2015 – WEEK 2
MONDAY, JANUARY 5
Napier today, and the locals are outfitted in 1930s gear to welcome us to this art deco town. Walk up very steep Tiffen Park where possum baiting is going well. Hawkes Bay Brewery outlet is unimpressive. No local pilsener and the Wild Duck Lager is warm. Backpack on the floor of the public bar has been there three days and has not been claimed! Move instead to Lone Star Bar which features a series of photos of the Magnificent 7 – seven tries scored in a famous rugby union win by Hawkes Bay over Waikato in 1967. ‘Hello Country Bumpkin’ is played in the background as I down a Steinlager and I shed a tear. That is INDEED sad, Stephen.
Back on board we watch excellent singer, Chris Powley.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 6
Another cruise ship beats us into Tauranga Harbour this morning. Mark drives all fives couples in mini bus to Rotorua. Visit a Maori village where a funeral is taking place. We follow the dictate not to take photos, but one tourist keeps clicking away after being told to stop. A Yank, I think. No class at all. Meet English league fan, John Boughman, who now lives in Perth, but grew up at Whitehaven in Cumbria, a real league stronghold. Next we drive around nearby lakes, all so beautiful and inviting on this hot day. We get back to Tauranga in time to have a few ales at Mount Wanganui Brewery, where Mark has gone from licensee of one pub, to the owner of five!!
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 7
Auckland today, and the best coffee so far, from a Queen Street vendor. Walk through Albert Park where a menacing group of young Maori block a path while drinking grog. Go to tennis at The Domain where we see Coco Vandeweghe from the USA beats Kirsten Flipkens (Belgium) and then the first set of Radwanska v Hantuchova. The first time I saw women’s tennis was back in late 1960s when a classmate at Murwillumbah High, Phil Snedden, invited me to a family outing to Milton in Brisbane to see one of their relatives, Kerry Melville play. Back to ship via Tyler’s Garage Bar on the water front, where our Canadian barman is super friendly.
Back on board our group enters a darts competition, and Greg Grainger finishes a credible third.
I get a lovely message from former North Queensland Cowboys winger, Obadiah Geia, who was taught by our son, Damien at Townsville’s Kirwan High. “He (Damien) is a great bloke who brings out the best in people. You should be proud of him.” We are.
Famous Australian actor, Rod Taylor dies today aged 84. He was so smooth.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8
Bay of Islands today, We had intended to stay on board, but the weather is so beautiful we get a tender to Paihia. Our shuttle bus driver, Kev, goes on and on about the Bledisloe Cup and bags rugby league. Why do Kiwis think we think we all care about rugby union? It is the fourth football code in Australia. To Splash Bar for whitebait fritters, a favourite of Marie’s since she lived in NZ back in the early 70s. So disappointing. Marie tells our waitress (from Moggill in Brisbane) they are the worst she has ever eaten. A couple of drinks in the Yacht Club before getting our tender back to the ship. Club staff (volunteers) so friendly. One couple had moved to Bay of Islands from Christchurch after the quake.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9
The trip back across the Tasman starts today. I chat to Sydney comedian, Sam McCool, a former Waverly College student who counts prominent journalist, Phil Heads among his former classmates. Sam said he met Pauline Hanson on a previous visit to Akaroa. No comment. Tonight Marie and I attend ‘British Invasion’ musical in Princess Theatre. There is no life in the audience, which is not the fault of the singers.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 10
Last full day on board. Mark pretends to see whales out to sea and has other passengers searching madly for a sighting. Bloke goes by wearing ‘Beware I know Karate’ t-shirt. No comment.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 11
Raining as we enter Sydney Harbour. As we disembark at White Bay Terminal a customs lady insists we place one hand on the rail as go down the escalator. Welcome back to the nanny state. Free shuttle bus to airport, then plenty of time to kill so we walk Mascot’s main street, including drinks at Tennyson Pub where the barmaid is friendly and the patrons rough. The Mascot (rugby league) Team of the Century photo adorns one wall.
Back at the airport a dad is hit with a terrific question from his little son. “If our plane flies above the clouds, will the lightning be above or below us?” I didn’t hear the answer.
2015 – WEEK 1
THURSDAY, JANUARY 1
Beautiful ‘crisp’ weather as we cruise Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland. Memories of our 2005 Milford Track walk flood back. Ship heads south and we pass another cruise liner in the spectacular Acheron Passage.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 2
Our first on-shore excursion – Dunedin – and things are so quiet in the CBD. It is a public holiday. Explore the excellent Otago Settlers’ Museum. Bloke from our cruise, who has an artificial leg and a moon boot on the other, struggles by as I enjoy a Stokes IPA while Marie shops. Bus back to Carey’s Bay and walk the high road to historic pub, which is so busy. Excellent fish and chips. Back on board we have roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for dinner.
