocked that Anthony Siebold’s coaching tenure was such a failure.
Marie and I walk to Grange Village Bar, down Kedron Brook Road, through the cutting near St Columba’s School. The cutting is a disgrace. Surely the council could tidy it up a bit. And while I’m on the subject – what about the Bruce Highway entrance to Brisbane (from the north)! There has been no attempt at landscaping, no ‘Welcome to Brisbane’ sign.
At Cronulla-Sutherland’s awards night, Toby Rudolf is named Steve Rogers’ Rookie of the Year. Rudolph won the Duncan Hall Medal as best player in the 2018 Intrust Super (Qld) Cup grand final, when he played for Redcliffe.
1 Greg Grainger in Dunedoo
2 Gilgandra’s ‘Mad Monday’ after their rugby league grand final loss to Dunedoo
3 Father and son at pub. Steve and Lliam Ricketts
4 Wally Lewis
5 Brothers’ Test centre, Mark Thomas (right) with USA Rugby League president, Michael J Mayer
6 Marie Ricketts at Redcliffe.