DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 9 2021
MONDAY, MARCH 1
Tweed Heads Seagulls, a rugby league club which lays claim to being the oldest outside Sydney and Brisbane, will establish its own Hall of Fame. Chief executive, Matt Francis and consultant, top journalist/author, Neil Cadigan, invite me to be part of the process, given I am chairman of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee; the fact I come from the Tweed, and, at the request of the Gold Coast Titans, wrote a piece on the history of the game on the Gold Coast and the Northern Rivers. (See this website or the Titans’ site). I have breakfast with Matt and Neil at House of Hubert, Tugun. Neil and I share a few yarns about the days when weight divisions were all the go in the juniors. He played for Pendle Hill in Sydney, while I played in the bush for Murwillumbah. Matt tells a great yarn about former Test hooker, John Lang and the respect he had for his former Brisbane Easts’ teammate, Des Morris. When ‘Langy’ coached at Cronulla and Penrith he told his players all about ‘DJ’, a player most had never really heard about. Preston Campbell played under Lang at both clubs, and heard the stories over and over again. When Preston finally got to meet DJ at Currumbin Surf Club, after Preston moved to the Gold Coast, he said: ‘Des. It’s an honour to finally meet you. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”
I have half an hour on the phone with my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, John Dowling, who played State of Origin for Queensland in 1982, from St George in Sydney. ‘JD” is doing it a bit tough, and is in John Flynn Hospital.
Marie and I walk to ‘The Pass’ at the mouth of Currumbin Creek, via Neumann’s lookout. A cyclist has a go at us for walking across the pedestrian crossing. He felt we should have allowed him to pass through first. It seemed to us, that if he had his sights on the road ahead, he should have seen us, and therefore adjusted his speed accordingly, just as motorists must. As we enjoy drinks at Currumbin Surf Club, we watch an amazingly fit guy go out and back on a surf ski so many times, we lose count. After each paddle he would run to the top of the dunes and then back to the surf. Some of the other would-be ‘iron people’, cheated, by not running all the way, but he lapped them anyway. An idiot father gives his little boy sips of beer, and, quite rightly, is chatted by a barman.
Michael Nunn has an interview with Gold Coast Giants’ inaugural captain, Billy Johnstone in the Queensland Times. Former Test five eighth, Tim Pickup gave Billy Steve Crear’s number 6 Queensland jersey, and Billy wears it at BBQs at his place. Pickup played against Crear in inter-state games. Pickup and Johnstone played for Canterbury-Bankstown, Pickup in the 1970s, Johnstone in the 1980s. Crear, who played for Australia in 1977, is best known for his time at Wests in Brisbane.
My English photographer mate, Andrew Varley says 20 million Poms have had the Covid jab. It is his wife, Sandy’s birthday, and as a treat, he is taking her to the Supermarket.
Word is that former Titans’ forward, Zeb Taia will play Intrust Super Cup with Wynnum-Manly, after having played recent seasons in the northern hemisphere with Catalans Dragons and St Helens.
TUESDAY, MARCH 2
Our last surf before returning to Brisbane, and conditions are treacherous, but not as dodgy as back on the footpath, where there is a full bag of dog shit. Not an uncommon sight, unfortunately.
Murwillumbah Brothers’ 1960 captain-coach, Don Bullock and his wife are shopping at Helensvale, where Marie and I have kebabs for lunch. I understand Don’s first wife had the TAB at Grange in Brisbane, where Marie and I live.
The AFL announces that registrations in Queensland are up 5.4 percent on last year and 11 percent in the south east. I wish rugby league could produce such figures.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3
Marie and I are granted five-year, Silver Memberships of Suncorp Stadium, as recognition of my role as a rugby league writer for 30 odd years. I am informed of this at the latest Media Wall of Fame ceremony at the stadium, with former radio announcer, Ross Lawson (who represented Ipswich in the Bulimba Cup); former Radio and Television journalist, John McCoy OAM; former rugby writer, Jim Tucker and the late Paul Malone, the latest inductees. Guests include former internationals, Wally Lewis and Gene Miles; major venues supremo, Harvey Lister; The Australian’s rugby writer, Wayne Smith and my fellow ‘Wall of Famer’, Wayne Heming. Wally and Gene present Paul Malone’s son, Thomas with a jersey. Jim Tucker speaks on behalf of Thomas and Paul’s widow, Sharon. Ross Lawson and I talk about his sons, Scott and Craig who played rugby league. Scott played under-19s league for Queensland and represented the State at Schoolboy level in rugby union, from Ipswich’s St Edmund’s College, where he broke the 100-metre sprint record previously held by former Wallaby, Jeff McLean. Scott, who made his first-grade league debut for South Queensland Crushers in 1995, did his quad at training with his next club, North Sydney, and that was effectively the end of his career. Craig, who played league with Ipswich Jets, later switched to union.
