DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 29 2021
MONDAY, JULY 19
St George premiership winning forward, Robin Gourley has died aged 85. In an interview with the ABC’s Ian McNamara a few years back, Gourley said league helped him get to know people, when he emigrated to Australia from Ireland, where he had played rugby union. Bill McNeely, a Darling Downs’ wheat farmer, sponsored him to come to Australia and urged him to buy land in black soil country. That’s why he settled at Narrabri. Gourley was captain-coach there for five years, and sold tractors, before going into farming. Gourley represented New South Wales when he was playing club football at Wagga Wagga, and met his wife-to be on the flight from Wagga to Sydney. Her girlfriend bet her a dinner at the Chevron, that she wouldn’t approach Robin. Robin also cut sugar cane in Innisfail with an Irish mate. Robin said he only played three games of league before being chosen to play for Toowoomba against the touring Kiwi side in 1959. “I got a broken nose and two cut eyes,” he said. Gourley played prop in St George’s Grand Final wins over Souths (1965) and Balmain (1966), at the SCG. His son, Scott played rugby league and rugby union for Australia.
Former St George Dragons’ coach, Harry Bath liked his players to work as ‘garbos’, to run the soreness out of them after weekend matches. So says former Saints’ centre, Graham Quinn. When tiny St George halfback, Mark Shulman got a job as a sales rep., Bath insisted he do ‘extras’. Bath would not give out players’ contact details to journalists, and had a frosty relationship with some scribes. He banned Charles Christian for three months, over some yarn he wrote. Noted News Ltd journalist, Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock recalls covering rugby league matches at Millmerran, on the Darling Downs.
The Newmarket Caravan Park is to close after 64 years. What a shame. It provided cheap accommodation, close to the city centre, but from all reports, the owners had had enough. It probably will become a town house development.
TUESDAY JULY 20
RadioTAB’s Andrew Courtice talks a little about his cricket career, including a tour of Zimbabwe in 1985, and a stint with Nottinghamshire in England. He opened the batting for Queensland in the 1980s.
I have an enjoyable bush walk at Chermside Hills with former Queensland Rugby League History Committee Chairman, Kevin Brasch, who lives nearby. Kevin says his former Queensland State of Origin co-manager, Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner was happy, as long as he got his tea and cakes at 3 p.m. each day, in camp with the Maroons. Kevin was a fine league and union player in his day, and had extensive experience playing league in England. I see smoke in the distance as I drive home, and it turns out to be a house fire, next to the Alderley Arms Pub.
I have a lovely chat to noted author, Hugh Lunn, who says his book, ‘The Great Fletch’, is being made into a radio serial. ‘Fletch’ (Ken Fletcher) played mixed doubles with Margaret Court, and told her to stop bending over, because he couldn’t concentrate. Hugh took a Norwegian girlfriend to a 1973 inter-state rugby league match at Lang Park. The Norwegian lass had learned English reading ‘The Adventures of Barry McKenzie’. When she saw John Sattler lead out the Queensland side, she remarked, quite loudly: ‘He’s built like a shit brick house.”. Hugh says Wallaby great, Mark Loane rated Cronulla and St George rugby league legend, Steve Rogers the best player he saw in either rugby code.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 21
‘Beer trucks’ serviced shift workers at Queensland Newspapers, back when I was a reporter. These ‘trucks’ would pull up late at night in the back car park, next to the Railway shunting yards at Mayne. Sometimes a train driver would jump the fence for a beer. There were a mixture of printers and journalists lined up for a Gold or XXXX ‘heavy’. This, of course, would not be allowed now. The beer trucks were part of the conversation at the Stafford Tavern.
It’s official. Brisbane will host the 2032 Olympics. It’s also official that Australia and New Zealand will not send teams to the UK this year for the Rugby League World Cup, because of player welfare issues, to do with Covid. That effectively means the World Cup will not be held.
THURSDAY, JULY 22
The Windsor International Hotel, where my wife, Marie works part time in reception, has been sold to a private (mental) health mob.
Former Valleys’ centre, Alan Beauchamp tells me he played against future Wallaby great, Paul McLean in a curtain raiser to the 1966 Queensland v Great Britain Rugby League match at Lang Park. Alan’s son, Luke played rugby union for Brisbane Brothers (the same club as McLean), but now plays in the USA with Houston Sabercats. McLean’s former Wallaby teammate, Tony Shaw had a brief stint playing rugby league with Brothers under-17s.
FRIDAY, JULY 23
Jake Granville plays fullback for the injury hit Cowboys, a position he filled for Wynnum-Manly at some stages. Glanville, the hooker in North Queensland’s famous 2015 Grand final victory, does an excellent job, as the Cowboys turn in a brave effort against NRL Premiers, Melbourne Storm. Melbourne win 20-16 in Townsville with Melbourne hooker, Brandon Smith in top form.
The Penshurst RSL Rugby League Club celebrates its 60th year.
SATURDAY, JULY 24
I like to wake with a positive attitude, but today I am met with thick fog; the noise of stump grinders, crows and barking dogs, and top it off, Covid, all over the front page of the paper. Lord, give me strength.
Former Test prop, David Wright phones on his way to Ipswich to cover an inter-city rugby league clash between Ipswich and Toowoomba. David is seeking confirmation on the names of famous Toowoomba players. His co-commentator is Drury Forbes.
4BC/2GB’s Mark Levy interviews International Rugby League chairman, Troy Grant about the Rugby League World Cup, and whether it should go ahead or not, given the world-wide Covid situation. Grant handles things pretty well, even though Levy is a little curt. I think Mark had made up his mind before the interview that the Cup should not go ahead, so it doesn’t matter what Grant has to say. My fellow historian, Lyle Beaton describes it as “a sick joke on the legacy of the Kangaroos”, that we have turned our back on England, by withdrawing from the Cup.
Marie and I join friends from the ‘Playgroup mob’ at Portobello’s, Albany Creek for dinner. Derek and Margaret Barea enjoyed their trip out west, where they saw Ian Moss and Russell Morris in concert. Morris finished his set with ‘Rachel’s Coming Home’. Former Queensland fullback, Errol Stock is among the diners at Portobello’s.
Learn of the passing of former journalist, John Cornell, also known as ‘Strop’, Paul Hogan’s television sidekick, and a big player in the World Series Cricket days. Cornell, who had lived at Byron Bay for many years, had been battling Parkinson’s since 2001. He was the owner of the Brunswick Heads Hotel, a pub where I had a few ales, while covering the Festival of the Fish and Chips wood chopping, in the park across the road, back in the early 1970s.
Penrith defeat Brisbane 18-12 at Suncorp with Payne Haas the best of the Broncos.
SUNDAY, JULY 25
The daughter of former Australian five eighth, Johnny Gleeson phones Ian McNamara (Macca) on ABC Radio, to talk about the great clashes with Great Britain in the 1960s, when ‘Macca’ (like me) was young, and those Tests were the ultimate. John’s daughter, a teacher from Camden, said Australian prop/hooker, Noel Kelly always felt he had to protect John, who was always closely marked, a euphemism for ‘bashed’. Macca says the Poms in those days always looked larger than life, as if they came from another planet.