DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 19 2021
MONDAY, MAY 10
My interview with Gavin Payne on EastsTV attracted 5,000 viewers, according to producer, Darryl Bogan. Brisbane Men of League patron, Ron Atkins has been made a Life Member of the Men of League Foundation. Ron, who grew up on the Tweed, says Alan Lena (father of Queensland star, Graham Lena) was the ‘prettiest five eighth’ he ever saw. Alan played Anthony Shield (inter-district) football for Tweed against my father, Jon. Ron rated Cecil and Charles Dodds as two of the best indigenous footballers he ever saw. A race at the Tweed River Jockey Club at Murwillumbah is named in honour of local identity, Eric Lever, who died recently.
Former Wallaby, Greg Martin and his wife are patrons of the Stafford Tavern as I enjoy drinks with Peter Skerman, Len O’Brien and Dave Corbett. ‘Skermo’ talks about the days of the ‘VIP Club’ at the National Hotel in Brisbane.
TUESDAY, MAY 11
There is a mice plague in western New South Wales at places like Trundle and Parkes. A Trundle chap phones 2GB’s Ray Hadley to say that he went to the fridge to get a beer, and when he returned to his lounge chair, there was a mouse in his stubbie holder.
My wife, Marie calls into Flight Centre, Stafford to see how they are going. The people there have always looked after us, and Marie wants to let them know they are not forgotten in these trying times for the travel game.
Former Channel 7 television journalist/newsreader, Frank Warwick has died aged 76. I came across him a few times in the late 1970s, when I was a trade union writer for the ‘Telegraph’ and he was out on the beat.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 12
Monto Rugby League Club from the Central Burnett region of Queensland have a reunion planned for mid-June. Monto’s Ian Sanderson tells me his dad drove the team bus when Norm Meninga, father of the ‘Immortal’, Mal Meninga, was Monto’s captain-coach.
Former Australian halfback, Geoff Toovey says the Brisbane Broncos have a lot of athletes, but not many footballers.
Former sports journo of some renown, Brian Mossop has died aged 82. Cricket and rugby union were his first loves.
My parents, Jon and Lola (nee Kelly) were married on this day 70 years ago, in St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, where my mothers’ parents were married, and where Marie and I also married.
THURSDAY, MAY 13
Marie and I fly to Cairns. The indigenous (Dubbo) macadamia bar on the plane is made of at least 70 percent Australian ingredients. That’s a relief. Our hire car is from Meteor, and John (from Meteor) once worked in middle management at Thrifty, but was put off when Covid hit. He grew up on Cape York, where his father was in charge of indigenous communities, and John boarded at St Peter’s Indooroopilly, where he played basketball against future Wallabies’ skipper, John Eales.
Marie and I have lunch at Hemingway Brewery, and then dinner on the deck at Vivaldi’s at Mantra Esplanade. Vivaldi’s is excellent, but very quiet, unlike the waterfront, which is rocking, especially Dundee’s, which is packed.
FRIDAY, MAY 14
A bloke in a Western Bulldogs’ (Aussie rules) polo brushes my ‘good morning’, as I walk for coffee. Maybe it was my Roosters’ rugby league polo which put him off. Marie and I explore Rusty’s Markets and then drive north to Ellis Beach for a picnic lunch, followed by a walk along the beach front at Palm Cove. There is a management plan for the coconut trees here, and a council employee is at the top of one tree, ensuring the coconuts and branches are not a hazard to pedestrians.
In Singapore, our daughter, Melanie Mariotto and her husband, Greg visit the grave of my wife, Marie’s uncle, Ray Geraghty, at Kranji War Cemetery. Ray, 17, was executed on St Patrick’s Day, 1942, for trying to escape.
SATURDAY, MAY 15
Wake to Super League thriller between Wakefield and Leeds at Headingley, with Leeds winning courtesy of a penalty goal in extra time. The referee had little choice, after Jay Pitts illegally stole the ball. The Australian’s Brent Reed claims to have broken the story about the (Western Corridor) Jets’ bid for inclusion in the NRL, back in 2010, courtesy of his mate, Ipswich solicitor, Steve Johnson.
My caffeine hit from ‘The Chambers’ is excellent, but at $5.50, a little expensive. We leave Cairns, via a Fish Co-op, and detour from the highway to Garradunga, to see former Test fullback, Billy Slater’s favourite pub. His parents live just down the road and his dad, Ron still works in the local banana industry. In Innisfail we explore the markets, and then eat fresh prawns on the banks of the Johnstone River, where there are quite a few drunk indigenous people. A group of field workers from Papua New Guinea arrive with whole chooks, which they make into sandwiches.
Leave the highway again for our destination – Mission Beach – and walk Lacey Creek Circuit, where mosquitos are bad. One drink at Mission Beach pub, where there are horses tied up, out the front. Stock up on liquor at BWS, where an indigenous group are giving the staff a hard time. One lady from the group takes bags of chips out to the car, to see what sort her children want. Not sure whether they all came back. One girl in the ‘bottlo’ looks far too young to be buying grog. The staff smile and cop what I regard as rude treatment, no doubt scared of being called racist, if they do otherwise. Our apartment is lovely, but the underground car park is too tight for this driver, so I park on the street. Walk south along the beach, looking out to Lugger Bay and Dunk Island. There is a big dog turd on the beach.
SUNDAY, MAY 16
Mission Beach market is lively. A bloke with a cockatoo, which barks, mystifies a dog. The Witham coffee is worth the 15-minute wait. Marie buys coconut ice, pumpkin scones, cake and potatoes. We walk from the market to Clump Point, and then the jetty. Also drive the lovely Bingil Bay Circuit. Marie and I have drinks with my fellow History Committee member, Greg Shannon at Pirate Den, where there is live music. Greg is cane productivity manager at the Chinese owned, Tully Sugar mill. He shows us his cane testing equipment, which is in the back of his vehicle. Greg gives me a copy of the Wet Tropic Times, which includes his league history column.
Former Valleys and Tweed Seagulls’ prop, Paul Thwaites says his former Valleys’ Juniors teammate, Paul Richards had a season with the Southport Tigers, which I wasn’t aware of. The two Pauls went to Stafford State School and Kedron High. Paul Richards died last year and Paul Thwaites went to the funeral, where he caught up with a host of former teammates, including Brian and Joe Canavan. Paul recalls Brian losing a contact lens playing a second division match at Davies Park, West End on a wet and windy day. His brother Joe, found it at half time. Paul and Bev Thwaites are currently at Albany in Western Australia, on a lap of the country.