DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 52 2020/TRANSITION TO 2021
MONDAY, DECEMBER 28
Legendary dual rugby international, Ray Price played in the Sydney Journalists Rugby League competition, when he was a Parramatta rugby union player. That shows you how strong the journos’ league was, and how Ray, ‘deep down’, was always a league player. These days, you would struggle to get a journalists’ team together from across the nation. Price played league under a different name, otherwise he would have been banned from union. All this came to light during an interview Tim Sheridan conducted with ‘Pricey’ on FoxSports. Price grew up in the Parramatta area and played all his (Australian) senior football with Parra., his league debut coming in a reserve grade match against Balmain at Cumberland Oval. The first time he took the ball up, Balmain lock, Neil ‘Bing’ Pringle, hit him high, leaving a cut above the eye. It was ‘Bing’s way of saying welcome to rugby league. At the end of his career, Price had a stint in England with Wakefield Trinity.
A classic XXXX beer commercial, filmed on Dunk Island in North Queensland, is shown during the lunch break in the Australia v India cricket Test in Melbourne. Featured in the ad are Allan Border, Ray Phillips, Greg ‘Fat Cat’ Ritchie and Jeff Thomson.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29
Another dual rugby international, Geoff Richardson’s mother babysat Jason Atherton, while his parents, Brian and Carole attended my wedding on November 15, 1975. Carole reminds me of this, when I visit her and Brian and their daughter, Emma, at Emma’s residence at Clontarf, Redcliffe. Brian, my captain-coach at Murwillumbah Brothers in 1973, was groomsman at the wedding at St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore. I married Casino born, Marie Donnelly. Brian and Carole have not been impressed with the quality of food at places where they have dined at Redcliffe, and across the bay, at Sandgate, in Brisbane.
Brian says our former Wingham Tigers’ rugby league teammate, Don Gibson was left ‘totally spent’ from fighting bush fires in the Manning district. Brian grew up in Widnes, England, where there would be street versus street rugby league matches. Brian shows me a photograph of a Ditton (Widnes) league team which includes him and other Widnesians I got to know, Dennis O’Neill, Bo Goulding and the captain, John Mullarkey. O’Neill represented Great Britain.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30
Lunch at Pineapple Hotel with former Broncos’ Media manager, Trad McLean and his father, Mike, better known as Dolly. I played against ‘Dolly’ in 1975, when he was captain-coach of Port Macquarie and I was contracted to Wingham Tigers. Carole Atherton, who I caught up with yesterday, nursed with Dolly’s sister, Jo, who died from leukemia, aged just 32. Trad is enjoying his new role as Media Manager for Containers for Change.
A gentleman, surname, Coorey, who was born at Casino in northern New South Wales, comments on my Men of League polo, and says he how much he respects the work of the Foundation.
Buy ‘The Big O’ (The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina) at Dymocks city book shop. Filipaina played 29 rugby league Tests for New Zealand between 1977 and 1986. A group of indigenous kids jump in front of other people to board the council bus I am on, and then play Rap music at the back of the bus.
Walk to Stafford Tavern, along Kedron Brook, crossing at a shallow point, where a council mower, driven by a Kiwi bloke, also fords. Walk along the Brook with the charming Ethel Daley, whose son-in-law is marketing guru, Terry Reader. Ethel’s maiden name was Moffiti, with the family hailing from north of Milan, in Italy. She and husband, Keith, grew up at Mt Isa.
One of the pub patrons says the fact Bali is off limits because of Covid, means that all the ‘scum’ who travelled there, are now on our beaches. A touch cynical, perhaps.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31
Australian singer/songwriter, Paul Kelly dominates ABC television’s New Year’s coverage. Indigenous singer, Casey Donovan has a great voice.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison praises our indomitable spirit, in the face of the Covid crisis, and pronounces indomitable correctly, unlike the SKY newsreader, who has no idea.
My old footy club, Murwillumbah Brothers stage a New Year’s Eve fireworks event at their Dorothy Street clubhouse.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 1 2021
Welcome 2021. You have to be better than 2020. You haven’t got much to beat.
Evidently there were only 6,000 flu cases in Queensland last year, a huge drop on previous years.
Sydney Thunder batsman, Usman Khawaja is very funny, as he provides comments from the field at Metricon, in the Big Bash match against the Renegades. The Pakistan born 34-year-old says he is blessed to live in Australia.
There is an amazing brawl in a college football game from the US – Mississippi State v Tulsa.
SBS show 1969 movie, Midnight Cowboy, which I saw, with Phil Batty, at Murwillumbah’s Regent Theatre.
Chicken salad (lunch) and beef stroganoff are our first meals of 2021.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 2
Laura Devoy, a journalist at National Radio News, Bathurst, is the grand-daughter of former New South Wales Country and Mullumbimby prop, Geoff Hampson. I played against Geoff, when he was a veteran, in the early 1970s. He also played a season or two at Armidale. Laura is seeking information on her late grandfather’s footy career.
Fellow league historian, Lyle Beaton runs a piece about French Rugby union still owing money to rugby league, as a result of its seizure of all rugby league’s assets during World War II, when it sided with the Nazi backed Vichy Government.
‘Soxagon’, bred and owned by my former sports editor, Brian Burke, wins the $200,000 Buffering at Eagle Farm, which ensures a wild card entry to the Magic Millions.
Our youngest lad, Lliam saves a baby, washed away by a freak wave at Noosa, his car keys ruined by the salt water in the process. I rescued a middle-aged woman when a sandbank collapsed at Burleigh many years ago. She didn’t thank me, but I think she was too embarrassed, as well as being in a state of shock.
Our eldest lad, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan stay the night, ahead of their return to Ayr in North Queensland. Marie cooks roast lamb.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 3
Learn of the passing of Nola Nunan, who was head of Murwillumbah Brothers’ Ladies Auxiliary in the 1960s and ’70s. Each year the auxiliary would hand over a huge cheque to the club at the trophy presentation evening. My mother, Lola, was a member of the auxiliary from 1968 to ’72, and loved working in the canteen at the showgrounds, with the likes of Nola, Mrs Nardi and Mrs Carroll. Mum often recalled Mrs Nardi commenting: ‘Here come our lovely boys’, as the first graders emerged from the dressing rooms in the showground pavilion, ready to do battle. The football shorts were always immaculately white. Nola Nunan’s four sons – twins, Geoff and Allan; Peter and Mick, all played for Brothers and her husband Joe (who died some years back) was a selector and team manager at different stages.
Thieves took a real estate sign from the front of our town house estate. It finished up at Stones Corner Library. Some young blokes that our estate manager, Harry Moore chided, are chief suspects. Mail box keyholes were also glued, no doubt by the sign thieves.