DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 10 2021
MONDAY, MARCH 8
Former rugby league television commentator, George Doniger and I swap yarns about Kangaroo Supporters’ tours of the UK and France. George took away a few more than me. George also took a supporters’ tour to follow the 1984 Wallabies, something I can’t boast, although I took my 1990 side to see Swansea play Newbridge in Swansea (See ‘Ring. Ring. Ring. Why don’t you Give me a Call’). George worked with former Test fullback, Ken McCrohon at Whatmore’s Sports Store in 1960, when Ken was captain-coach of Redcliffe.
Inala once had a top roller hockey team, according to Stafford Tavern patron, Mick Doyle, who was a goalie.
My wife, Marie learns of the passing of Bangalow Show Society stalwart, Jan Hulbert. Marie lived on a farm near Bangalow back in the 1960s, and attended a number of shows.
TUESDAY, MARCH 9
Burleigh Old Boys’ rugby league chief, Stephen Field was great mates with my former Murwillumbah Brothers’ captain-coach, the late Ray McCarron. Stephen was the public announcer for matches at Pizzey Park, Miami for quite a number of years.
Greg Grainger from Maitland, sends me a pic of the 1952 Cudgen side, which won the Tweed premiership. It included talented halfback, Barry McConnell, who many rated as good as Test halfback, Barry Muir, a product of Tweed Seagulls. The Cudgen team also included future New South Wales’ centre, Geoff Hawkey. I’m told there was a Coolangatta Knights Rugby League Club.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10
QRL History Committee meeting goes well. Fellow committee member, Steve Haddan says the ‘Wally Lewis My Life’ book is still going gang busters. Steve said Wally and his wife, Jacqui had had dinner at his place three weeks before the book went to press, and he had no idea their marriage was on rocky ground.
Former Australian, Queensland and Melbourne Storm skipper, Cameron Smith officially confirms his retirement as a player, at the unveiling of his statue, outside AAMI Park in Melbourne. Another former Queensland skipper, Trevor ‘The Axe’ Gillmeister tips a long year for St George Illawarra’s new coach, Anthony ‘Hook’ Griffin.
Brunswick Heads is tipped to be one of the ‘hot destinations’ of 2021. I went there many times as a child, swimming in the river, usually, rather than surf, and having family picnics on the river bank. My wife, Marie had her first beach holiday there. My father, Jon loved getting oysters from the wooden supports of the road bridge going over Simpsons Creek, to the surf club.
THURSDAY, MARCH 11
Home Page editor, Kris Swales has a NRL season preview in the Australian Financial Review. Kris, who played rugby league in Toowoomba, is the son of my former Murwillumbah High School classmate, Rob Swales, who played league on the Tweed at the same time as me. Greg Grainger says Cootamundra and Junee will not field first grade teams in the Riverina. In the Hunter Valley, Kurri Kurri will not field under-19s and Cessnock cannot get enough players for under-17s. Maitland are struggling with under-19s. Greg’s grand-son, Khynan captains Kurri Kurri under-16s to a win over Cessnock in the Charity Shield. Grainger tells a story of former Sydney Wests’ forward, Doug Lucas taking toilet paper into an opposition dressing room, telling the players they might need it because the Magpies were going to knock their heads off.
Former NRL and English Super League player, Travis Burns is to coach Clifton-Allora Wattles in the Toowoomba competition. I interview former Toowoomba Clydesdales coach, Gary Lawrence for Men of League Foundation magazine. It is 25 years since Toowoomba won the inaugural Queensland Cup, beating Redcliffe in the final at Suncorp Stadium. Gary has been through hell, in terms of health battles. The (Sydney) Telegraph’s Nick Walshaw has a nice feature on ‘Hook’ Griffin.
There is a bad fall in the Paris – Nice cycle race, leaving a rider badly concussed. But he is allowed to continue. Wouldn’t happen in rugby league.
There is a huge snake on the back fence of our eldest son, Damien’s garden at Ayr in North Queensland. Not unusual in that part of the world. My wife Marie’s close friend, Janelle Bryant lives in Virginia, USA, and says the first crocus flowers and daffodils of Spring have appeared.
FRIDAY, MARCH 12
Balonne Shire Councillor, Bill Winks contacts me re. the historic collection looked after by district rugby league identity, John Barrett at St George. Bill went to Nudgee College in Brisbane with my former sports editor, Barry Dick, and Michael Tully from Quilpie, who now lives at Coolum. There is talk of a local company putting money into a facility to house John Barrett’s amazing collection of jerseys, trophies, photos etc. At present they are stored in a container at the local footy ground. I accompanied QRL staff members, Arthur Eustace-Earle and Darren Schooth to St George in 2019, to inspect John’s collection, and we also met with the council. There have been a number of changes to the make-up of the council since then.
My wife and I attend Broncos v Parramatta match at Suncorp and the pace is frantic, as Parramatta win 24-16. Winger, David Mead’s try for Brisbane is his 100th in top grade footy, in both hemispheres. A group of absolute jerks harass former Bronco, Corey Parker as he makes a live cross to FoxSports.
Former England soccer coach, Sam Allardyce looks like former Gold Coast Tigers and Brisbane Easts’ forward, Errol Slingsby. Ex-Marist Brothers’ Lismore winger, Anthony George is now a digital media advisor at the State Government.
Learn of the passing of Australian radio guru, John Brennan. I covered the 1982 Kangaroo tour of Britain and France with ‘Brenno’, and he was magnificent company, always positive. ‘Brenno’ enjoyed a late-night drink at the ‘wardrobe bar’ in the reception area of the Dragonara Hotel, Leeds. ‘Brenno’ used to introduce the players over the PA at the SCG, before grand finals. He also called schoolboy games on television, and loved ‘bouncing Benny Elias’ at Holy Cross Ryde, and Peter Sterling at Fairfield Patrician Brothers.
SATURDAY, MARCH 13
Two women walk their sausage dogs on a path near our place, and the noise (barking) is beyond belief. One of the women feigns to kick one of the dogs. I wish she had gone through with it.
Our grand-daughter, Parker plays her first soccer match – at Ayr in North Queensland. “Lots of fun,” she says.
Our youngest son, Lliam goes to a mate’s 30th in the countryside near Billinudgel, in the heart of hippy country in the Byron Shire. Tonight, Marie checks in “two old hippies from Myocum”. My oath she did.
Former Test lock, Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin says the only man he could beat in the 400 metres at Queensland training was ‘The King’, Wally Lewis.
SUNDAY, MARCH 14
News Ltd’s printing presses at Murarrie are shutting down, with The Courier-Mail to be printed at Yandina in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It wasn’t that many years ago that the Murarrie plant was commissioned, after the likes of my former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Murray Schultz were flown to Germany to learn about the new presses.
Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock has a nice story about the Papua New Guinea Hunters rugby league side which will be based at Runaway Bay for the seven months of the Queensland Cup.
Former Manly and Queensland hooker, Matt Ballin presents members of the Titmuss family with a special jersey after a NSW Cup match between the Ballin coached Blacktown side and North Sydney. Keith Titmuss, a promising young player, died after a pre-season training run in November.