Learn that former Sydney Telegraph league writer, Les Muir, has retired. He has been working for Wagga Advertiser, and the last time I saw him was back in the early 1990s when the Broncos played a pre-season match in Wagga.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 3
Tenders take us from ship to shore at Akaroa. There are day trips into earthquake damaged Christchurch, but we prefer to remember the city as it was on our last visit in 2005. In tiny St Pat’s Catholic Church in Akaroa we say a prayer for Marie’s Dad, Kevin on the fifth anniversary of his death. Then follows a bush walk in the hills before a cleansing ale at Bully Hayes. A couple near us talk about smokers not being a drain on the health system. They’re joking.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 4
Wellington and a bit of Test cricket. While Marie and the other couples head off into the hills in a hired mini-bus, I wander the Wellington docks (Maori fried bread for breakfast. Can’t recommend it). Visit the National Museum and explore the farming/landscape section. Then walk to Basin Reserve, via National War Memorial. The Black Caps are playing Sri Lanka and I find a seat on the hill and enjoy the action. At lunch I check out the New Zealand Cricket Museum. Basin Reserve had hosted rugby league Test matches, which are now played at ‘the cake tin’, down by the harbour, where our ship is moored. Wellington Phoenix are home to Brisbane Roar in A League soccer.
Tonight Marie and I eat on board in Sterling Steakhouse. I send back my rib eye, which is too well done, after I asked for it to be ‘blue’. Red wine is too warm. Not a great experience. Adjourn to Atrium bar where Mark is bull shitting to a bloke about being a publican.
I get coffee from place at Australia Square. Say ‘G’day mate’ and bloke behind counter looks at me as if I come from a foreign country. Perhaps Queensland is to Sydney siders.Embark on our first cruise tonight – an 11 day round New Zealand adventure on the Sun Princess, with our friends, Greg and Maree Grainger and three other couples (Richard and Robyn Hall, Mark and Jenny Conway, Karl and Lesley Dixon), all from the Hunter Valley region.Mark passed himself off as Qld politician, Bob Katter on the train trip from Newcastle.A former rugby league player with Valleys in Brisbane, Mark made front page of The Courier-Mail after he had part of his ear bitten off in a match at Langlands Park. The players did an emu bob of the field, and after they found the missing piece, it was sewn back on by Valleys’ medico, Dr Tom Dooley.
No-one was ever charged over the incident. Mark, a former policeman, is an Elvis Presley impersonator.
A real buzz as Sea Princess ‘squeezes’ under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and then later heading out into the Tasman Sea through the Sydney Heads.
Romanian duo, Alphard entertain us in the Wheelhouse Bar tonight.
Watch movie, ‘Begin Again’ in Princess Theatre. Very good. Tonight we are entertained by Welsh singer/comedienne, Diane Cousins, a real pro. Our cruise director, Englishman, Stuart McGunigall tells a few corny jokes at the end of the performance. Sorry, Stu. To the Sports Bar to watch Big Bash cricket from Australia. All the memorabilia in the bar is cricket and Australian rules, a bit disappointing for the Queenslanders and New South Welshmen on board.
UK Sky Sports on televisions in room, so we are bombarded with soccer and darts.
The Piano Man Show is cancelled because of the rough seas.
See in the New Year poolside on the top deck, with Passion and Friends providing the music.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 24
Early swim at Horseshoe Bay, then drive to Trial Bay Jail, which has a fascinating history. Lunch at Trial Bay Kiosk is very good. Next stop, Smokey Bay for a lovely walk from the lighthouse down to the beach. Drive to Hat Head (great name), via Fish Co-op, then to Jersey Vale. Back at ‘Nambour by the Sea’ we have drinks at local sports club, where bloke at bar talks like my late father-in-law, Kevin Donnelly. “I’m dehydrated. Better have another drink,” says this character. Local snapper for dinner.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 25
Big storm overnight. Lots of lightning. Quick swim at Horseshoe Bay then check out of our ‘digs’ a day early. First stop on way north ‘The Big Banana’ at Coffs Harbour. The place looks shabby – needs an overhaul. Next stop ‘New Italy’ in the bush between Harwood and Woodburn. Driven by it so many times before, without stopping. It is a real gem. Italian museum well worth a look. Paintings by Florio Volpatto from Lismore, a friend of our family, depict the 20 provinces of Italy. There is also a story on the Nardi family. Jack Nardi was my teammate at Brothers, Murwillumbah, and captain-coach in 1972. To this day, the best bloke I have ever met, and one of those inside centres from the old days, who never passed the ball to anyone in a worse position. Check into Lennox Beach Resort for two nights. To pub where ‘old’ singer provides excellent music. Dinner at ‘Lex Thai’. Good food and service. Watch a TV special on the Country Party on our return to our apartment. Doug Anthony features prominently. They called ‘The Daily News’ ‘Doug Anthony’s Bugle’ when I worked there back in the early ’70s.
