DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 24 2021
Rugby league people feature prominently in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, which is par for the course. We are salt of the earth people, worthy of recognition. When I say, ‘we’ – I missed out again. But former Canberra Raiders’ teammates, Glenn Lazarus and Ricky Stuart didn’t, while Jillaroo, Ruan Sims was also honoured. In England, former Great Britain star, Kevin Sinfeld received an OBE for his services to rugby league and also for his fund raising efforts for research into Motor Neuron Disease, with former Britain and Leeds’ teammate, Rob Burrow, a sufferer. Sinfield received the Golden Boot Award in 2012, my last year as a full time league writer.
My fellow Francophile, Lyle Beaton rates Arthur Mourgue, Theo Fages and Morgan Escare as young men capable of steering French rugby league into a new golden era.
Stafford Tavern patrons are watching Bulldogs v St George Illawarra match from Stadium Australia, when the barman accidently switches it to the AFL, as he tries to adjust the volume. There is uproar among the drinkers, but order is restored, when the barman gets things right, with the remote. The match is the first with former All Blacks’ coach, Steve Hansen as high performance consultant for the struggling ‘Dogs, who cause an upset by winning 28-6, against the woeful Dragons. Bulldogs’ forward, Jack Hetherington takes a dive, and is bagged by a rival forward, who essentially says the Canterbury hard man has lost his respect. Can’t remember which Saints’ player it was.
Roosters’ skipper, Boyd Cordner announces his retirement, aged 29, after a spate of concussions. Cordner, a Taree product, says he is proud to be a Rooster, more than anything else. Great man.
TUESDAY, JUNE 15
A bloke on a penny farthing rides up the path which divides our town house estate.
I have a nice chat to my former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Graham Quinn, who played for Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. ‘Quinny’ made his Queensland debut in 1976, but said he should have made it the previous year, in the deciding inter-state game at the Sydney Cricket Ground. ‘Garbo’ (Qld coach, Barry Muir) tried to put me on late in the game, at lock, but John Payne wouldn’t come off, so I didn’t get a run.”
Rohan Sawyer, a man with extensive experience in sport and finance, has been confirmed as the man to replace Rob Moore as QRL CEO.
THURSDAY, JUNE 17
Marie and I have our first Covid shots, at Lutwyche Medical Centre. Bump into rugby league stalwart, Ron Raper, who has been off work (he is a school groundsman) for nine months. Ron, who represented Queensland and coached Wests to Brisbane premierships in 1975 and ’76, is devastated he cannot visit his brother, Johnny in Sydney, because of Covid. John Raper is one Rugby League’s ‘Immortals’. Ron’s son, Stephen is in the Federal Police, based overseas.
Marie and I attend Broncos v South Sydney match at Suncorp Stadium, via two drinks at Normanby Hotel, which is so quiet, and yet the staff have an air of arrogance, as if we should be honoured to be there. A mate says they are installing speed bumps at Suncorp Stadium to stop visiting sides going over 50. They obviously work, because Souths only beat the Broncos 46-0!! A female Souths’ fan in front of us, in the tightest of tight leather slacks, is extremely vocal. I imagine, a bloke wearing the same slacks, would project the same high pitch voice. Souths’ star is Casino (NSW) product, Cody Walker. Broncos’ forward, Tevita Pangai is put on report for a bad crusher tackle (there is no such thing as a good one) and deserves to get a stretch. Souths’ coach, Wayne Bennett celebrates his 200th game as coach at Suncorp Stadium, by inflicting the heaviest defeat against his former club. While it may have been 200 games at Suncorp for Bennett in the NRL (and its equivalents) there are countless other matches where he was involved (at Lang Park) as a player and coach, dating back to 1970. My youngest brother, Stewart says watching the Broncos is like watching a train wreck, in slow motion. There are reports Broncos’ football boss, Peter Nolan has been punted.
