DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 8 2021
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22
The Guineas Room, Eagle Farm is the setting for a wonderful memorial service for Paul Malone, one of Queensland’s most respected sports journalists and authors, who passed away on February 9. Former colleagues, Bart Sinclair, Brian Burke and Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock make lovely speeches. Gerry Marsden’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ concludes the official part of proceedings. ‘Scobie’ was a dedicated Liverpool Football Club fan and the song is the club’s anthem. At the function, I catch up with the likes Gold Coast Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt; self-employed media men, Mike Westlake, Michael Crutcher and Steve Gibbons; retired media men, Bruce McMahon, David Falkenmire and Phil Hammond; Queensland Cricket’s Stephen Gray and his wife, Cheryl; author, Grantlee Kieza and Ladbroke’s Karl deKroo, all former colleagues at ‘The Courier’ and/or ‘Telegraph’; as well as Broncos’ chief executive in waiting, Dave Donaghy and Australian swimming media stalwart, Ian Hanson, a former league writer with the Mirror in Sydney. Karl deKroo is going to the Launceston Cup on Wednesday. Gold Coast based photographer, Adam Head takes photographs of guests as they arrive. I did a number of sports jobs with Adam. From Eagle Farm, Brian Burke, Jim Tucker, Peter Blucher, ‘Crash’ Craddock and I adjourn to Gallopers’ Licensed Club.
Former New South Wales and Penrith fullback, Kevin Dann has died, aged 62. He played for his State in the last match played under the old residential rules, in 1980.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25
It is my privilege to interview Brisbane Easts’ rugby league legend, Des Morris at a lunch in his honour at the Caxton Hotel. Des received an OAM in the Australia Day Honours. I sit beside former Australian winger, Jeff Denman, a man I have heard a lot about, and seen play, but have never met, until now. We have a great chat. He says he was snubbed by some of the Sydney players on Australia’s tour of New Zealand in 1969. The Sydney blokes didn’t rate Queenslanders. Easts’ 1977 Rothmans Gold Medal winner, Alan Currie looks fit enough to play. I recognise all the players present, except Wayne Lindenberg, although, I must confess, I called Peter Dawes, Tony Kambouris. How embarrassing.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26
Former internationals, John Ribot; Geoff Richardson and John Lang prove marvellously entertaining guest speakers at Men of League Foundation function at Norths Leagues, Nundah, with Foundation chair, Helen Wood Grant at the official table. ‘Ribes’ says Newtown Jets financial backer, John Singleton brought a bag of money with him to Brisbane, to sign John from the Valleys’ club in 1977. When ‘Ribes’ went to Sydney, ‘Singo’ took him home for dinner, cooked by Singo’s then wife, Maggi Eckardt. After the men had eaten, and Maggi went back to the kitchen, the men snuck out, for a night on the town. In the audience are the likes of Former Brothers and Brisbane representative lock, Wayne Abdy; former State fullback, Errol Stock and former Wynnum-Manly and New South Wales Country centre, Neil Moy. My former Courier-Mail colleague, Matt Marshall is there with his father-in-law.
My fellow Brisbane committee member, Bob Knight recalls Paddy Hart trying to get him a contract with a rugby league club in the north of England, back in the 1980s. Ultimately, Bob finished up playing with London Crusaders. Paddy Hart, who was employed at the Brisbane City Council bus garage at Carina at the time, came from Widnes in Cheshire, and played rugby league for West Bank. I met Paddy through my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ captain-coach, Brian Atherton, who also came from Widnes.
After the function, I catch up with recently retired university lecturer, Peter Long, who my wife, Marie and I met on our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest in 2019.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 27
Marie and I check into Golden Riviera Apartments at Tugun on the Gold Coast, right next door to the Tugun pub. The first time I surfed at Tugun was 1971 when my Murwillumbah Brothers’ captain-coach, Ray McCarron brought us here for a training run on the beach, followed by a BBQ at his parents’ place at Tugun. Ray’s father, Col, who had a pest control business, was a stalwart of the Tweed Heads Seagulls club, where Ray and his brother, Bill had played in the 1960s. I remember, they cracked a five-gallon keg of Gold Top (Bulimba) beer at the BBQ.
Marie and I watch the Charity Shield match, from Mudgee, at Tugun Surf Club. South Sydney look set for a big season, going on their magnificent attacking display. Lyndon McGrady stars for Tweed Seagulls in a Queensland Cup trial against Wynnum at Beenleigh. Tweed’s Brandon Russell dislocates his hip and the game is abandoned with six minutes remaining.
There is live music at quiet Craft House, Tugun where we have beef sliders and prawns. The singer is fine, but the food and beer, is average. Top English sports photographer, Andrew Varley tells me there is an excellent craft beer place opposite Whitby Abbey. Hopefully, Marie and I will get back to Whitby one day.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 27
A lovely bikini clad lass picks up rubbish as she walks along the beach. It is something I have done for many years (picking up rubbish, not wearing a bikini), but now, with Covid, I’m not doing it, unless I am wearing gloves. The lifesavers are a little late setting up at Tugun. Two dizzy lasses, wearing black bikinis, screech at the top of their lungs, as they frolic in the waves.
Buy the Sunday-Mail from the IGA. The newsagency is gone. An old bloke plays a trumpet on the street outside. A young female’s dog takes the trumpeter’s fluffy toy, but she (the lass) quickly returns it. Coffee from the surf club kiosk is excellent. Female boat crew members enjoy a brew, with their male sweep. They had been out on the David Mitchell, a boat named after a club Life Member.
Finish writing an article about former Australian rugby league five eighth, Johnny Gleeson, for Men of League Foundation magazine. Johnny now resides in an aged care facility at St George in South West Queensland. His brother, Trevor, from Allora, is currently visiting Baffle Creek in Central Queensland, in his role as a dairy cow broker. He will be returning with 20 mud crabs. Lucky man.
There is a wedding at Currumbin Surf Club, which is packed. One of the patrons is Brisbane Broncos’ assistant coach, John Cartwright, who was in the news that day, for an alleged blow-up with Broncos’ Old Boys boss, Chris Johns, a teammate on the Kangaroo tour of Britain and France in 1990. The blow-up, which was nothing serious, happened before Christmas.
Our eldest boy, Damien has heard that former Test hooker, Cameron Smith, who now lives on the Gold Coast, may play for Currumbin in the Gold Coast competition, with his former Melbourne Storm teammate, Matt Geyer the coach. ‘Carty’ says it is a possibility because he doesn’t think Smith will play NRL with the Gold Coast Titans and put someone out of a job.
Men of League Golf Day at Forster on the NSW North Coast, is a washout, but everyone still has a great time, at celebrity dinner/lunch events. My cousin, Ian Smith, a barber, donated one of the prizes – a free haircut. His father, Harry, was a legendary rugby league player in the Manning district.
Marie and I have lovely dinner at busy Malaysian restaurant, ‘Lucky Mama’.