Test opener, Phil Hughes on life support after he is hit in the head playing cricket for South Australia against New South Wales in Sydney. Brings back memories of the death of Martin Bedkober in 1975. He was hit above the heart by a rising ball playing for Toombul at Oxenham Park, Nundah in Brisbane’s north. I was working police rounds for The Telegraph and was sent to the ground with a photographer and another reporter, Peter Caton, to cover the tragedy. I remember entering the Toombul dressing rooms, and seeing the shock on the faces of Martin’s teammates, who were having a beer and trying to come to terms with the events of the day.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 10
A UK Consul’s car picks up a bloke from East Hotel, next to where we are staying. Vagrant asleep at the door of St Paul’s church. To Parliament House where school groups from Wagga and Grafton are also having a gander. Next stop – Australian Museum where Phar Lap’s heart is the highlight for Marie. Then to Black Mountain for great views, next a few beers at Kingston Pub, followed by pizza at Katana.
Learn that former Qld premier, Wayne Goss has died. A good bloke and a devoted Brisbane Souths’ league man.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11
Leave Canberra for the South Coast, stopping at historic Braidwood, before a steep descent to Batemans Bay, where I demolish a dozen local oysters. Next stop, Moruya, home town of former Test league prop, Michael Weyman, who has his own statue. Why doesn’t Toowoomba have a statue to Duncan Thompson? Local market has excellent produce and Marie buys asparagus. Book into our apartment at Mollymook and then to the golf club for dinner. Flathead – very good. Marie’s sister, Carolyn phones at mid-night to say their mum had passed away at Caroona Nursing Home, Lismore. We are now orphans, with both sets of parents having passed on.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12
The morning is spent making necessary phone calls re. the funeral etc. Decide to return home tomorrow. Marie had said goodbye to her mum, as if it was the last farewell, before we headed south for our holiday. We cancel our planned stay at Newport in Sydney, and forfeit our deposit. Fair enough. Walk along Mollymook Beach to Bannister’s Headland, where we make on-the-spot decision to eat at Rick Stein’s Restaurant. Meals are very big. Kids running amok do nothing for atmosphere. What about the ‘seen not heard’ adage! Watch Everybody Loves Raymond tonight and the episode is about parents moving into aged care!!
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13
Our eldest boy, Damien turns 34 today. We go to Southport Surf Club to celebrate with him. I have missed so many of his birthdays because I have been away on rugby league tours.
Our daughter-in-law, Channelle (wife of Lliam) sends photo of ‘baby Ricketts’ in the womb. Exciting stuff.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 29.
Susanne from our local newsagency has bought a copy of my book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’ for her husband, Shane. They are Broncos and league tragics, bless ’em. Empty video shop at Grange to be taken up by Baskin and Robbins.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 30
After a double visit to the dentist, Marie and I head south for a New South Wales/ACT holiday. Stop at Aratula (Qld) for a pie. Our first stop over the border is Tenterfield where I have a New England Pale Ale at the tarted up Commercial Hotel, which does B & B. Looks very good. Get to Armidale at 6.10 p.m. and dine at White Bull Pub. Not bad. Drinks on the upstairs balcony to crown the night.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31
Russian (I think) lady asks if I want my coffee ‘sharp or smooth’ at Fresh@110. First time that has happened. Watch movie ‘Solitary Man’ at our motel, before driving around New England University. A lot of my schoolmates from Murwillumbah High went to uni here and I often wonder how life would have turned out if I had followed them, instead of staying in Mur-bah to do my journalism cadetship. Tony Burley, who played fullback in our 1970 under-18 Murwillumbah Brothers rugby league premiership side, discovered rugby union at Uni and went on to forge a distinguished career with Warringah in Sydney. Tony was the basketball star of Mur-Bah High. Drive to the historic town of Uralla. To Armidale RSL for dinner and it is quite moving to hear the ode read out at 6 p.m. Two old rockers provide decent music after that. Indigenous family at one table near us, while Muslim lady gets a lovely reception from fellow locals when she arrives.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 1
Coffee from ‘Altitude’. Not bad. Bikers prepare to leave from back of St Kilda pub. Marie buys biscuits and cake at St Peter’s Church stall, and then we hit the road, stopping first at Tamworth where my great Aunty Dorrie has her own Country and Western Music star in the pavement. The sister of my grandfather, William Ricketts, ‘Sister Dorrie’ sang and toured with the great Tex Morton, a Kiwi who found fame in Australia. I met her only once. At my grandfather’s funeral back in the 1970s, and although she was in her sixties then, she was as fit as a fiddle. She was born Dorothy May Ricketts at Warragul, Victoria in 1910 and died in 1992. Quite a few people in Tamworth’s streets wearing ‘cowboy’ hats, but the place is more multi-cultural than I imagined.
