DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 48 2020
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30
Former Rugby League Test prop, Gary Parcell has died, aged 87. Gary played eight Tests for Australia in 1959 and 1960. He toured Britain and France with the 1959-60 Kangaroos, and returned to Britain at the end of the 1960 Australian season, for the third Rugby League World Cup.
Channel 9’s Peter Psaltis and I interviewed Gary at his Harrisville property, near Ipswich, in 2013 for a QRL project. (The interview can be accessed, via the Obituary I wrote, which appears on the QRL website). Gary’s son, Steve was a member of the 1989 Queensland Residents team which toured France. I covered the tour for ‘The Courier-Mail’ and organised a photograph of father and son, before the team’s departure.
My wife, Marie and I surf at Alexandra Headland on the Sunshine Coast, and there are some decent waves. Buy fresh local, king fish at Mooloolaba Co-op, where the cheerful chap who serves me, says he has never been so nice to a Roosters’ man. (I am wearing a Roosters’ polo). He supports Souths, just like my wife.
To get rid of the sea salt from our skin, we bush walk at Buderim Forest Park. Female P plate driver overtakes us at great rate of knots as we return to Brisbane. There is a sticker on the car which reads: ‘Settle Boomer’. I’m doing my best.
Perry Cronin, president of Allora Regional Sports Museum, is keen to see the historic display at QRLCentral, Milton.
Marie and I watch Clint Eastwood movie, ‘The Mule’.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1
Former Souths’ rugby league winger, Mick Gramm has retired from Queensland Rail after 50 years. Mick played in Souths’ 1979 and 1980 grand final losses to Valleys and Norths, respectively. In 1981, when Souths beat Redcliffe in the decider, Souths’ wingers were Gary Thompson and Mick Reardon, with Reardon scoring the match winner.
The Town and Country Hotel at Nerang has been demolished. I attended a Gold Coast Vikings’, Rugby League Season Launch there in 1982, but the motel was more famous as the place where Gold Coast ‘identity’, Fairleigh Arrow hung out, at one stage, when she was allegedly kidnapped. She later posed nude for Playboy. I don’t think the photos were taken at the Town and Country.
Race 1 at Newcastle is The Gary Harley Handicap, named after the veteran Hunter Valley race caller. I played rugby league alongside Gary, at Murwillumbah Brothers in 1974, when he was a local ‘Bank Johnny’.
Former North Sydney and Valleys’ forward, Kevin Tyach walks his dog along the path that divides our town house estate, and says: ‘Come on Angus. Pudding and pie. Kissed the girls and made them cry’. As a young bloke, Kev would attend the wrestling at Brisbane’s Festival Hall. On one occasion, fights – among the fans – spilled out of the Hall, into the street. He is a little embarrassed when I mention his pudding and pie stuff at Stafford Tavern, as we enjoy an ale. The gentlemen, at what is referred to as ‘The table of knowledge’, talk about the old ‘Jet Club’ days and characters such as Johnny Morris and Dennis Knight.
My former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Greg Grainger sends photos of 1980 and ’81 New South Wales Country representative sides. Murwillumbah’s Stan Sercombe was a manager of the 1980 side. The main league field at Murwillumbah is named after Stan, one of the best administrators of the code I have met.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2
Former Australian rugby league forward, Carl Webb, who has motor neuron disease, gives a dignified interview on RadioTAB.
Our granddaughter, Parker has a ‘transition to prep day’ at East Ayr State School. There are no tears.
Former South Sydney utility back, Steve Little has died aged 67, at Port Macquarie. He played junior football for Moree in the bush, and then for Zetland in Sydney, before earning his chance in first grade at Souths, under the coaching of the great Clive Churchill. A police officer, Little later played for Terrigal-Wamberal and then West Tamworth. My former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Garry Dowling represented Riverina (from the Gundagai club) against a South Sydney side, which included Little.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3
I’m back! Or so it seems. I pick up ‘The Courier-Mail’ from the front lawn, and there, in the sports pages, is the obituary I wrote about Gary Parcell. It took up the best part of a page, and they used my by-line. I had no idea. The paper took it straight from the QRL website, and I was delighted they did, because Gary deserved a good spread, in a paper that wrote so much about him, during his playing career.
