DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 4 2022
MONDAY, JANUARY 24
Murray Donnelly, better known as Jim, has passed away in Casino in Northern New South Wales, aged 93. He was the younger brother of my wife, Marie’s father, Kevin Donnelly from Lismore, who was known as ‘Pat’, in Casino. Jim worked for many years on the railways, and loved it, keeping in touch with many of his workmates, after he retired. Jim was an enthusiastic gardener, and the tomatoes from his vegetable patch were much sought after.
I feature on Suncorp Stadium’s ‘Media Monday’ update – a look back at my career as a rugby league writer.
Marie and I spend a large part of today looking after our grandsons, Ethan and Connor, taking them to the Windsor Cricket Ground playground, in Brisbane’s inner north, from their Albion base. So many ‘Himix’ cement trucks pass by, some at a great rate of knots. I would hate to live in this neck of the woods.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 25
Speaking of cement – former dual International rugby forward, Kevin ‘Kandos’ Ryan lives at Rockingham in Western Australia, and I am privileged to have a telephone chat with him. He got the nickname Kandos (after a Sydney cement company), because he was rock hard, a heavyweight boxing champion, as well as a Test forward in union and league. He didn’t realise his 1963-64 Kangaroo tour teammate, Johnny Gleeson had died on Christmas Day (see Vale Johnny Gleeson, this website). Ryan recalls having surgery in St James Hospital, Leeds in 1963. He reckons a big reason his club side, Canterbury-Bankstown, made the 1967 Sydney Grand Final, was a courageous chase by lock, Ron Raper on the great Reg Gasnier, with Raper’s ankle tap enough to bring down the brilliant Australian captain. Canterbury won 12-11 to deny the Dragons a grand final berth for the first time in 12 years. Ryan, the Canterbury skipper, was a former St George forward. A Queenslander, he attended Brisbane’s Nudgee College. The only time I met him in the flesh was when he addressed the Broncos, at a training run in Brisbane, when he was in charge of the Players’ Association.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26
Marie makes damper for Australia Day. She saw quite a few Australian flags on her way to the shops. Our daughter, Melanie Mariotto and her husband, Greg adjourn to the Boomerang Bar in Singapore. Our eldest son, Damien; his wife, Emma and daughters, Parker and Evan, climb Mt Inkerman in the Burdekin region. Damien loves the choice of tennis champ., Dylan Alcott as Australian of the Year. Our youngest lad, Lliam and his sons, Ethan and Connor, enjoy fireworks at Broadwater on the Gold Coast.
I have a few beers at Stafford Tavern with the likes of Jim Gannon, Len Schafer, Wayne Mitchell, Graham ‘Bruno’ Brennan and Len O’Brien, as well as an Indigenous chap, last name Fogarty, who tells a great story about a horse which liked the wet. I wish I could remember it. ‘Fogarty’ talks about losing a winning double (first points scorer ticket) at Lang Park, and then miraculously finding it in the rubbish on the terraces. Jim Gannon says he had a winning double that was a couple of years old, but the great Ian ‘Bunny’ Pearce paid it out, when Jim presented it at the old Redcliffe Leagues Club at the Showgrounds, where ‘Bunny’ was the manager. We got onto the subject of doubles because Souths’ Rugby Union stalwart, Peter ‘Doubles’ Daley, has been recognised in the Australia Day honours.
Two Rebels Rugby Union players feature in a Channel 9 cross-promotion of the Australian Open Tennis. I would hope Channel 9 would also feature a couple of Melbourne Storm Rugby League players, given league is Nine’s Premier footy code. Terry Gleeson, the son of late rugby league legend, Johnny Gleeson, takes out the Goondiwindi Australia Day Sport award, mainly for his work with rugby union.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 27
Fifteen youngsters attend a camp at Brisbane’s Nudgee College, conducted by new NRL franchise, the Redcliffe based, Dolphins.
Marie and I drive to Lismore, via Chinderah on the Tweed River, where we buy fresh local flathead for dinner at her sister, Carolyn’s place. The countryside in the Tweed, Byron, Ballina and Lismore Shires looks absolutely beautiful. I catch up with some of the regulars at the Lismore Golf Club – the likes of Toby Daley; ‘Lucky’ Allen (father of former Burleigh Bears’ star, Dean Allen); Paul Gahan and a solicitor (first name, Steve), who got former Test centre, Steve Rogers the licence for the Lennox Heads Pub. ‘Lucky’ went to Belmore Boys High in Sydney, where former Australian five eighth, Tim Pickup was school captain, in 1969. Dean Allen played for Burleigh Bears in a match against Great Britain in 1999, when the Bears almost beat the tourists. Steve reckons former Wallaby, Declan Curran was made an offer by South Sydney Rugby League, back in the late 70s or early 80s, but there was no way he would have been a success in league. “His knees were not made for side stepping.” Declan is the son of former Australian rugby league player, Frank Curran, who toured Britain with the 1933-34 Kangaroos. Paul Gahan reminds me that Lismore rugby league legend, Terry McDermott had played against Tweed star, Claude McDermott in district football. (They are not related. Terry is Anglo Celtic and Claude Indigenous). That would have been quite some clash, as they were both so skilful. I played against Claude, when he was captain-coach of South Murwillumbah and I was playing for Murwillumbah Brothers.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 28
Marie and I attend the funeral of her Uncle Jim Donnelly, in Casino. The wake is held at the Casino RSM Club. Marie’s cousin, Joanne had a mishap on the way to the funeral, with her hire car hitting a giant pot hole, and requiring a new wheel. We drive home, via Kyogle – ‘Veterans’ motor cyclists are filling up at the garage – and then traverse the famous ‘Lions Road’, into Queensland, buying meat at Beaudesert. Beaudesert is beef country, but our t-bone is tough.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 29
A minute’s silence is observed for former Great Britain Test winger, Des Drummond, ahead of pre-season matches in the UK. Jamaican born Drummond played 24 Tests for Great Britain and four for England. I interviewed him when I covered the Kangaroo tour of Britain in 1982. He played all three Tests, and also played for Leigh against the ‘Roos, at Hilton Park, where he had a great duel with John Ribot. I also interviewed Drummond when he toured Australia in 1984. He was only 63 when he died.
In Second Round Challenge Cup games, Castleford amateur club, Lock Lane, beat semi-professional outfit, Oldham, while Army beat Navy 14-10 at Aldershot, in Hampshire, in England’s deep south.
Women’s Australian rules is to be played ay Henson Park, the home of the Newtown Jets Rugby League Club. Is nothing sacred.
Marie and I watch Queensland’s own, Ash Barty win the Australian Open Tennis title. What a little champion. The late Paul Malone would have been so proud. Along with Channel 9’s Peter Psaltis, ‘Scobie’ (Malone) identified Barty as a champion, when she was ‘unknown’.
Marie’s brother, John Donnelly and his wife, Jan, celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. We attended their wedding at Maclean in the Clarence Valley of New South Wales.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 30
Experienced News Ltd sports writer, Andrew Dawson says big things are expected of Mackay born forward, Jack Howarth at Melbourne Storm. My good mate from the Hunter Valley, Greg Grainger says South End Rugby League club has had a reunion, at the Queens Arms pub, Maitland. “It was one of the best junior clubs going,” Greg says. In 1973, Greg would play for Maitland on Saturday, and South End on Sunday. The next year he moved to Murwillumbah to play for Brothers.
My younger sister, Gay Lynch and her husband, David, are holidaying in Cambodia.