Iceland beat Netherlands 1-0 in soccer.
Ten rookies selected in Australia’s team for the Four Nations Rugby League tournament. We always rave about our depth, so let’s see. But you would think the Netherlands would have beaten Iceland, even if they had 10 men unavailable.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15
On Radio TAB John McCoy talks about some of rugby league’s best on-field knucklemen, with Mony Betham and Ian Roberts featuring prominently. Gordie Tallis says the only man he would not go toe-to-toe with was Les (Bundy) Davidson. To Men of League lunch and Darling Downs committee chief, Andrew O’Brien is at my table. Andrew’s dad, Johnny, from Gatton, and my Dad knew each other well and I remember a big session with them at a pub in Gatton back in the 1980s. Also on our table is ex Ipswich Jet, Neil Cumner and Brisbane Wests legends, Bobby Green and Artie Connell. MC, Peter Psaltis interviews former top coach, Darryl Van de Velde.
After the lunch I take possession (on behalf of the History Committee) of scrapbooks from the archives of former Daily Sun sports writer, Errol Harris. Errol was a neighbour of ours when I was a high school student at Murwillumbah, and I would often see him typing away on his verandah – for Best Bets, I think. He had a column in the Tweed Daily News called ‘Talking Sport’ and loved a beer at the Imperial Hotel with members of the Murwillumbah High School Old Boys Rugby League club, especially another neighbour of ours, Percy Delaney. Broncos chairman, Dennis Watt; chief executive, Paul White and coach, Anthony Griffin are in heavy discussion with NRL officials re. the salary cap. My lips are sealed.
Peter Psaltis reminds me that his relatives had a café at Murwillumbah.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16
Depressing news everywhere. Terrorists, Ebola, Wall Street crashing! Just take one day at a time, Steve.
Brogan Melit, son of late Brothers’ rugby league indentity, Frank Melit, arrives with two crates of programmes, photos etc from his dad’s collection. Marie not happy that more valuable garage space is being occupied. To QRL for History Committee work.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17
Browse through old Sporting Life magazines gifted to me by Max Ford, a former footballer and boxer from Mt Gravatt. Interesting article on former indigenous boxer, Elley Bennett, one of my father-in-law’s favourites.
Wilston-Grange AFL awards dinner held at Brothers’ Club tonight. Learn that Brothers’ licensed club is up for sale, and lots of regulars are worried about the future.
I receive a touching letter today from one of Dad’s old mates, Keith Fletcher from Ballina.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18
Lovely day at Good Food and Wine Show at Convention Centre with our youngest son, Lliam and his wife, Channelle. We finish day at Seppelt Wine Stand and have a good chat to Andrew Seppelt. Get home in time to watch Junior Kangaroos v Junior Kiwis League international, and then the Bledisloe Cup rugby union. Amazing scenes before the league, with the Australian players advancing on the Kiwi Haka. I thought the Aussies were out of order, and it’s fortunate there wasn’t a pre-match brawl. Wallabies lose in heart breaking circumstances and coach, Ewan McKenzie quits.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19
100th anniversary of the ANZAC Fleet leaving Melbourne’s Princess Wharf. Banjo Paterson is on board one of the vessels, Alf from Yeovil tells ‘Macca’ on the ABC, and ‘Macca’ is a bit short with him, as ‘Macca’ can be sometimes. Still love his show.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24
I am contacted by Papua New Guinea league man, Chris Thompson, who knows several members of the 1968 PNG under-9 stone (weight) team which toured Australia. I was selected for New South Wales North Coast to play the PNG boys at Casino, but had to withdraw because of exams. The PNG backs played in bare feet, and the tourists ended up winning 19-3.