Queensland Times’ columnist, Michael Nunn interviews former Test five eighth, Bobby Banks (over the phone), partly through the help of Bobby’s son, John. Bobby, aged 91, is now our oldest Kangaroo, following the death of Ken McCaffery in February. A product of Central Charlestown in Newcastle, Banks played 15 Tests and represented Queensland 33 times. He was the Wally Lewis of his time.
FRIDAY, JUNE 18
Former Scotland rugby league player, Andrew Duncan is my next interview subject, for Men of League Magazine. His father, Bob was chosen for Australia from the Toowoomba competition in 1962, but did not get on the field, in a Test against Great Britain in Brisbane. Bob died in April, aged 84. Andrew was eligible for Scotland under the grandparent rule, and played against France in Glasgow, in 1997. Andrew played for Valleys, Easts and Norths in Brisbane; Brothers in Bundaberg and London and Warrington in England. I conduct the interview at the Duncan family’s Kedron residence, and their fox terrier, Jessie quickly warms to me, which is proof, if any was needed, that I like dogs, even though the annoyance caused by barking dogs is a theme in my diary entries. Dogs know a hater.
My wife and I attend Creedence Clear Water Revival Show at QPAC. We have a drink beforehand at The Fox, where we run into former Beer and Beef Club president, Murray Spiers, who shouts me a beer. The hotel’s pizza is basic. Renee Watt, daughter of Gold Coast Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt, is an usher at QPAC, and says hello. The band, from Perth, are better than I expected. My wife is the Creedence fan in the family.
On our arrival home, I watch a replay of the Cowboys v Cronulla match from Townsville. Cowboys’ hooker, Reece Robson goes himself, when there is support, late in match, with the Cowboys behind 26-24. Then he is sent to sin bin for a high shot. Cowboys lose 26-24.
SATURDAY, JUNE 19
Former Queensland forward, John Crilly attends Brothers v Normanby match at Gibson Park, Stafford to watch his son play for Normanby. John says the Rangers Rugby Union Club at Ipswich is doing quite well, not so much Brothers Rugby League. That’s surprising. I catch up with so many people, including former Brothers’ forward, John McGraw; Gold Coast Titans’ fitness guru, Steve Hooper and his wife, Stacey; and former Brothers, Logan City and Crushers (under-20s) coach, Gary O’Brien, who is a teacher at Padua College. Steve Hooper also taught at Padua.
Also have a lovely chat to Isabelle, a former barmaid at Lang Park, and also Brothers’ Leagues. Isabelle recalls legendary Brothers’ barmaid, Betty Bootle lecturing the players about what she required of them, in terms of behaviour. Isabelle, originally from Dunedin in New Zealand, loved her time at Brothers because of the way the different generations inter-acted. She also tells some great yarns about the Lang Park days, and characters such as QRL boss, Senator Ron McAuliffe and former Australian, Queensland and Brothers’ skipper, Peter Gallagher.
At Purtell Park, Ron Raper presents a Wests’ Team of the Century jersey to the Panthers’ former Test winger, Wayne Stewart, who missed the official function, when the other jerseys were handed out. Wayne, who lives at Hervey Bay, has not been in the best of health.
News filters through of the death of former Brisbane Wests and Queensland centre, Harry Cameron, who moved to Brisbane from Easts’ Roosters in 1975. He had won a Sydney premiership with the Chooks in ’74, and then won two in a row in Brisbane.
SUNDAY, JUNE 20
BRONCOS IN REVOLT
That is the Sunday Mail, Page One headline, and it refers to the sacking of Peter Nolan and head of performance, Andrew Croll.
Evidently rugby union club, Western Force are interested in signing Parramatta’s Blake Ferguson. Brave move.
I have two beers at Happy Valley Brewery, Stafford, while listening to ‘The Meat Trays’. Great vibe.
Winger, Reuben Garrick scores four tries for Manly in their ridiculous 56-24 win over Gold Coast Titans at Robina. I say ‘ridiculous’ because the Titans led 24-8 at halftime. Say no more. Test winger, Les Hanigan scored five tries for Manly in a match against Cronulla in 1967.
Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk says the people of Logan City love their buffets. I’m glad you said that, Premier. But I think you might be right.