DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 42 2020
Men of League patron, Ron Atkins celebrates his 85th birthday at Broncos Leagues Club, and I feel honoured to have been invited. In attendance are the likes of former Queensland rep., Darryl Van de Velde; former Brisbane rep., John Tapp and my fellow committee members, Cliff Coyle and Ian Gatenby. Ron’s daughter, Megan relates the story of a brawl between the wives of two Queensland State of Origin players, back in the 1980s. No names, no pack-drill.
Former Queensland Residents’ coach, John Buchanan replaces Terry Matterson as coach at Brisbane Easts, with Terry having joined the Broncos’ staff, at the invitation of head coach, Kevin Walters. Buchanan, whose family hail from the Tweed, had been employed at Easts in coaching and development. He previously had coached Souths and Wynnum’s first grade sides.
Former Channel 7 commentator, George Doniger reminds me that he took Kangaroo Supporters’ Tours to Britain and France in 1978, 1982 and ’86, the first with Des Morris as a sidekick; the second with Billy J Smith and the third with David Wright. George also took a Wallaby supporters’ tour in 1984, with The Courier Mail’s Frank (O’Rugby) O’Callaghan. I took tour groups to follow the 1990 and ’94 Kangaroos.
Watch relay of the Challenge Cup final between Leeds and Salford, played at London’s Wembley Stadium on Saturday night (UK Time). It was eerie, watching the beautiful (Welsh lass) Lizzie Jones, sing the traditional Cup Final hymn, ‘Abide With Me’, in front of an empty stadium. When I was there in 1978, and the hymn was sung by Bernard Manning, the crowd was 98,000. So Sad. The absence of fans, now, I mean. Bloody, ‘you know who’. Leeds win 17-16 in a thriller, with Leeds’ Richie Myler claiming the Lance Todd Trophy as Man of the Match.
Canberra’s Jack Wighton is a deserved in winner of the Dally M Medal. He is some player.
Spencer Davis, from the Spencer Davis Group, has died, aged 81. I loved many of their hits, especially ‘Keep on Running’.
Aussie rules legend, Jason Dunstall is looking more and more like Peter Fitzsimons. All he needs is a bandana.
My neighbour, Peter Skerman reminds me he played for Brothers against Balmain in 1969, marking Paul Cross, father of Ryan. ‘Skermo’ had to tackle Arthur Beetson, at one stage, a daunting task for a man nicknamed ‘stickman’. He is skinny.
At the Grange Library Park, a woman asks if my Sydney Roosters’ polo is Everton Park Roosters (rugby union). I think she is disappointed when I say it is the rugby league Roosters from Sydney. Obviously, she is a Rah Rah, and in need of new glasses.
Former Broncos’ official, Brian McGrath is delighted to receive a photo from yours truly, of him playing first grade for Brisbane Souths back in the 1970s. I found it among a pile of photos donated to our Queensland Rugby League History Committee by noted former Courier-Mail ‘snapper’, Jim Fenwick. Brian was a young policeman when he played first grade. Another former policeman, Gerry McKendry says Brian was talented, but didn’t like training. Brian was having an ale at the Caxton Hotel when I sent the photo, with publican Steve Farquhar, a former State centre, having a look.
Our chiropractor, Sandy Clarke says his father, a talented musician, played with the great Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong at a gig in Brisbane, in 1964, I think.
Gary Ella says rugby league got the indigenous kids early because of the money in the game. I wonder if Gary has considered whether league might have suited them more, particularly in the old days. And it was more likely they would have been accepted by the working men who played league, than the professional people in union, who would have been lucky to have ever rubbed shoulders with an indigenous person.
Interview former star rugby league halfback, Brian Winney at his Redcliffe home. Brian and I talk for ages. He had a wonderful career at St George, Parramatta, Sydney Wests and then Redcliffe. Afterwards I attend Moreton Committee’s MOL Kick-off Club lunch at Redcliffe Leagues, where former Rugby League Week editor, Tony Durkin is MC, and New Zealand Warriors’ owner, Mark Robinson the special guest. Mark’s young son, Zorro (a student at The Southport School on the Gold Coast) steals the show, and successfully urges his dad to put in the top offer for the Johnathan Thurston jersey, which is up for auction. Former Test forward, Wally Fullerton-Smith is auctioneer. Men of League Foundation Welfare Lead, Roxanne Moates delivers a lovely talk around a Kirwan High (Townsville) lad stricken with cancer, who has been helped by the Foundation. Former Kirwan student, international star, Sam Thaiday has visited the lad.
I catch up with the likes of my former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Clem Hovi and Redcliffe stalwarts, Brian O’Brien and Trevor Day. Trevor has had a year from footy, snow ski-ing.
Valleys hold their annual reunion, and from all reports, former prop, Greg ‘Hammer’ Walker makes a great speech. The 1970 A grade and 1990 reserve grade premiership sides are honoured on the night.
Marie and I walk in the countryside near Samford, crossing the South Pine River at Cannington, onto farmland, where the paddock is being mowed. There is a female sitting at the river crossing, and she does not return our hello. A bloke, and a dog, have joined her when we return. At least the dog is friendly. Staff are friendly at Samford Pub, where we have lunch, as the rain pelts down.
A commentator from a Mitre 10 Cup rugby union match in New Zealand, uses the term Falcon, when a ball hits a player in the head. Poor Mario. He (Mario Fenech, aka the Maltese Falcon) was a wonderful rugby league player, but is going to be best remembered for the Falcon. Former Mt Albert and New Zealand Warriors rugby league player, Thomas Aoake plays for North Harbour against Auckland.
The AFL Grand final is held at the Gabba in Brisbane, the scene of many Brisbane Rugby League grand finals, before Lang Park came on tap.
A Penrith player applies roll-on deoderent before the NRL Grand-Final against Melbourne Storm. Fair dinkum. Storm skipper, Cameron Smith is booed by the crowd, as he is interviewed by Channel 9’s Brad Fittler. Maybe they were booing ‘Freddy’. Former premiership winners, Greg Alexander (Penrith) and Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne) deliver the Trophy to the field. Clive Churchill Medal winner, Ryan Papenhuyzen, from the victorious Storm side, speaks well.
1 Ron Atkins and Darry Van de Velde at Ron’s 85th
2 Brian Winney at his Redcliffe home
3 Brian Winney, playing for Parramatta, about to smash South Sydney’s Ron Coote at Redfern Oval