The Courier-Mail run a nice story on Canterbury forward, Pat O’Hanlon’s terrible ankle injury, although nothing about his Queensland background. I have coffee at Redcliffe with a former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Mick Nunan. Home via Tedman Street, Zillmere where I see our old place will be auctioned on October 4. Drive over Geebung rail ‘fly-over’ for the first time.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
Attend Men of League 10th anniversary lunch at the RNA. First bloke I run into is Matt O’Hanlon, our son, Damien’s boss at Beenleigh High, and father of Pat. Racecaller, Steve Hawkins is at my table along with singer, Megan Longhurst. I catch up with former Murwillumbah Brothers’ teammate, Athol ‘the doctor’ Gear. The nicest bloke in the world, Athol was a different man on the field. He broke the jaw of Broncos’ foundation director, Steve Williams’ in one Brisbane club match. Cairns based former Test winger, Lionel Williamson is named a Men of League Honouree, and his daughter, Kerry is there to accept it on his behalf. I shed a tear during tributes to former players who have died. I think of Dad.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 26
To sports breakfast at Brothers Community Club, wearing a Roosters’ scarf. Dangerous thing to do in Brisbane. MC Mark Forbes, interviews Brisbane Bandits’ baseball indentities, Dave Nilsson and Paul Gonzales, then former Courier-Mail editor, Michael Crutcher and Cameron Carr. I get a bit emotional talking about Cameron and the road accident which put him in a wheel chair, just before he was to take up a contract with the Roosters back in the ’90s. He is now a wheelchair rugby star. The breakfast is a chance for me to promote my book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’. Afterwards I have coffee with Brothers NRL Bid team members, Justin Barlow and Trevor Bailey. The Courier-Mail website features the top 10 Brisbane Rugby League grand finals, and I get some of the credit for the article. Souths beat the Roosters 32-22 in the grand final qualifier, and life is not worth living at home. Great career, Anthony Minichiello.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 27
Watch build-up to AFL grand final. Like the anthems before a rugby union Test, that is the best part. Love ‘Up There Cazaly’. Could have done without Tom Jones, although better than MeatLoaf. Watch Catalans 18-16 win over Huddersfield. Aussie coaching guru, David Waite assists the French side. Hail storm hits Grange at 8 p.m. On radio Bob Fulton says the four tackle rule days of the late ’60s were like rugby union. Queensland coaching guru, Duncan Thompson liked the rule at the time. Sports guru, Ray Ebert phones ahead of the Dayboro Rugby League Club’s awards night, where he is to be MC. Says his favourite Brisbane grand final was 1975. It was a beauty. Wests beat Redcliffe.
Attend Men of League function at Suncorp Stadium ahead of the Intrust Super Cup grand final. Former ABC caller, Peter Meares is MC. I first saw Peter on the sidelines at the Wide Bay v Great Britain match at Maryborough in 1979. I went there hoping to catch up with good mate, Eric Hughes, the British winger, but he spent the night in hospital after he hit the ground head first in a sling tackle. I pay $100 for Mal Meninga memorabilia (Centenary of Club Greats) at the function. First thing I have ever bought at a sportsmen’s function. I did it mainly because I was embarrassed at the restrained bidding. Catch up with so many league characters, among them Ray Kelly, Les Geeves, Shane McNally, Gavin Payne, Craig Green, Paul Tanks, Mark McGuire, Tony Currie, James Sandy, Steve and David Mills, Sam Smith, Gerard Kerr, Randall Coolwell, Marty Scanlan, Ross Strudwick, Jeff Gill, Hugh O’Doherty, Lots of Wests names there. We really lost a lot of Brisbane’s league soul when Wests exited the big time. Former Test centre, Brent Tate, forced into retirement by yet another knee reconstruction, is part of Channel 9 commentary team for grand final. Northern Pride beat Easts 36-4 in a disappointing game. Atmosphere flat. Brawls give code a bad look. Intrust Super principal, Brendan O’Farrell not happy.
RADIO TAB host, John McCoy talks about one rugby code this morning. I think it will happen one day, but not in my lifetime. But it will amount to a takeover of league by union and the play-the-ball will not survive. There will be pockets that play traditional rugby league. The true believers will not bow to the lure of globalisation, and there will always be rugby league, even if it is only in places like Dewsbury, Limoux, Greymouth and Townsville.
Marie home via Bexhill (bananas), Clunes (meat) and Byron Bay (bread). Good to support local producers.
On FoxSports, Matt Johns says James Graham looks like a serial killer!!
Makes more sense than ‘Crash’ Craddock saying Port Adelaide are celebrated around the nation. For a start, from Gympie north in Queensland, very few would know anything about their position on the AFL ladder.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16
Lliam says the baby is a boy.
Sign on Gilbert Road telegraph pole seeks missing hen: ‘ Mrs Wallace’.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17
To Men of League office today to sign 100 copies of my book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’.
Brisbane Bandits put up posters in ‘their’ bar at Brothers. The ‘Bandits’ people drink Coke. Shock.
To Universities rugby league grand final at Davies Park tonight with patron, Kevin Brasch. Griffith beat UQ, even though the latter looked the better side for much of the match. Our eldest boy, Damien, a former Unis player, joins Kevin and I at the Leagues Club.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
In agony from back trouble. Greg Veivers suggest some exercises when I talk to him on Men of League business.
