DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 28 2021
MONDAY, JULY 12
Sydney Telegraph’s Editor at Large, Phil Rothfield says rugby league in Queensland is in trouble, and if Sydney clubs relocate here, it would be a boost for the game. Rothfield’s comments come in the wake of QRL boss, Bruce Hatcher suggesting Cronulla should move to Queensland. Bruce Hatcher is spotted (by one of my spies) deep in conversation with noted Brisbane property developer, Kevin Seymour, at a New Farm cafe – perhaps talking about ways to boost the game in this great State. Seymour was a supporter of the now defunct South Queensland Crushers. One Sydney commentator calls Bruce, ‘Bruce Hartcher’.
TUESDAY, JULY 13
Radio TAB’s rugby union expert, former Test hooker, Mark McBain, has huge wraps on Irish five eighth, Johnny Sexton.
Former Brothers’ rugby league winger, Peter Skerman came off the bench as a replacement for Clem Hovi in a first grade match in the early 1970s. Nothing exceptional about that, except ‘Skermo’ had already consumed two cans of Pilsener in the dressing rooms, after playing in the lower grades. Tour de France passes through St Gaudens, a rugby league town I visited with the Queensland Residents side in 1989. The local league club hosted the Maroons to morning tea, on their way to Lourdes for a visit.
Our daughter-in-law, Emma turns 38. Her daughter, Parker makes breakfast for her and delivers it to the bedroom, in the family home at Ayr in North Queensland. Our son, Damien makes tacos for dinner.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 14
The sky is so beautiful this morning. Channel 7 feature it on their news bulletin. I accidently click onto Channel 10 early this morning. What a barren landscape of shows – ‘The Talk’, from the USA, followed by Judge Judy. The people at that station obviously don’t care anymore.
North Queensland Cowboys’ hooker, Reece Robson tells RadioTAB interviewers he is a “Blue through and through”, meaning he is a New South Welshman. Well, he is from Murwillumbah, and I know from living there, most people in the Tweed Valley town, go for NSW, despite being close to the Queensland border. Tweed Heads Seagulls pay tribute to ex-president, Des Bolster, following his passing. Des mortgaged his property to enable the purchase of land at West Tweed Heads for Seagulls’ new field and leagues club, which opened in 1972. Prior to that, they played home games at the Recreation Street Ground, Tweed Heads, which also was a greyhound racing track, before Border Park was opened. I played at both grounds. I met my wife, Marie (nee Donnelly) at Seagulls.
In the build-up to the Third State of Origin match on the Gold Coast, Channel 9 commentator and former Queensland coach, Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin confirms what I wrote at the time – that the re-introduction of (Super League) Broncos’ players into the Queensland side in 1996, was a cause of friction with the ARL loyal players, who had taken the Maroons to a series clean sweep in 1995. Queensland lost the 1996 series 3-0. ‘Fatty’ says his dad, George, a former Wests (Brisbane) prop, was a source of motivation when he played Origin. ‘Uncle’ John Graham, a Kombumerri elder, does an excellent ‘Welcome to Country’, finishing with a robust ‘Go Queensland’. The anthem is sung by Newcastle’s Amanda Barrass, who is battling cancer. Our youngest son, Lliam attends the game with clients from his Supply Partners (solar energy) business. Rugby League Immortal, Wally Lewis is sitting just over the fence from Lliam, and the former Queensland skipper (and coach) tucks into a meat pie, chips, a Cornetto and a bottle of Coke. They don’t call him ‘The King’ for nothing. My wife, Marie (a good judge) tips Qld fullback, Kalyn Ponga to be the difference, and he certainly makes an impact, although Ben Hunt is named man of the match, after the Maroons’ 20-18 win. Menulog ads drive me crazy, but I must confess, the one featuring former Origin stars, Matt Bowen and Brett Kimmorley, which is played during the match, is a beauty.
Melbourne Storm have broken their membership record, even though they cannot play at home, because of Covid.
I have a chat to John Barrett from St George in South West Queensland, about his collection of rugby league memorabilia. There is hope that Lindores Cranes, which has strong St George connections, may be able to help fund a suitable home for the collection, which I have seen. It is currently housed in a container, something everyone thinks is unsatisfactory, including the local Balonne Shire Council, and most notably, John himself.
