DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 7 2021
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15
There was no-one more competitive than Brisbane Easts’ fullback, Rodger ‘The Dodger’ Kuhn, back in 1970s Brisbane Rugby League, and 40 odd years later he is still filthy on the Queensland selectors for not picking him for the State. How do I know? He has said as much in an interview with Michael Nunn in Michael’s Queensland Times’ column. Rodger felt he missed out because the selectors, one in particular, thought he couldn’t tackle.
Over a beer at Stafford Tavern, former Brothers’ winger, Peter Skerman tells me he was working in the bank when decimal currency came in, on February 14, 1966, replacing pounds, shillings and pence. In the early days of the currency, when people were still getting used to the notes, ‘Skermo’ tricked a barman with a ‘$20 note’ cut from the pages of ‘Women’s Weekly’.
Former Wales B rugby Union rep., Brian Juliff is chairman of Welsh Rugby League. Good to see he still has a love for the 13-man code, which he took up in 1978, when he signed with Wakefield Trinity from Pontypridd Rugby Union. Juliff played for Halifax against the 1986 Kangaroos, a match I covered for the ‘Telegraph’.
My wife, Marie and I watch ‘Back Roads’ on the ABC, with Kyogle featured. There is no mention of ‘The Loop’ or Athol McQueen. The show was excellent, but we thought there should have been a reference to the engineering marvel which is ‘The Loop’, a spiral rail loop in the Border Ranges, which is an integral part of the rail link between Sydney and Brisbane. Marie’s grandfather, ‘old man Geraghty’, was part of ‘The Loop’ construction gang, based in Kyogle, back in the 1920s. Kyogle legend, Athol McQueen, an Australian heavyweight boxing champion, fought Joe Frazier at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16
Wake with the Grantley Dee version of ‘Let the Little Girl Dance’, going round and round in my head. I read where he had died recently, and watched him singing the song on a You Tube clip from Brian Henderson’s ‘Bandstand’. Sad, I know. Grantley was a presenter on Melbourne radio station 3AK. Other radio ‘Good Guys’ at the time were Keith Smith and Bill Howie. I certainly remember Keith Smith and his Pied Piper radio and television kids shows.
Learn that former radio rugby league sideline commentators, Tony ‘Magoo’ Megahey and Don Moseley, have retired to the South Coast of New South Wales. One of Magoo’s favourite sayings was: ‘Can you lend me $100, until my hunchback brother straightens himself out’. Moseley played first grade league for Canterbury-Bankstown and Wests. Legendary Queensland halfback, Johnathan Thurston tips South Sydney to win the NRL in 2021. And he says a State of Origin match should be played in Townsville. Another former halfback, Manly coach, Des Hasler, turns 60. Des went on the 1986 Kangaroo tour, which I covered for the Brisbane ‘Telegraph’.
Watch old Clint Eastwood Movie ‘The Eiger Sanction’. I loved Clint’s line during a taxi ride, when he said to the driver: ‘Let’s agree on a division of labour. You do the driving, we’ll do the talking’. The late Peter ‘Chippy’ Frilingos was known to get on the front foot when getting into taxis, saying: “Driver. Don’t talk. Just drive.”
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Our first school pick-up – our eldest Grandson, Ethan from Petrie Terrace State. My parents, Jon and Lola, did many such pick-ups of our nephews, Eliza and Paddy Lynch.
After three years in the job, former Australian rugby league hooker, Jason Hetherington says he will not be available to coach the Queensland Women’s Rugby League side.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18
Billy Thompson, the Englishman who refereed the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980, has died aged 87. Thompson, who hailed from Huddersfield, controlled the 1978 Challenge Cup final when Leeds defeated St Helens 14-12 in a classic. Marie and I were in the crowd of 95,872 at London’s Wembley Stadium. I saw the inaugural Origin match from the terraces, alongside Telegraph colleague, Dave Argus and his teammates from the Redcliffe Hockey Club.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19
The funeral of my former Courier-Mail colleague, Paul Malone, at St Columba’s Catholic Church, Wilston is a fitting farewell. Top sports writers, Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock from Brisbane and Ray Chesterton, from Sydney, deliver meaningful, heartfelt and humorous eulogies. Paul and Sharon’s son, Thomas, 14, wrote a moving tribute. It was great to have a chat with Ray Chesterton, who was part of the media pack when I covered the 1982 and ’86 Kangaroo tours of Britain and France. Paul covered the ’86 tour. The wake was held at the Malone residence. Sharon has received touching messages of support from rugby league ‘Immortal’, Wally Lewis and former tennis champion, Wendy Turnbull.
Brian Atherton, a former Widnes player, and groomsman at my wedding in 1975, sends video of 1981 Wembley Cup final, in which Widnes, captained by Mick Adams, defeated Hull Kingston Rovers 18-9. The BBC’s dressing room interviews are hilarious.
Former Balmain Tigers’ skipper, John Spencer has died aged 74. Spencer represented New South Wales in 1969, the same year he played second row in Balmain’s shock win over Souths in the Sydney grand final. In 1976, Spencer was captain-coach of Waratah-Mayfield in the Newcastle competition.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Broncos Old Boys plan to establish a museum upstairs in the leagues club at Red Hill. I discuss this prospect with former Bronco, John Driscoll, a neighbour. I am chairman of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, and we may be able to help. John reminds me that he played every game in first grade for the Broncos in their 1997 Super League season, except the Grand Final, when he was injured. Andrew Gee was hooker that night at ANZ Stadium in a 26-8 win over Cronulla. John had almost signed with South Queensland Crushers in 1995, and sat out the early part of that season (with the Broncos) because of salary cap issues. He says when future Test prop, Shane Webcke first came to Brisbane from the Darling Downs, he would eat chicken skin sandwiches, on white bread. Sounds good to me. John admits players had too much leisure time and he and the likes of Brad Thorn and Ben Walker would play lots of golf, and pool, as well as watching The Simpsons on TV, and getting to the beach.
Marie and I join Albatross Travel principal, Euan Landsborough and his wife, Julie-Ann for dinner and drinks at Wilston Village Bar. I took tours to Europe in 1998 and 2002, through Albatross, and Marie and I went on an Albatross Tour of Southern Italy in 2017 (see Diary updates from 2017 on this site). Euan’s travel company is doing it tough because of Covid.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Dale Best, a man described by teammates and rivals alike as a gentle giant, passes away during a reserve grade rugby league match at Kawana on the Sunshine Coast. He was playing for Maroochydore Swans against Kawana. My former Brisbane Brothers and Norths’ teammate, Dennis Moore is coach of Maroochydore first grade.
Former Test rugby league lock, Keith Campbell turns 70. A Wentworthville junior, Campbell was still at school when he was called up to Third Grade for Parramatta, aged 16. These days he lives at Tweed Heads, and enjoys an occasional beer at Greenmount Surf Club, when border crossings allow.