Body Corporate meeting tonight and new managers, Harry and Robyn Moore are keen to impress, so meeting goes for three hours, surely a record. There are interjections from a couple of residents who asked to observe.
Watch Super League semi-final (Wigan v Huddersfield) from England. Finals crowds over there always disappoint. I don’t know why. Regular home and away games draw two or three times as many people. It must be a season ticket thing.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
One of my former editors at The Telegraph, Neil Wiseman, dies today aged 68. Originally from England, Neil was an intelligent, generous man who, at the same time, did not suffer fools.
He was a staunch advocate of ‘proper English’. He would hate me writing that.
Listen to 4BC and former Manly skipper, Fred Jones phones Ray Hadley. I saw Fred play for Australia in their 20-2 win over France in the 1968 World Cup final at the SCG.
There are some ‘pretty’ hookers these days, but when Fred was playing if you wanted to maintain your looks, you didn’t play hooker. I don’t think Fred would mind me saying that he was never, ever going to be a poster boy.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Learn that Nikki Walker is the new coach of Hawick Rugby in Scotland. I met the former Scotland Test winger during the Common Riding celebrations in June. He has a great respect for rugby league.
I ATTEND The Courier-Mail Best and Fairest Awards at Brisbane City Hall. Good to catch up with former workmates and league identities, among them Barry Dick, Mike Westlake, Karl de Kroo, Greg Davis, Peter Badel, Ricki-Lee Arnold (all Courier), Trad McLean (Broncos), Peter Psaltis (4BC), John Grant (ARL), Terry McEnroth, Rob Moore, Brad Tallon, Michael Pease (QRL); Ben and Shane Walker (Ipswich Jets).
Tweed coach, Aaron Zimmerle is impressive accepting his award. The Papua New Guinea Hunters table is so enthusiastic. Great to see.
Finish up at Pig and Whistle with Trad McLean and Norths coach, Mark Gliddon.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11
News at Brothers Club at Grange is that Brisbane Bandits Baseball will set up their headquarters there. A few worried Brothers’ blokes.
English actor, Donald Sinden dies aged 91. Marie and I saw him in a West End play – ‘Shut Your Eyes and Think of England’ – in 1978 at the Apollo Theatre. It was billed as ‘a new comedy by John Chapman and Anthony Marriott’.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12
Have had back trouble since France, and chiropractor, Sandy Clarke confirms I have a twisted sacrum. He refers me to acupuncturist, Dr Thomas Choong at New Farm. Never been to an acupuncturist! Mail a Wayne Bennett autographed Broncos jersey to Carcassonne coach, Laurent Garnier for display in club rooms in the French city. Laurent wants his players to always strive for excellence and he sees the jersey as a source of motivation.
Hermitage Gardens pool party tonight. One of the older gents from our estate, Danny, went to Clovelly Primary in Sydney in the heart of Roosters’ territory, but played Aussie rules for Windsor when he moved to Brisbane.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Marie to Lismore to see family. I stay home because of my back dramas. A fly fishing school is being held on Lanham Park as I walk to newsagency. That is a first. Don’t they know Kedron Brook is just down the way?
Eldest son, Damien phones to check on my condition. He had been to local bottlo’ and Kiwi bloke in front of him said he was stocking up for All Blacks – ‘Boks Test on TV that night. Damo said: ‘You’re in Australia mate. No-one cares’. Chip off the old block. Why do Kiwis assume everyone is interested in the All Blacks? For a start many South Australians wouldn’t even know who they are and/or whether they play league or union. Damo was keen to watch Roosters v Penrith. Jamie Soward kicks winning field goal for Penrith. “The Chooks were arrogant in the first half”, says Damo. Marie texts from Lismore. ‘Mountain Men Too Strong’. Poor crowd at Wallabies – Argentina union Test at Robina. Who said Coast sports people are not discerning?