The ‘Aussie Heroes’ stickers promoted by Woolworths, are made in China. Bloody Hell. Surely the contract could have gone to Brisbane’s Crystal Print, or a similar Australian company.
THURSDAY, JULY 15
Lunch at Deedot Cafe, Holland Park is good, although the staff are fairly brusque. Veggie wrap (moi); cauliflower soup, Marie.
The husband of one of the bar staff at Stafford Tavern, has called off a planned fishing trip to 1770, because of wild weather. Michael ‘China’ de Silva brings a couple of Keith Rooney’s mates (from Sunbury in Victoria) for a drink, at our ‘Table of Knowledge’ at Stafford Tavern. Keith Rooney, a former member of ‘The Table’, died earlier this year. The Victorians spend most of their time playing the pokies. ‘China’ is to move back to Victoria, probably to Yarrawonga. When I hear the name of that Murray River town, I reflect on the Scottish wedding party that was staying in the same hotel as me in Dorchester, in Dorset in 1982. When they heard my Aussie accent, one of the group asked: “Are you from Yarrawonga?” I think they just liked the name because it sounds so Aussie.
Number 47 Uxbridge Street, Grange has been demolished overnight, for a new mansion no doubt.
FRIDAY, JULY 16
Mark McBain pays tribute to former Great Britain rugby league halfback, Shaun Edwards and his impact on the defensive structures of the French Rugby Union side – the ‘Blue Wall’, they call the French defence.
Richmond’s AFL side is one hour late arriving at Metricon Stadium, on the Gold Coast, for a match against the Lions, because of horrendous traffic on the M1. It is always like that. Female television host says there is no bathroom on the bus. I wouldn’t expect there would be a bathroom, but one would expect a toilet. Former Test rugby league star, Graham Quinn tells me he was offered an Aussie rules captain-coach job at Kyabram in Victoria, when he was a rep with IXL. He had never played the game, but they were willing to take a punt on him. ‘Quinny’ hates recalling Saints’ loss to Combined Brisbane in the 1979 Amco Cup. “Des Morris cut us to shreds,” he says.
SATURDAY, JULY 17
My wife, Marie and I have coffee with former Queensland State of Origin prop, Gavin Allan and Okkie Bellekens at ‘Famished on Fraser’ to discuss a forthcoming charity night. Okkie is part of the organising committee. Marie and I explore nearby Banks Reserve, to walk off breakfast.
Our eldest son, Damien and his wife, Emma attend Roosters v Cowboys game in Townsville, with the Roosters winning 34-18.
Watch Rugby League Challenge Cup Final from London’s Wembley. London lass, Sabrina Washington gives a hopeless rendition of the Cup Final hymn, ‘Abide With Me’. Give me Bernard Manning any day. St Helens defeat Castleford 26-12 with Frenchman, Theo Fages one of the try scorers for Saints. Australian, Lachlan Coote kicked five goals for the victors, who who are coached by the impressive Kristian Woolf, who is destined for an NRL post.
SUNDAY, JULY 18
Warriors v Penrith game at Suncorp Stadium is so stop start, Marie and I adjourn to the lounge bar for the last 20 minutes. We had had enough. It’s funny how I still get uptight at games, because I still think I am reporting for News Ltd. Always approach the stadium as if I am about to go to the press box to start work. Marie and I emerge from the lounge for the second game – Broncos v Wests Tigers. (Penrith beat the Warriors 30-16). Playing at five eighth, Adam Doueihi is sensational for the Tigers in their 42-24 win. He is sets up five tries in a majestic display. Every time they get the ball to him in an attacking position, something is ‘on’. Centre, Tommy Talau is all class, and scores two tries. Dane Laurie is exceptional at fullback. There is a father and son near us in the grandstand, and the dad is on the phone all the time. A couple of kids in front of us are on their devices all the time. Why bother coming to the game.
The Coolangatta Bowls Club is 70 years old. I remember taking results from the club when I was a young journo at the Tweed Daily News. The female who phoned the results through, had such a lovely voice. I called into to see her at the club one day, thinking she was around my age – 19 – and that I might even ask her out. She proved to be a woman in her late 30s, I would guess. I thought she was so old, at the time. Had a couple of beers, and a chat to her, and then left. I think she knew what I was up to, and she was chuckling under her breath. Stupid young bugger.