DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 51 2020
MONDAY, DECEMBER 21
Indigenous rugby league on the Tweed is the main topic of conversation when our eldest son, Damien introduces me to Pete Townsend from Beenleigh High’s staff, as we relax at Tugun Beach on the Gold Coast. Pete, himself an indigenous man, mentions names such as Max Telford and Brad Garrett, as well as the McDermott and Smallwood families.
Damien, who is deputy principal at East Ayr Primary, taught at Beenleigh before his move north to the Burdekin. My wife, Marie and I are enjoying family time on the Gold Coast, staying at Currumbin, where driftwood litters the beach, following recent wild weather.
Peter, who previously worked at Coolangatta Primary, says there was a FIGS (Former International Greats) function at the Kirra Beach pub, recently, and the Sorensen brothers, Dane and Kurt were in attendance.
There are two television crews at Tugun Surf club for a media conference promoting a Masters event to be held in March, 2021.
St Helens’ rugby league stalwart, Steve Lingard, one of Damien’s English mates, reminds me that former All Black, English born ‘Jum’ Hubert Turtill from Christchurch, signed with the Merseyside club after the ground breaking ‘All Golds’ rugby league tour of the UK in 1908. He ran the Nelson pub in St Helens, but was killed in World War 1, serving in the same division as some of Steve’s relatives. Turtill was one of 13 All Blacks killed during ‘The Great War’. Steve is living in Warkworth, New Zealand. The Nelson is still a league stronghold.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 22
After his invaluable input into Queensland’s shock State of Origin series win, experienced coach, Neil Henry, is likely to do consultancy work for the QRL. He is still in demand, with Warrington in England having approached him, about a position at the Cheshire club. Neil is having a coffee the same time as me, at The Salt Mill, Currumbin Beach. Neil coached Kiwi, Lloyd Martin at Bega. Martin had a stint with Brothers in Brisbane.
Marie and I babysit grand daughters, Parker and Evan while their parents, Damien and Emma enjoy lunch at Rick Shores, Burleigh Heads.
The all-time Widnes 17 has been named. It is: Ray Dutton; Martin Offiah, Darren Wright, Frank Myler, Stuart Wright; Tony Myler, Andy Gregory; Jim Mills, Keith Elwell, Kurt Sorensen, Emosi Koloto, Mick Adams, Vince Karalius. Phil McKenzie, David Hulme, Paul Hulme, Jonathan Davies. Mills and Davies are Welsh; Sorensen a Kiwi; Koloto a Tongan and McKenzie, Australian. The other 12 are English, with most from Widnes itself. It must have been tough to leave out local lad, centre, Eric Hughes. Dutton, Stuart Wright, Mills, Elwell and Adams were playing with Widnes when Marie and I stayed in the Cheshire city in December/January 1977-78.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23
Recently appointed Broncos’ assistant coach, John Cartwright looks fit as he embarks on a run from Currumbin Surf Club.
A local says the rocks to the south of the surf club were exposed by recent storms, after being buried under sand for the 21 years he has lived in the area, since moving up from Yamba on the Clarence Coast of New South Wales.
Marie and I lunch at Piccolo, Miami on our way back to Brisbane. Beach cricket is taking place, which is great to see.
My sister, Gay Lynch catches up with six former All Hallows’ classmates at Brisbane’s Regatta Hotel.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24
A mate says Sutton’s Beach at Redcliffe is ridiculously busy. Polynesian families, in particular, have set up for the day.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 25
Prawns, duck and ham for Christmas Day lunch at our residence at Grange.
Everyone provides a playlist of songs. My choice of Tremeloes hit ‘Silence is Golden’ is universally panned, but The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Keep on Runnin’ is well liked.
Damien and I watch the Third Test of the 1974 Rugby League Ashes series between Australia and Great Britain at the SCG. Australia won 22-18, with captain-coach, Graeme Langlands scoring a try and kicking five goals. Dual international, John Gray kicked six goals for Britain, several from long range.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 26
Australia win the toss and elect to bat in the Boxing Day Test against India. It is Paul Reiffel’s 50th Test as an umpire. He played 35 Tests for Australia. There is a moving family ‘service’ for Dean Jones, the former Australian batsman, who died suddenly in India.
Celebrate our grand daughter, Parker’s fifth birth at Grange Library Park. A muscle-bound chap of Indian appearance, allows his little daughter to pee in the middle of the playground area, on the rubber surface. I could have accepted the girl having a bush pee on the grass, but not on the artificial surface.
Learn of the passing of Randall Coolwell, at the age of 58. The (indigenous) Coolwell family is synonymous with rugby league and cricket in Brisbane, and took-in future superstar, Greg Inglis when he first arrived in Brisbane to complete his schooling at Wavell High.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27
Former schoolmate, Andrew Meyenn has written a song about our last days at Murwillumbah High School, in 1970. Andrew doesn’t strike me as the sentimental type. The song is quite moving, and a reminder of how quickly we outgrow youth. In the song, Andrew refers to the Tweed Valley cane fields; Murwillumbah’s Norco Dairy Factory; visits to Andrew Clarke’s rural home at Nobby’s Creek and misty Mt Warning.
Andrew would hitch hike from university in Canberra, back to Murwillumbah, staying with friends along the way, including Elizabeth Rowe, who I took to the school break-up party. Elizabeth married a prominent country rugby league player (name escapes me), who was captain-coach (I think) at Hay in the 1970s.
‘Carry on Abroad’ movie finishes with Sid Barnes back at his London pub, serving Watney’s Red Barrell, surely one of the worst beers ever made. I love the ‘Carry On’ movies.
Victorian, Wil Parker makes his Big Bash cricket debut for Hobart Hurricanes against Brisbane Heat at the Gabba and the commentators gush about his Aussie rules background. Sam Heazlett, a Brisbane lad with a strong rugby league background, belts Parker for three straight sixes.
My wife, Marie says we must do more bush walking in 2021, than we have done this year.