DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 17 2021
MONDAY, APRIL 26
TIGER TV’s Gavin Payne, the former Easts’ fullback and later coach, conducts an interview with yours truly, at Langlands Park. Producer, Darryl Bogan says a 4,500-seat grandstand will be built at Langlands, whether the Brisbane Firehawks get an NRL licence, or not. ‘Firehawks’ is the name proposed for an Easts Tigers’ backed NRL side. Gavin asks me which bid – Firehawks, Dolphins or Western Corridor – should get the nod from the NRL, and I reply that the Western Corridor would be my choice, if money was no object. Money is certainly not a problem for Easts, who are so much better placed than most Sydney clubs.
Our eldest son, Damien, deputy principal at East Ayr, is involved with an under-12 rugby league carnival at Bowen, and is quietly confident a few lads from Ayr will be selected in the North Queensland side. “It was a good day of footy,” Damien says. NRL ‘guru’, Phil ‘Gus’ Gould reckons the New South Wales Cup and Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup competitions do not develop NRL talent. Others are firmly of the view the previous National under-20 competition was a waste of time.
TUESDAY, APRIL 27
Former Murwillumbah Brothers’ rugby league halfback, Des Lee has died, aged 73. Des, who was my under-18s coach in 1969, never played above 65kg, during a career which took him from the Tweed, to Newcastle, then to Brisbane, and finally Beaudesert. Despite his stature, Des developed a reputation as a fierce tackler, a courageous runner of the football and a fine playmaker. He won a Group 18 Gold Coast First Grade Premiership in 1969, under the coaching of former Maitland prop, Bob Pannowitz. In Newcastle, Lee played for Central Charlestown, while in Brisbane he linked with Wynnum-Manly, helping the club to the 1975 finals. He was captain-coach of Beaudesert from 1977 to 1979. Des was best man at the wedding of 1982 Queensland State of Origin hooker, John Dowling, another Murwillumbah Brothers’ product. I played first grade at Brothers’ Murwillumbah with Des’s older brother, Jack, who was a tenacious hooker. Another brother, Gordon was my team manager, when I coached the juniors. (See Vale Des Lee, this website, for a more detailed account of the life of Des Lee).
My Maitland mate, Greg Grainger sends the team sheet from the Riverina v South Sydney Amco Cup match in 1976, with Riverina winning 16-11. The Riverina team included future Test fullback, Greg Brentnall as well as Grainger’s brother-in-law, Garry ‘Mouse’ Dowling, who played at Gundagai that year.
Former Nudgee College student, Jim Senini, installs new fire alarms at our Grange town house. He was one year ahead of my former sports editor, Barry Dick. Jim, who would listen to me when I was on Radio TAB, has a young sidekick, from Wamuran, in the Glasshouse Mountains area.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28
Marie and I meet Samford Grove Sales Manager, Desley Arnold as we consider a move into a retirement village. We like the look of the stand-alone houses in the complex, and the location is terrific, being, as it is, so close to Samford’s main street. While we like our town house at Hermitage Gardens, Grange, the internal stair case is a concern, given we are both aging. There are some very old people in Samford Grove, or so it seems to us. But hang on a minute – we’re not exactly spring chickens.
On FoxSports, Matty Johns has a lovely interview with Melbourne Storm sensation, Nicho Hynes.
THURSDAY, APRIL 29
Our eldest granddaughter, Parker finishes second, in the East Ayr State School Prep, cross country. The girl who beat her lives on a farm at Giru, to the north of Ayr, and her family come from Ballina, in Northern New South Wales.
Former Bronco, Corey Parker does an excellent job as a commentator/analyst for FoxSports, but, occasionally, mangles the English language. Today he says something about a team making household changes, when, of course, he means, wholesale changes.
The block of flats at Thondley Street, Windsor, where Marie and I lived for a time in the mid-1970s, have been demolished. One of our neighbours in the flats, was former Penrith player, Wayne (WOK) O’Keefe. Wayne was a teammate at Brisbane Brothers, and was a reserve back for the 1976 preliminary final loss to Wests Panthers. That Brothers team included the likes of David Wright, Bob Cock, Graham Quinn and Noel Russell.
Learn of the passing of Murwillumbah identity, Eric Lever, 77. He was a stalwart of the Lions Club at Murwillumbah, and also the Tweed River Jockey Club.
FRIDAY, APRIL 30
Broncos’ five eighth, Tyson Gamble, an Albany Creek junior, does his first ever radio interview – on RadioTAB. He says his mum shattered her knee cap in eight places after she slipped on a mat.
Keith Daly and his wife, Ethel enjoy living in a retirement complex at Ascot. Keith, the father-in-law of Dolphins’ NRL Bid Managing Director, Terry Reader, lived at Lutwyche for many years and counted the Crown and Stafford Tavern among his watering holes. I fear we will not see him at the Stafford very often now. The youngest resident at his complex is 56, an ex-jockey, who works at the nearby race track.
Bob Holden phones re passing of his dad, William, who represented Central Queensland Rugby League in 1966 against North Island (New Zealand), and also Great Britain. William (Bill) had won a Rockhampton premiership with Fitzroys (now known as Fitzroys-Gracemere) in 1965, and was named in the club’s Team of the Century. William went to Wests in Brisbane in 1967, but, according to Bob, clashed with Wests’ skipper, Barry Muir, and that was that. Bob went to school with one of our neighbours, former Broncos’ hooker, John Driscoll.
I attend Souths Magpies’ Hall of Fame dinner at their leagues club at West End. It is a wonderful night, an event I have chronicled on this website – see ‘Souths Magpies Hall of Fame’.
SATURDAY, MAY 1
News Corp and FoxSports journalist, Paul Kent says rugby league has already lost the battle with AFL ‘in the bush’, and questions whether there is enough talent to feed 18 NRL teams. He suggests the NRL will have to go to the Pacific, even more than they are now. It’s a scary thought, because, if we are losing the battle in the bush to the AFL, that means they will grab the future Darren Lockyers, Johnathan Thurstons and Greg Brentnalls, and we will have to rely almost entirely on Polynesians. Please convince me that it would be good to rely on such a small proportion of the Australian population (Polynesians) to fill most of the playing spots on NRL rosters!
Parker scores her first soccer goal, playing at Ayr in North Queensland. Soccer and Australian Rules are sports which do not have to look to the Pacific.
SUNDAY, MAY 2
Stories keep surfacing about the prospect of Mt Warning, in the Tweed Valley, being closed to the general public, because it is sacred to the indigenous community, and/or because of the dangerous state of the track. I have no problem with Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) being off limits for climbers, because it is in the middle of nowhere, and no-one other than indigenous people grew up around it. But Mt Warning (Wollumbin) was part of my life on the Tweed, and I resent the fact it might be off limits. It is was a rite of passage for our children to climb the mountain, and likewise for their cousins on the Ricketts side of the family. My nephew, Kieran Ricketts’ ashes were spread to the four winds from the top of Mt Warning.
I would be in favour of organised tours to the top – run by an indigenous company – because maybe ‘Wollumbin’ is being loved to death by tourists, until recent times, largely back packers, I believe. But shutting off such a beautiful place, which means so much to so many people of European descent, who opened up the area, would be criminal.