THURSDAY, MARCH 4
Learn of the passing of my former work colleague, Gordon Leach, 60. His first love was racing and most recently he had been working at RadioTAB. He started at the Sydney Morning Herald, and came to Brisbane in the early 1980s to work for The Daily Sun.
Our youngest son, Lliam’s good mate, Dan Edwards attends a Sports Bet lunch and sends a photo of him with former Bronco, Sam Thaiday. Our eldest lad, Damien, taught Sam at Kirwan High in Townsville.
The Commonwealth Bank at Wingham has shut, much to the dismay of local residents. “We desperately need it,” says one local. I played a season with Wingham Tigers Rugby League Club in 1975.
FRIDAY, MARCH 5
Broncos’ coach, Kevin Walters promises 100 percent effort from his players, when he addresses the club’s season launch at Brisbane’s Tivoli Theatre. Captain Alex Glenn says ‘Thank Youse all for coming’. I catch up with the likes of fellow media types, Karl deKroo, Peter Badel, Rohan Welsh, Peter Psaltis, Michael Hillier, Joel Gould, and Victoria Carthew as well as former South Queensland Crushers’ media man, Matthew Arthur who now works for Bundy Rum. Also chat to former Broncos’ CEO, Bruno Cullen and current football manager, Peter Nolan. Channel 9’s Michael Atkinson does an excellent job as MC. Originally from Quilpie, he has four sisters. A lass from Bowen, who has Scots and Melanesian blood, does an excellent Welcome to Country.
Gold Coast Titans’ season launch was held last night at Star Casino, and from all reports, chairman, Dennis Watt’s speech was ‘Churchillian’. FoxSports, Yvonne Sampson was MC. My fellow History Committee member, Greg Shannon attends the Cowboys launch in Townsville tonight, at the new stadium.
Top league journalist, Neil Cadigan is MC at Gold Coast ‘FIGS’ (Former International Greats) lunch at Burleigh Bears Leagues Club, Miami. Former Test cricketer, Greg Ritchie does an impromptu 15-minute comedy sketch, and from all reports was hilarious.
Jean Kerr, the wife of former Brisbane Souths Rugby League CEO, Graham Kerr, turns 80. Jean and Graham motivated me to take away my first Kangaroo Supporters’ Tour in 1990. Graham went on to be co-manager of Australia’s 1995 World Cup side.
SATURDAY, MARCH 6
Brisbane Men of League patron, Ron Atkins describes his old mate, former Test halfback, Barry Muir as having been ‘chirpy’ when he rang him today. Ron recalls having beers with the great Stoker Currie, a Tweed rugby league legend, at the Railway Pub opposite Roma Street station in Brisbane.
More than 16,000 copies of ‘Wally Lewis My Life” have been sold. Wally is in Townsville today promoting the book, which I helped with, in terms of research, at the request of author, Steve Haddan.
It is 50 years since Mooloolaba Surf Club’s first Nippers Camp, with most of the 50 participants junior rugby league players from Brisbane. Good to see former players, Steve Sheppard (Townsville); Michael Witt (Burleigh) and Mark Shipway (Redcliffe) coaching Mel Meninga Cup (under-18) sides. Former Bronco, Rob Tanielu is coaching Norths’ Cyril Connell Cup (under-16) side. Stephen Field from the Burleigh Old Boys, says the club is hoping to publish a book on its history.
SUNDAY, MARCH 7
Marie and I join out son, LIiam; his wife, Channelle and boys Ethan and Connor at Victoria Park Golf Club to celebrate Ethan’s sixth birthday. A Zonta, International Women’s Day lunch is taking place in a function area.
Things I see on my way to Happy Valley Brewery – a hoarder in a Grange house, cleaning the interior of his car; a young couple walking a cat on a lead, on Valleys’ rugby league grounds; a dad with his two boys, kicking a football at Valleys. English bitter (4.3 percent) is the only beer I can see under 5 percent at the brewery, where I am joined by neighbour, Len O’Brien, who is just back from Moreton Island. Len says prices for food and drink on the island are reasonable, but not so much for activities.