DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK FIVE 2021
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1
Noted rugby league administrator, Shane Richardson is one of the driving forces behind the Brisbane Easts’ (Firehawks) NRL Bid team. I interviewed ‘Richo’ many times in my role as a rugby league writer, the first time when he was coming through the ranks at Easts, as a coach, and then in admin., and then at Cronulla, Super League, Penrith and South Sydney. We last crossed paths at the Coogee Legion Club. There is a $7 million upgrade planned for Easts’ home ground, Langlands Park, whether the bid is successful or not. Former NRL Museum boss, Terry Williams has gone back to fulltime teaching. He is one of the victims of the savage financial cutbacks forced on the NRL by Covid, although I understand the NRL were making cuts in the museum area, even before Covid, which is sad.
My wife, Marie and I drive to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane, via the bakery at Yandina, and book into Atlanta at Marcoola. Our top floor apartment is spacious. The first people to stay there were Dave and Irene Osbourne from Sunbury in Victoria, and they loved it so much, they bought it.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 2
News breaks that Wally Lewis and his wife, Jacqueline have separated after 36 years of marriage. I had no idea. I transcribed many of the tapes of author, Steve Haddan’s interviews with Wally for the book ‘Wally Lewis. My Life’, and there was no hint of troubles afoot, in the marriage. Former Courier-Mail feature writer, Mike Colman, who now works for the Daily Mail, and lives at Kawana, ‘picks my brain’, re. the bust-up. There’s not much I can tell him.
St George Illawarra have expressed interest in former Wallaby and Catalans Dragons star, Israel Folau. Don’t like their chances, given the likely backlash from the constantly offended.
My wife spots a black snake in the bush as we walk back to our apartment from Mudjimba, where we had morning tea at the general store. Chat to a lady who is walking ‘Wellington’, a lovely black Labrador.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3
A bloke with an 18-month-old macaw is the centre of attention on the beach. The macaw lands on Marie three times while she is in the surf. Yachts go round Old Woman Island, and two RAAF jets fly over. It’s great to be alive. In the lift, going up to our apartment, I chat to a bloke from Melbourne, who owns an apartment here, but had been stuck in Victoria for 12 months, because of Covid.
Lovely coffee and quiche from Candid, Marcoola. Dinner at Marcoola Surf Club, and then walk back under a star-studded sky. It was raffle night at the club, with proceeds going to the Nippers.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 4
Former North Queensland Cowboys” coach, Paul Green is named Queensland State of Origin coach. The last time I interviewed ‘Greeny’, he was coach of Wynnum-Manly.
Beautiful lunch at Ricky’s, Noosa. Our waiter is from La Rochelle in France. I enjoy Wallis Lake oysters as a starter. Marie has Western Australia lobster for mains, while I tuck into eye fillet, washed down by Even Keel Pinot. Marie has a passionfruit souffle to finish. On the way back to Marcoola, we are tail gated from Sunshine Beach to Coolum by a female P-plater, with a front seat female passenger. It is restricted speed all the way – 50, 60, 70 or 80, and I am always at the maximum allowed. What is one supposed to do? ‘Settle Boomer’.
Drinks at High Tide, Mudjimba. Chat to couple who are staying at Novotel, Twin Waters. They say the place is ‘tired’. Lots of cane toads on the path on our walk back to our apartment.
Greg Grainger sends a photo of Maitland Rugby League legend, the late Merv Wright. Greg says Wright gave future Test winger, Jim Porter a terrible time in one Newcastle club game, so much so that Porter switched to the other wing. Greg was close friends with Wright, who he described as a true gentleman. Wright’s funeral was the biggest ever held at the Maitland Sports Ground. The grandstands were full, and there was a didgeridoo player there, to honour Wright’s indigenous heritage.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5
Former Australian fast bowler, Jeff Thomson is a fellow customer at Mooloolaba Co-op, where we stock up on seafood. I was his ghost writer at the Telegraph, back in the mid-1980s but haven’t seen him for many years.
When I spot him, I blurt out, without thinking: “Thommo!”
He looks at me as if I am from another planet, no doubt thinking I am just another pain in the neck fan.
The conversation goes like this.
Me. “How are you going? I used to write your column in the paper.”
Thommo: ‘What’s your name?
Me: “Steve Ricketts”.
Thommo: “Oh yeah. What are you doing these days? Still writing?”
Me: “Happily retired. See you mate”.
That was it.
Marie and I have lunch with friends, Rhonda Howard and Allan Webber at Golden Beach, looking out over Pumicestone Passage from their apartment, as an osprey, with a fish in its mouth, flies over. The tiny Military Wharf camping ground is across the road, and there is a bloke selling prawns. There are Aussie rules junior sign-on banners everywhere on the Sunshine Coast. Nothing about rugby league sign-ons.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6
Former rugby league Test star, Ken McCaffery has died, aged 91. See Vale Ken McCaffery, by Greg Shannon, on this website. Ken had the Tattersalls Pub in Lismore, some years back, when the pub scene was thriving, in the city where I was born.
Narrabri Rugby League is celebrating its centenary. Former St George (Sydney) forward, Irish born Robin Gourley was captain coach back in the late 60s. He has a farm at Narrabri. His son, Scott played for St George and the Roosters, and represented Australia in league, after previously representing Australia in rugby union, the sport his father played in Northern Ireland, before emigrating as a 22-year-old. Robin represented New South Wales, as did Scott.
Legendary Canadian actor, Christopher Plummer has died, aged 91. I best remember him from The Night of the Generals, and of course, Sound of Music.
Buy Mortlake (Victoria) cheese from Soul Pantry, Stafford and Richo’s Redemption Pale Ale from nearby Happy Valley Brewery.
A commentator for Euro Golf from Saudi Arabia says there are 600,000 camels in the country. Australian Government website says there are one million camels here.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7
Dual rugby star, Sonny Bill Williams is to release a warts and all bio. I was at the Clovelly Hotel in 2007, on the day he had a tryst with Candice Falzon, in a toilet cubicle. I had been drinking with Australian Rugby League chief executive, Geoff Carr and his good mate, local league identity, John ‘Chisa’ Chisholm, who I played against, when John was contracted to Surfers Paradise Pirates, and I played for Murwillumbah Brothers. When we saw Willie Mason and other Bulldogs arriving, we knew it was time to leave. ‘Carrey’ and ‘Chisa’ got the DJ to play Mack the Knife and Flame Trees, their signature songs, a signal to the other regulars that the pair were about to leave the building.
On the subject of league books – Neil Pollock is writing the history of the famous (New South Wales Country – Riverina) Maher Cup 1920-71. See mahercup.com.au/book
A bloke from Lennox Head in northern New South Wales, says there has been an explosion of green tree frogs, following recent rains. Lovely to hear. There was a magnificent green frog that lived in our back yard at Zillmere, in Brisbane’s north, in the 1980s. United States based Janelle Bryant (nee Vidler), one of my wife’s closest friends, conducts a Zoom presentation for a native plant symposium. She hopes to have a garden video on YouTube.