It’s certainly a pleasant change to see so much space devoted to a local league legend, rather than an Aussie rules player from Shepparton, Bendigo or somewhere similar, that no-one up here knows anything about.
Marie and I have breakfast at busy Hervey’s in James Street, as our daughter, Melanie’s car is serviced at Newstead. Coffin Bay oysters are $38 a dozen at James Street Markets.
At Palace Centro Cinemas, Marie and see French movie, ‘In the Name of the Land’, a sad story about rural suicide.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 4
Australian rules legend, Alastair Lynch is my interview subject at Beer and Beef Club, Regatta Hotel, and he is a quality speaker. He had just returned from his home state, Tasmania, where there was snow on Mt Wellington, overlooking Hobart. I mentioned that Marie and I had met a bloke, in North West Tasmania, who played against Alastair in the juniors. “We’re probably related,” Lynch says, with a cheeky smile.
Alastair says the Brisbane Lions once played the Broncos in a game of touch and won! He says Broncos coach, Wayne Bennett was very unhappy.
The current Broncos, under new coach, Kevin Walters, are being put through the dreaded Enoggera Dam run, one which I covered several times for ‘The Courier-Mail’.
My cabbie home is from the Punjab (shock). He played cricket for Nundah, but lives at Springfield these days.
Australian cricket coach, Justin Langer and match referee, David Boon are involved in a heated debate over an alleged substitute rort by the touring Indian side, in Canberra. I think Langer had very good reason to be upset.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 5
‘The Courier-Mail’ carries highlights from Wally Lewis’s book, ‘My Life Wally Lewis’, which I helped author, Steve Haddan with, over several months, mainly transcribing tapes.
The paper also carries features on the 100 biggest ‘power players’ in sport, among them Steve Gillis, Steve Crawley, Cam Smith, Nick Politis, all rugby league identities, the first two former league writers, like me. I might make the list next year, if I get a few more followers.
FoxSports carry highlights from final round, 1968 Sydney Rugby League match between Easts and Souths, with Souths winning 26-24. What a thriller! Murwillumbah Brothers’ product, Cliff Boyd was playing for the Roosters (Easts). Cliff played for Brothers in their 1961 and ’62 Tweed grand final victories. My father, Jon, was Brothers’ treasurer in 1961.
My former Brothers’ teammate, Greg Grainger sends pic of a New South Wales Country side, which includes Bill Bischoff and Gary Dobrich, with Gary a product of Murwillumbah Brothers. Gary later moved to Brisbane and represented Queensland. Bill, who played halfback for Balmain in their 1964 Sydney grand final loss to St George, often paid a visit to the press box at Seagulls Stadium, West Tweed Heads. He was employed at the adjoining leagues club.
Wellington rugby union centre, Billy Proctor scores a great try for Maori All Blacks v ‘Moana Pasifika’ in Hamilton.
The Wallabies sing an Indigenous version of the National Anthem, before their match against Argentina, which finishes in a 16-16 draw. FoxSports commentary team says goodbye after 25 years of covering ‘rugger’. They bought the rights in 1996 when rugby league was in the middle of the ‘Super League War’.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6
ABC news report says the Wallabies came third in the Tri-nations. No doubt dear old Aunty did not want to offend them by saying they came last.
Ten cyclists and a police officer have been injured at Eviron, near Murwillumbah. Evidently the ‘pack’ collided with a police motor cyclist.
Marie and I enjoy fish and chips at Sandgate. We had intended to eat on the waterfront, but it is so windy, we retreat to Dowse Lagoon.
Fox cricket commentator, Mark Waugh is excited when he spots an Australian flag in the crowd, at the 20/20 cricket match between Australia and India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.