Marie tells Kirketon Hotel reception, we wont be back, given dramas with hot water, and some of the noisy late night comings and goings. Our cabbie has a grubby vehicle and wanders dangerously out of lane on way to airport. ‘Lovely’ chap at check-in kiosk near us, tells someone over the phone that he will kill him and punch his teeth in. Maybe not in that order. Back in Brisbane we have lunch at Albion Hotel with our daughter, Melanie. My former work colleague, Barry Dick and his wife, Sharon, are also dining there. They are locals. Our son, Lliam and daughter-in-law, Channelle gives us the green light to tell people we will be grandparents for the first time. Baby due in March. Amazing.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 26
Drive to Zillmere for a haircut at Paul’s, but the place is packed, so retreat to Stafford. Finish eulogy and then to Brothers’ club for a few ales with the lads, who wish me well for Dad’s funeral tomorrow. Learn that former Crushers’ Leagues Club director, Ron Perkins passed away today aged 92. A great man, he was a decorated bomber crew member for the RAAF in World War II. He loved a beer, a punt and a game of bridge, not necessarily in that order. But family came first, and every year in the Dairy Bar at ‘Brothers’, there would be a Perkins’ family Mass. Also learn that my father’s next door ‘neighbour’ at Marycrest, Harry Parker died today. Harry, a former tiler, came from Preston in England and barracked for famous soccer club, Preston North End. At different times he worked with former Brisbane Souths Rugby League boss, Graham Kerr, who described Harry as a man of great wit.
WEDNESDAY AUGUST 27
Dad’s funeral goes well, or as well as these things can go. I am proud of my eulogy delivery, although I struggle at first. The service is held in the Giovanni Chapel at Marycrest, and it is touching to see a number of staff members there. My nephew, Kieran Ricketts plays ‘Beautiful World’ on the organ. A couple of my former Murwillumbah schoolmates at service – Mick Nunan and Kevin Cupitt. I played league with Mick, and stayed at Kevin’s family dairy farm at Reserve Creek as a teenager. John and Doug Kaden from Lismore are there, representing their parents, ‘Doc’ and Clarice, who could not make it because of Doc’s declining health. Dad and ‘Doc’ were great mates. The wake is held at Story Bridge Hotel.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 28
Worse for wear today, but manage to fulfil duties as MC at Beer and Beef lunch at Pineapple Hotel at Kangaroo Point, where I interview prominent Courier-Mail journalist, Barry Dick. Host for the afternoon is Garry Clarke, who played league for Wests in Sydney. Great Redcliffe league stories are tossed around in the bar afterwards when Barry and I catch up with Carlton Brewing indentity, Mark Cherry, a former Dolphins’ player. Watch Dogs v Rabbitohs game tonight. Great battle between Pom forwards, James Graham (Dogs) and Sam Burgess (Rabbitohs). Dogs’ hooker, Michael Ennis is out of control. Refs Sutton and Shortall are not strict enough. Newcastle Knights staff member, Troy Pezet predicts a big future for Bilambil Jets junior, Braden Robson, a former student at Mt St Patrick High School, Murwillumbah.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 29
Leave for Stanthorpe for a winery weekend with friends. Walk at Palm Grove Circuit at Cunningham’s Gap on the way. At Stanthorpe I have first drinks at Central Pub, where trivia is just coming to an end in the sparsely populated public bar. Different story at O’Mara’s where cheerios are available, and there is a lucky draw. That night we eat at Ann’s Italian Buffet. Very good, and I am not normally a buffet fan. Finally to Country Club Hotel to watch Broncos v Dragons game. The Country Club is home to local league side, the Gremlins, who play in the Border League.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 30
Big frosts overnight. Gets down to minus one, and the fact we are having problems with the hot water at Vines Motel makes life a little uncomfortable. Good coffee from Zest in the main street. We embark on mini-bus tour of the area with Filippos Tours and our coach driver, Tony knows everything about the area. And I mean everything. To Symphony Hill Winery first. Good quality. Then Heavenly Chocolates, followed by lunch at very busy Ballandean Estate, where owner, Angelo Puglise says hello. Dinner at family operation, Patty’s on McGregor.
Learn that former Brothers forward (1950s) and official (1970s and ’80s), Tom Hickey has died. Tom worked with me at Queensland Newspapers and was present when I signed a contract with Brothers in 1976 after moving to Brisbane from Group 3 in New South Wales, where I had played with Wingham Tigers. Brothers A grade lose to Pine Rivers today and miss out on the Second Division finals.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 31
No hot water again. The motel is run by the Slack (by name, not nature) family, and they are embarrassed. Give us a bottle of red wine for our trouble. Father was a former selector and manager with Wide Bay Bulls representative rugby league side. This time we travel on a smaller coach, first to Mount Stirling Olives, then lunch at Robert Channon Wines, where the great man, Robert Channon conducts the wine tasting. His winery has provided product for the British Royals. Next stop is Granite Belt Cheese, followed by Suttons, for their famous apple pie.
A beautiful sunset as we cross the river back in Brisbane.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20.
