DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 12 2021
TUESDAY, MARCH 23
Distinguished rugby league coach, Neil Henry says only 20 percent of NRL players are eligible for Queensland, while 40 percent are eligible for New South Wales. That leaves 40 percent who are not eligible for either state. Neil, who is being interviewed on Radio TAB, says addressing the drop in participation levels presents the game with its greatest challenge.
Marie and I drive to the Gold Coast in wild weather, booking into a cabin at Nobby’s Beach Holiday Village, for four nights.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24
The lifeguard closes the beach at Miami because of washing machine like conditions. Coffee from Miami Surf Club is excellent. Two ‘weirdos’ pass Marie and I on the beach path, with a dog what looks like a dingo. Their car is parked in front of our caravan park for ages, and the couple link-up with other people in cars, who come and go. Hmm! Soon after they leave, two police cars and an ambulance arrive. Our dashing pair had been tipped off, no doubt. It seems a lot of the local ‘dodgies’, live in a nearby motel.
THURSDAY, MARCH 25
My Tweed Heads’ based younger brother, Jeffrey joins Marie and I for brunch at Picolos, downstairs at Nobby’s Beach Surf Club, and arrives bearing gifts of paw paw and jam. Service is slack. ‘We’re a man down,’ says a young waitress. I like the fact she is specific, and not worried about gender neutral stuff. Marie reminds me that her younger sister, Carolyn Soward (nee Donnelly), represented Richmond River High (Lismore) in an athletics carnival at Miami High back in the 1960s, running barefoot, as most of us did in those days.
During my second surf of the day, I chat to former Greenmount and Cronulla lifeguard, Jon Lavers. He is doing first aid classes at Fitness First. Jon is a cousin of former Balmain and New South Wales (1976) rugby league forward, Steve Lavers. There is a female posing for photographs in the shallows.
Australian rules players, as well as rugby league juniors from Burleigh, are training as Marie and I enjoy drinks at North Burleigh Surf Club, where I introduce myself to Gold Coast Titans’ co-owner, Darryl Kelly, who is enjoying a drink with friends. He seems underwhelmed to meet me. I think he sees me as a pest, and he may be right. I only said hello because the Titans asked me to write a history of league in the Coast region for their website, which I gladly did. Kelly was quoted in ‘The Courier-Mail’ today, warning about the dangers of expansion.
Marie and I dine at Mexican restaurant, Cartel where the staff are so friendly. ‘Reg Reagan’ makes a brief comeback on the Matty Johns Show. Love Reg. I have a ‘Bring Back the Biff’ mug on my work desk. Reg, I believe, is based on Matt’s dad, Garry and much travelled former Sydney first grader, Terry Regan, who had a season at Cessnock under Garry’s coaching. In an interview with Rugby League Week’s Tony Adams in 2013, Terry Regan said he would play backyard footy with Garry’s kids, Andrew and Matty. One day he challenged the boys to tackle a bit harder. “So, I hit it up again, and one of them grabbed me straight on the banana. That was it….full time.” Regan recalled. He suspects Matty was the culprit.
FRIDAY, MARCH 26
Beautiful lunch at Rick Shores, Burleigh – bug rolls, Sydney rock oysters, Korean chicken and dumplings, washed down by Crazy Tropez Rose. Decadent, I know. On Burleigh Beach, they are setting up for the State Surf Life Saving titles.
SATURDAY, MARCH 27
Former Melbourne Storm and South Sydney star, Greg Inglis, who is contracted to Warrington, is part of SKY’s coverage of Super League in England. Winger, Tom Johnstone, a beautiful athlete, scores a memorable try for Wakefield Trinity. Newly promoted Leigh run Wigan close. Salford wear jerseys reminiscent of St Kilda’s AFL outfit.
Coffee cart lady at our camping ground is off to the Natural Bridge National Park in the Numinbah Valley, after she finishes here. She says one cafe up that way has shut, and the other serves crap coffee, so she is popular. My wife, Marie goes to the fresh food market at Burleigh State School and buys Stanthorpe strawberries; eggs from Cudgen and radish.
Former Sydney Wests, Easts and Canberra Raiders’ centre, Ron Giteau is given the honour of blowing the Viking horn at the Raiders’ home match against the Warriors. Ron, who captained the Raiders, is the father of former Wallaby, Matt Giteau.
SUNDAY, MARCH 28
Channel 9 has the AFL Footy Show instead of NRL. A cyber attack! I will never bag the NRL show again. How boring is the AFL show!!
NRL players have been withdrawn from the Queensland Cup over Covid fears. A ‘Geordie’, Dominic Young, debuts for Newcastle Knights. Young, who has Jamaican heritage, was signed from Huddersfield Giants by Knights recruitment chief, Alex McKinnon.
On ABC Radio, ‘Macca’ (Ian McNamara) bemoans the fate of old, white males. I fear that could be the last time we hear Macca.