DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 47 2020
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23
A darts night at ‘The Rugby League Club’ at Lang Park degenerated into an all-in-brawl. This was back in the 1970s, when darts nights were popular, with men of all ages. Obviously, sheep stations were at stake on this particular night, as an ambulance was called to attend to the injured. One of the combatants told me the story, at the Stafford Tavern this evening. There are very few darts boards in licensed establishments now – just Keno; the TAB and the pokies. My late father, Jon Ricketts and his good mate, ‘DOK’ Kaden, loved playing darts at Lismore’s Winsome Hotel, back in the 1950s.
Englishman, Steve Kilgallon, a long-time resident of New Zealand, has given up refereeing rugby league matches, and also (sadly) no longer writes about the game. He is an investigative reporter these days. I would sit beside Steve, at matches at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium, hearing stories about the local club matches he had controlled the previous day, or sometimes, earlier that day.
Manly coach, Des Hasler implores ‘Telegraph’ league writer, Dean ‘Bulldog’ Ritchie to label his Sea Eagles team the worst since 1947. It’s just a leg pull. ‘Bulldog’ called the Queensland State of Origin side the worst in 40 years, and they won the first match of the series against the Blues.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Brisbane Roar soccer team is to make Dolphin Oval, Redcliffe – the home of rugby league in the peninsula city – their base in 2021. Sacrilege.
Pest control people say that fire ant infestations are far worse than the Government is making out. They mentioned a farm at Canungra, belonging to a prominent, former Brisbane sports administrator. They also mention a town house complex at Archerfield that was riddled with termites. There had not been a pest inspection there for 13 years.
Marie and I start watching a movie ‘The Overcomer’. Big mistake. It is ‘happy clapper’ crap.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25
Men of League Foundation engage ‘Brand Matters’, to undertake a review of how the Foundation is perceived, within the current rugby league community. It is only a matter of time before a more ‘inclusive’ name is adopted.
My musculoskeletal specialist, Paula Nutting has played golf with former Australian cricket captain, Greg Chappell at Royal Queensland. She says he is an excellent player, although not so good on the greens.
After two beers at Fonzy Abbott, Albion, I walk past Brothers’ rugby union ground, where juniors are playing a scratch game of rugby league. Then, on to Hamilton, past heritage listed Palma Rosa. Former Queensland State of Origin centre, Adrian Vowles is to coach Brisbane Easts Women’s team.
Our eldest grandson, Ethan, when asked at Kindy what Christmas means, replies: “We spend time with family’. Nice.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26
My dental hygienist, Jeremy Wheaton, says Sydney Roosters’ Queensland State of Origin forward, Lindsay Collins, runs like a rugby union player. Not sure what that means. Jeremy is an Easts’ Rugby Union man.
Former Test pace bowler, Geoff Dymock, OAM, is not happy that kids try to smash every ball bowled to them in the nets. 20/20 cricket is to blame. Geoff, who started his cricket career in Maryborough (Queensland), conducts cricket coaching clinics.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27
Callers to Neil Breen’s Breakfast show on Radio 4BC recall the young Bee Gees playing at the Lands Office Hotel, and also at Wests Mitchelton Rugby League Club’s ‘break-up’. The Lands Office Hotel sponsored our Queensland Journalists rugby league side in 1981, when we played New South Wales at Corbett Park, Grange. Photographer, Brian Church, a staunch supporter of the Journo’s League, counted hotel proprietor, Jim Kennedy among his mates.
Super coach, Wayne Bennett concedes that the Broncos ‘ derby matches against the now defunct South Queensland Crushers – in 1995 and ’96 – were tough affairs. He was quite dismissive of the Crushers at the time. The Crushers were in the ARL camp, while the Broncos were part of the rebel Super League. Wayne is mentioned as coach of the proposed new, South East Queensland NRL side.
There is a shortage of taxi drivers in Townsville, largely because older blokes are not keen to drive cabs, because of Covid fears.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 28
Former Great Britain star, Rob Burrow, who is battling motor neuron disease, introduces SKYSports coverage of the Super League Grand Final, between St Helens and Wigan, from an empty Old Trafford. Tough game, and what an amazing finish, with St Helens’ youngster, Jack Welsby scoring a try after the fulltime hooter, chasing a field goal shot by Tommy Makinson, which hit the upright. I was impressed by Welsby, 19 and Wigan youngster, Morgan Smithies. The finish was ‘Roy of the Rovers stuff’, says jubilant Saints’ prop, James Graham, who was playing his last match, before retirement. ‘Roy of the Rovers’ was fictional comic book hero, who, I believe, appeared in Tiger magazine, to begin with. I subscribed to rival publication, ‘Lion’, and my collection is somewhere under our stairwell.
Lovely night at Royal Hotel, Nundah, celebrating the 40th birthday of our eldest boy, Damien’s close friend, Nigel Large. Damien had flown down from North Queensland for the occasion and was responsible for the excellent video presentation. Damien, ‘Largy’, ‘Wattsy (Chris Watts) and company finish back at Burky’s (Anthony Burke’s) place. Nigel’s father, Bob is great mates with former Queensland cricket all-rounder, Phil Carlson. Bob was a first-grade cricketer of some note. Our son, Damien was a gutsy opening batsmen (aren’t they all), and once faced former England pace bowler, Matthew Hoggard in a charity match in Hertfordshire.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29
My former Wingham Tigers’ teammate, ‘Dawby’ Berriman has lost his job as caretaker, at Wingham Showgrounds, where we played in 1975. The Tigers now play at a purpose-built, footy ground. ‘Dawby’, a gutsy player, previously had a pub at Mt Druitt in Sydney’s wild west.
Learn of the passing of former Australian Rugby League selector, Mick Falla, 83, a Coogee junior who played first grade for South Sydney in the 1960s, before finishing his playing career with a two-year stint at Glen Innes. Falla was a national selector in the 1980s, and then again in the 1990s, when I was covering rugby league for the Telegraph, and then ‘The Courier-Mail’.
FoxSports’ Kerry O’Keefe’s rapier-like wit is lost on fellow commentator, Shane Warne. ‘Warney’ does not know what a rapier is, and O’Keefe then makes a quip about Johnny Rapier, which also goes over Warney’s head. Well, he is a Victorian.
Paula Nutting is elected to the board of Royal Queensland Golf Club.