DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 18 2021
MONDAY, MAY 3
There are reports out of Sydney that many lads at GPS schools are choosing to play Aussie rules, rather than the traditional rugby union. It probably has something to do with not wanting to go up against the big Polynesians. I don’t anticipate the Polynesian boys are switching to ‘rules.
Former Broncos’ media manager, Trad McLean reflects on a reunion for the 1996 Australian Universities World Cup rugby league side. Trad, along with Gold Coast media personality, Ash Bradnam, interviewed the likes of former Unis’ coach, John Dixon; former Great Britain Test fullback, Paul Charlton and Danny Stains (who toured New Zealand with the Kangaroos in 1989) at the function.
My wife, Marie and I enjoy fish and chips on the waterfront at Sandgate, sitting alongside Ian and Christine Bartholomew from Bellbowrie. He is a retired auditor, who worked for South Pacific Brewery in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, and knew PNG heavyweight boxing champion, ‘Digger’ Annand, who I got to know during my stint playing rugby league with Wingham Tigers in 1975. ‘Digger’ lived in the Manning District, and was great mates with my Wingham captain-coach, John McKeough.
Rugby League media personality, Barry Ross tells me of the time he drove rugby league ‘Immortal’, Wally Lewis to Sutherland Hospital after ‘The King’ broke his arm playing for the Broncos against St George at Kogarah Oval on June 23, 1990. At the hospital, a bloke offered $500 for Wally’s jersey. Barry, who compiled stats for the Broncos when they were in Sydney, would also drive players to Sydney Airport, after they had to stay behind for urine (drug) tests.
It is 17 years ago today that top Sydney league writer, Peter ‘Chippy’ Frilingos died. Ray Hadley pays tribute to his great mate on 2GB/4BC, recalling some of the times they had on Kangaroo tours in Britain and France. I covered the 1982 and ’86 tours with ‘Chippy’
WEDNESDAY, MAY 5
Local sports news on ‘The Northern Star’ (Lismore) website is nearly all Australian rules. Thunder and lightning at 9.30 a.m. and Broncos’ training is abandoned.
My barber, Eric Pappas (full name Papantoniou) was coached by Queensland prop, Geoff Naylor at Souths’ Magpies Rugby League. Eric’s daughter, Sophia is a fine hockey player, and has just returned from the national under-15 titles in Bathurst, New South Wales, where she finished top goal scorer. Queensland finished with the bronze. New South Wales beat WA in the final.
Watch highlights of Sheffield Eagles v London Broncos rugby league match from England. There is some good stuff, with Sheffield scoring a freak try at the end, to win the match. Learn of the passing of Barry ‘Bunny’ Reilly, the original ‘Axe’ and one of my all-time favourite rugby league players. Reilly, a product of Paddington Colts, played 196 first grade matches for Easts (Roosters). A punishing tackler, with a brilliant technique, Reilly was a key figure in Easts’ premierships in 1974 and ’75. Coach, Jack Gibson even issued an instruction to Reilly’s teammates to ‘stay out’ when ‘Bunny’ was making a tackle, to make sure the player with ball felt the full impact of the hit.
Our eldest grandson, Ethan Ricketts received his white belt in jiu jitsu.
THURSDAY, MAY 6
Queensland Rugby League CEO, Rob Moore; chairman, Bruce Hatcher and director, Ben Ikin are meeting in the foyer of QRLCentral, as I arrive for History Committee business. Queensland coach, Paul Green pokes his head in, as I confer with media staff, Jorja Brinums, Bill Scurfield and Colleen Edwards, re website projects. Former NRL forward, Dayne Weston is Well-Being Operations Manager at the QRL, and still looks fit enough to play. His on-field career ended with Melbourne Storm in 2015. Former Bronco, Chris Johns is buying rib fillet as I call into Billy’s Meats at Ashgrove.
