DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 36 2021
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6
The Dolphins are everyone’s tip to be the NRL’s 17th team in 2023, with the decision to be officially announced next month. Wayne Bennett will be the coach, but for the time being, must concentrate on his job at South Sydney, with the Rabbitohs to play Premiers, Penrith in the first week of the finals, this coming Saturday.
My wife, Marie and I are staying at Coral Cove Apartments, Bowen, and it is my 69th birthday. We watch an old French movie, Mon Uncle (1958) and then take a post-lunch, leg stretch at Davidson Park and Mellor’s Lagoon, before driving to Queen’s Bay.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7
Former Brisbane Wests’ halfback, Des Lea is my interview subject in Bowen, for next Men of League Foundation magazine. Des, 71, played junior league here in Bowen with my former Brisbane Brothers’ teammate, Murray Schultz. Des’s brother, Buddy Lee fought at the Battle of Long Tan during the Vietnam war, and was shot three times. He survived, but cancer got him. Buddy’s son, Barry, played rugby union for Australia, but also had stints in league, with Canberra and Newcastle. One of 15 children, Rockhampton born Des Lea, was promoted to first grade with Wests, mid-way through the 1969 Brisbane season, and played a key role in the club reaching the finals, after they finished second last in 1968. But, aged just 25, he called it quits, to pursue other interests in Brisbane, before returning to Bowen. We catch-up at busy Horseshoe Bay Cafe.
Paul Green quits as Queensland State of Origin coach, and Billy Slater is favourite to replace him.
Marie and I lunch at magnificent Grandview Hotel – share plates of Spanish Prawns, Italian sausage roll and calamari. Lots of grey nomads in the dining area. Marie and I walk the town centre, buying steak and ham from the butcher shop. A bloke with a fully laden pushbike, has a pie at a cafe. There is a mural dedicated to Sir Peter Delamothe, MP. Born at Spring Hill in Brisbane, Sir Peter’s French father was a chemist. His mum’s maiden name was Olive. Sir Peter was a medical practitioner in Bowen, and then Mayor. When he died, he asked for his ashes to be scattered in Bowen Harbour. Marie and drive Flagstaff Hill, where an interpretive centre is being built. Watch movie ‘Love Sarah’.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8.
Marie and I walk from Horseshoe Bay to Rose Bay, via Gray’s Breach. Beautiful sunset. Dinner at ‘The Cove’ Chinese and watch Tom Hanks’ movie ‘Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’. I loved it.
FoxSports have a flashback to the 1985 Dally M Awards, with Brisbane’s own, Billy J Smith the compere. Greg ‘Brandy’ Alexander, wears a pink suit.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9
Marie and I leave Bowen for Ayr, to see our eldest son, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan. Parker plays the piano, but says is going to be a florist, not a pianist. We attend outdoor, family dance night at East Ayr State School, where Damien is deputy principal.
Test forward, Josh Jackson wins the George Peponis Medal as Canterbury-Bankstown’s Player of the Year.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10.
Barista at Gudjuda Deck Cafe, Plantation Parr, Ayr, asks if I want my coffee ‘extra hot’, probably because I am of a certain age, and people of that age, often insist on their coffees being ‘extra hot’, something I did at the start of the coffee craze, but which I now realise is a recipe for the ruination of good coffee. I suppose I could have had a go at her for putting a label on me, so to speak, but I know she meant well.
Our youngest grand daughter, Evan, attends a native animal activity at Plantation Park, with the likes of a green tree snake, a baby croc and squirrel gliders able to be handled.
I buy new clothes at Michael’s and the lady who serves me says her son played rugby union in Ayr, last night, and complained of the cold. Soft Rah Rahs. Retired teacher, Martin Grandelis is writing the History of Burdekin Rugby League. Damien tips a big win for Melbourne Storm over Manly-Warringah in the NRL finals, and is proven correct, with Storm winning 40-12. Damien didn’t take the 13 plus on offer. Damn.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
A helicopter, piloted by a local farmer, does a ‘lollie drop’, at Burdekin FC’s break up day. Our son, Damien is a coach at the club and his daughter, Parker is a player. There are some amazing (sugar) cane fires tonight.
Souths shock Penrith, winning their NRL qualifying final 16-10. Souths’ inter-change forward, Jai Arrow is sensational in defence. Roosters hang on for 25-24 win over Gold Coast Titans. The Titans should have won, but bombed a try at the end, when centre, Patrick Herbert stuffed up with a selfish piece of play.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Marie and I almost need a camel to get to Ayr Surf Club Nippers Carnival at Alva Beach. The carnival is held way north of the surf club itself. Back at the Club, I have a long chat to dual rugby international, Wendell Sailor’s father-in-law, Hockey Vernon, Patron and a Life Member of the Surf Club. Hockey swam Townsville to Magnetic Island as a 16-year-old – in a cage – against two blokes from Coolangatta on the Gold Coast. Photographs on the wall of the surf club include some of the Lifesavers Rugby League Club (1948, 1951, ’52). Also featured is part of the Ayr Surf Boat, wrecked at a carnival at Maroochydore in 1976. Hockey recalls when Test hooker/prop, Noel Kelly came to Ayr in 1960, as a captain-coach. He also recalls the visit of former Test skipper, John Sattler who spoke in glowing terms about the toughness of North Queensland product, Joe Vasta, who played for Newtown in Sydney. Hockey is a strong supporter of the Men of League Foundation, and is also the surf club’s historian.
There has been a fire in Burleigh National Park, which fortunately, didn’t spread too far.
Catalan Dragons win the (Super League) League Leaders Shield, the equivalent of the NRL Minor Premiership. It is 50 years since South Murwillumbah won the Group 18/Gold Coast premiership, beating Burleigh Bears 21-10 in the Grand Final at Murwillumbah Oval. Indigenous star, Claude ‘Little General’ McDermott, was Souths’ captain-coach. My team, Brothers, were eliminated by Burleigh in the first week of the finals, and it pained me to watch Souths and Burleigh go round on the big day. The under-8 Murwillumbah side, which I coached, beat Tweed Heads in the halftime game, 9-3 with Gary Edwards scoring two tries for my side and Peter Plater one. Group 18 paid Tweed Shire Council $142 rent for use of the oval. Gate takings were $1,473. Expenses deducted were $1,121.