DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 4 2021
MONDAY, JANUARY 25
Former Queensland forward, Reg Cannon idolised Brisbane Wests’ stars, Alex Watson, Duncan Hall and Col Weir when he was young fan of the Brisbane competition. Cannon, best known as a Brothers’ forward and later coach, was a Wests’ junior. “I loved the collisions,” Cannon said of his days watching his heroes close-up. Reg played in the 1970 World Cup selection trials at the Sydney Showgrounds. He did his knee playing for Gympie Brothers in February 1971, and that was the end of his playing career. Reg did National Service in 1968 and recalls going to the huge Standard Sawmill, at Murwillumbah, with John Lewis, to learn about the saw doctor trade. He worked in the Mebbin State Forest (Now the Border Ranges National Park) with timber cutters. The army engineers needed saw doctors.
Former Murwillumbah Old Boys’ prop, John Crowley says the late Ron Roberts had the Bat and Ball Pub, Cleveland, the nearest pub to the police training centre in Bourke Street, where ‘Crowls’ did his training. Ron scored the match winning try for Australia in the Third and deciding Test against Great Britain at the SCG in 1950.
Valleys’ rugby league official, former Ashgrove Marists teacher, Chris Leeson has been door knocking schools in Valleys’ catchment area, re. looming sign-on days. “Heaps of females” have signed up, Leeson says. Chris is to interview former Test centre, Mark Thomas for his podcast. I played reserve grade alongside Mark at Brothers in Brisbane in 1976. The next year he played for Australia. I was still in reserve grade.
Burns Night is celebrated at Stafford Tavern and there is an Irishman in a kilt. The pub in Hawick, Scotland where my wife, Marie and I enjoyed a Burns Night in 1998, is no more, say our Hawick friends, Elliot and Linda Gibson.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 26
Former Queensland forward, Des Morris from Capalaba, receives an OAM in the Australia Day Honours, for his services to rugby league. Well deserved.
My wife Marie, makes damper for Australia Day. There is live music at the Yacht Club at Manly and the place is packed. Lots of Australian flags out the front of homes in the area. We have two drinks at Sea Vibes before buying fish and chips to eat on the waterfront. So many boats are coming in from the bay. On the return journey to Grange there are lots of young people on the side of the road at Wynnum, with one bloke throwing objects at passing traffic. Lovely.
Our eldest boy, Damien takes an injured kookaburra to the vet at Ayr in North Queensland. Damien also does a surf patrol at Alva Beach. Now that’s what I call an Australia Day.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27
Radio TAB American sports expert, Leo Hanrahan, a secondary school teacher, says Year 11 and 12 students are huge followers of the NBA.
Our eldest grandson, Ethan starts school at Petrie Terrace State. He says the best part is playing with friends, but there isn’t enough time for lunch. Our eldest granddaughter, Parker gets a lamington, on her first day at East Ayr, where her dad, Damien is deputy principal.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 28
Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock and I visit our former Courier-Mail colleague, Paul Malone in St Andrew’s Hospital. Paul, who has been a quadriplegic since 2019, is not in a good way.
Former Telegraph league writer, Paul Wicks says club secretaries were some of his main sources of information when he did the footy round, and he also regularly contacted QRL chief, Ron McAuliffe and Brisbane supremo, Arthur Sparks. Paul was acting chief league writer at the Telegraph when he was just 19, while Harry Jefferies was away. Paul had covered Bulimba Cup (inter-city) matches for the Toowoomba Chronicle when he was just 17. He wanted to keep writing league and cricket, but chose television and radio, when Telegraph editor, Lionel Hogg told him to choose one or the other. If he had stuck with league, I might not have got the round in 1981, the year Harry Jefferies retired.
Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and former Prime Minister, John Howard attend the Doug Anthony Memorial service at Twin Towns Services Club, Tweed Heads. Doug Anthony, a former Deputy Prime Minister, died on December 20, aged 90.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 29
Lunch with other members of the Beer and Beef Club at Morrison Hotel, South Brisbane, to discuss the year ahead. Danny Burke says he was married by Lord Mayor Clem Jones at the Gabba. Danny made a cricket tour of the USA in 1982, in a side which included Australian cricket captain, Allan Border and Queensland pace bowler, Geoff Dymock. In Chicago, locals set fire to a frozen pitch to ensure the game went ahead. Speaking of cricket. Ben Cutting had run by me on the Kedron Brook path today, as I walked to Lutwyche Bus Station.
BBC Sport’s Clare Balding turns 50. I met her when I covered the Rugby League World Cup in the UK and France in 2000.
New Zealand Warriors fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck announces he will play rugby union at the end of the season, with the aim of playing for the All Blacks in the next World Cup. New Zealand Herald columnist, Chris Rattue says Roger will not make it in the 15-man code.
Brisbane Wests Rugby League Old Boys gather at Mooloolaba Surf Club, ahead of the ‘John Armstrong Weekend’. The lads are paying their respects to their now deceased former teammate. Armstrong played for Wests, Canterbury and the Roosters in Sydney, and represented City in 1967. I met him briefly at the Port ‘O’ Call pub (now the Sands) Coolangatta when the Chooks were on an end-of-season trip in 1972. What happens on tour, stays on tour….
SATURDAY, JANUARY 30
Former Parramatta rugby league winger, Semi Radradra scores a great try for Bristol against Bath, just after halftime, in English Rugby Union. It was his 14th carry, and at that stage he had made more ground than the entire Bath team.
A neighbour’s dog barks non-stop well into the night, and the owners do nothing to stop it.
Australian, Andy Friend is re-appointed coach of Connacht Rugby in Ireland.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 31
Barry Ross, best known as former television commentator, Rex Mossop’s sidekick, says former Australian rugby league centre, John Riley is still going strong, and organises 1959 Kangaroo tour reunions. John was selected for that tour of Britain and France from the St George club. I recall him playing club league in Melbourne, when he was transferred to Victoria in his job. Former British Test hooker, John Gray was Barry Ross’s Best Man and former South Sydney and Manly-Warringah winger, Tom Mooney the groomsmen. Mooney’s first school as a teacher was Kensington in Sydney. He went to teacher’s college in Lismore. Barry did the French legs of the 1978 and ’82 Kangaroo tours, without Rex. In 1981, Barry befriended Carlos Zaluendo, Max Chantal and Joel Roosebrouck on France’s tour of Australia and took them on a day trip to Cronulla. It was often up to the locals to entertain the tourists, as the Australian Rugby League neglected the French. I organised a Bastille Day lunch for the ’81 tourists at the Mansfield Tavern.
I have beers at Kedron Park Hotel for the first time in many years. Next door neighbour, Len O’Brien (not the one with the barking dog. At least, not on the most recent occasion) took me and introduced me to several of his mates, all good conversationalists (talkers, not environmentalists, although they might be). They include seaman, Scott McKenzie; bank worker, John Porter and lawyer, Steve Amundsen, a former universities rugby league player. John went to Padua College, as did Len. Scott played league for Woodridge Tavern and counts Geoff Richardson, Amen Gutugutuwai and Alan Currie among his favourite players
Sunday Mail carry a yarn about Kiwi, Mark Fraser, the inventor of Cool Cabana, who is making some of our beaches (I mean you, Noosa) look like Italy. I don’t like it. It’s sort of un-Australian to block out other beach goers’ views of the water.