My wife, Marie and I have drinks at Happy Valley Brewery, Stafford, which is dog heaven. No cider on tap, so Marie misses out. They hope to have their licence upgraded to sell local wine and spirits. Marie’s spirits are further dampened by South Sydney’s 50-0 loss to Melbourne Storm. Storm winger, Josh Addo Carr is guilty of the worst voluntary tackle I have ever seen, yet there is no penalty. What is happening to our game?
FRIDAY, MAY 7
Former Test players and Brisbane Easts’ teammates, Johnny Lang and Rod Morris are my interview subjects at Kirra Surf Club Lunch at Pineapple Hotel at the Gabba. Former Test skipper, Wally Lewis is seated at my table, along with Yvonne Mullins from Oceania Athletics, who I met during the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. She worked in media for the Games, and I covered weight lifting and rifle shooting. Julie McDonald interviews another former swimming champion, Janelle Pallister (nee Elford), and her daughter, Lani, who is a current star in the pool. Julie bags journos, but I get back at her, when I have the microphone. Beers afterwards with former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Rod Sellers and Valleys’ stalwarts, Peter O’Callaghan, Alan Beauchamp and Ron Gurnett. O’Callaghan famously told a top coach in 1989, or maybe it was 1990, that he couldn’t coach a dog to piss on a pole. The coach is still going around.
SATURDAY, MAY 8
Challenge Cup quarter final between St Helens and Huddersfield is a quality game, with Saints hanging on for a win. Greg Inglis makes his debut for Warrington in Wire’s win over French side, Catalans Dragons. It is 45 years today that my late sister, Kerri-Anne attended the Challenge Cup final between Widnes and St Helens at Wembley, with Saints winning 20-5. (See ‘The Magic of Wembley’ this website).
Marie and I meet with Samford Grove Sales Manager, Desley Arnold about the prospect of moving into the retirement village. Desley recently stayed at Coorabell Cottages in Byron Shire, and dined at the Eltham Pub. John Browett from Kallangur asks about a tour of Samford Grove while we are there. Marie and I have lunch at Samford Pub, where there is live music.
The Tom Raudonikis Stand is officially named at Campbelltown Stadium. Tom’s son, Lincoln delivers the match ball. It is 50 years ago today that Ipswich Norths Leagues Club was officially opened by QRL boss, Senator Ron McAuliffe. Among the guests were the Mayor of Ipswich, Alderman Jim Finimore OBE, and local MP, Bill Hayden. League great Allan Langer started his career at Norths.
SUNDAY, MAY 9
Mother’s Day and Macca (ABC) plays 1996 B J Thomas’ song, ‘Mama’, and it makes me think about my mum – Lola Mary Ricketts (nee Kelly). Marie and I enjoy Mother’s Day at Newstead Park with our youngest son, Lliam; his wife, Channelle and sons, Ethan and Connor. A lad with a Sherrin (Australian rules) football teaches Ethan and Connor how to kick. Ethan and Connor keep asking strangers if they have batteries and they strike gold with Irishman, Dara Conlan, an ex-Dubliner, who was having a break from his riverside bike ride. He has a beer and vapes, while sitting on a park bench. Tonight, he will be watching the Dublin v Kilkenny hurling match. A lass wearing a beanie lets her dog poo in the park and then discovers she doesn’t have a bag. Really!
At Bishop Park, Nundah, the home side, previously undefeated Norths Devils, are thrashed by Burleigh Bears. I watch the match from the can bar, catching up with former Norths’ teammate, Neville Draper, who won the Rothmans’ Medal as Brisbane’s Best and Fairest in 1979, the year I played with the Devils. Radio personality, David Lutteral is watching the match with injured Broncos’ forward, Ben Te’o. David grew up in a “little white house” near Norths St Joseph’s rugby league ground at Virginia, and opposite the house where Australian cricket all-rounder, Ken ‘Slasher’ Mackay lived. The last time I saw ‘Slasher’, he was in ‘the outer’ at Lang Park, watching a Brisbane Rugby League match and having a punt. That was back in the 1970s. He died in 1982 aged 56.