I am guest speaker at the Brisbane Men of League ‘Kick-off Club’ lunch at Broncos Leagues Club, and it seems to go over well. A few blokes buy copies of my book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’, and afterwards I have a good chat to the likes of former Test winger, Lionel Morgan; old journo, Ron Roys; boxing identity, Fred Casey and the Cory brothers, Doug and Bob, both Brisbane Souths’ stalwarts. Former Test lock, Harold ‘Mick’ Crocker is in hospital, and everyone at the lunch signs a card for the great man. The Broncos are training as I leave and I bump into Broncos’ official, Scott Czislowski, who was playing fullback for Valleys when I started writing league full time in 1981.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 21.
My dad passes away today at the age of 85. I had visited him at lunchtime, but he couldn’t eat anything because he was so heavily sedated. He was barely aware of my presence, but reacted when I mentioned I had seen Lionel Morgan the previous day. Played the Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole versions of ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’. The nurses told me Dad had been singing ‘South of the Border’ the previous day. I had decided to return the next day and stay in his room, but a couple of hours after I get home I got the news Dad had died.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 22
My brother, Jeffery rings from Tweed Heads and says he will remember Dad as ‘a man of nature’, because he loved the bush, especially Mount Warning. As sad as Dad’s death is, he had had a good life. When someone goes young, it is a different story, and our son, Lliam attends a funeral today for 30-year-old Alexander Brusasco. The family requested no flowers, and instead asked for donations to be forwarded to ‘The Revive Foundation’ or ‘Hope4Health’.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 23
Lots of phone calls – in and out – re Dad, as you can imagine. I phone friends, Erica and Bill O’Neill, and I do love their message on the answering maching: ‘Do say hello to our robot secretary. We will return the calls when we finish gadding about’. Watch of a lot of football tonight, switching over to the Bledisloe Cup, every now and then. The Wallabies are soft. Watch English Challenge Cup (rugby league) and see two of my favourite people, former British Test halfback, Alex Murphy and former British League boss, Harry Jepson sitting side by side at Wembley. Leeds, coached by Brian McDermott, beat Castleford (coached by Daryl Powell) 23-10. Terry Campese played New South Wales Cup today, essentially signalling the end of his NRL career.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24
To Bishop Park with our daughter, Melanie for Norths v Redcliffe match, and Redcliffe put up the white flag as they are thrashed by the Devils. Redcliffe coach, Troy ‘Cowboy’ Lindsay would not have been happy with the effort. Norths under-19s from 1994 are holding a reunion, and the can bar is full of familiar faces.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 12
Chris Higgins from FoxSports emails re a notorious spear tackle made by then Balmain centre, Allan McMahon on Newtown Jets’ rival, Mick Ryan in 1979. The tackle made the front page of Rugby League News, and, as the story stated, it was a miracle Ryan wasn’t killed. FoxSports are doing a special on dangerous tackles in the wake of the Alex McKinnon tragedy. At Brothers’ Club I meet Mick Hanslow from the Court House Hotel at Winton, who conducts tours to the annual Birdsville Races. Mick and teacher, Mick Taylor were prime moves in setting up the rugby league programme at Wavell High in Brisbane’s north. Death of former ARL medical officer, Dr Bill Monaghan at the age of 87. I remember him as a real gentleman, and had the pleasure of dining with him at a restaurant at Knightsbridge in London when I was covering the 1982 Kangaroo tour – ahead of the match against Fulham.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13
Noted Tweed resident, Pat McDonald, now 80, is included in The Courier-Mail’s coverage of the Ekka. The McDonalds from the Tweed are arguably Australia’s best jersey cattle farmers. Nine fire trucks rush to Nimbin’s main street to fight a blaze, which destroys a number of buildings. I played rugby league at Nimbin, for Murwillumbah Brothers against Lismore Wests, in a trial match in 1972. The following year I was back at Nimbin reporting on the Aquarius festival, which changed the local landscape forever.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 14.
I am a guest on Peter Psaltis’s 4BC Sports Show tonight with former Test centre, Tony Currie.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16.
Refereeing identity, Geoff Mines delivers the annual Ross Livermore Address at Suncorp Stadium. The topic is ‘The Man in the Middle’, and famous (and infamous) whistle blowers such as Henry Albert, Don Lancashire, Bernie Pramberg, Stan Scamp and Eddie Ward get a mention, among others. Geoff tells of his recent traumatic experience of suffering a massive heart attack after refereeing a second division game, with resident sports trainers bringing him back to life. The roll-up for the lecture is not as great as previous years, and it is disappointing to see so few current referees there. Those to sign our Queensland Rugby league History Committee visitors’ book included noted author, Adrian McGregor (who will deliver the 2015 address on May 30), former Australian wicket keeper, Ray Phillips; referee turned politician, Tim Mander and South East Division chairman, Brad Tallon.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 17
Visit my dad at Marycrest where they have raised $450 for persecuted Christians in Iraq. Ballina finish minor premiers in the Northern Rivers Rugby League, one point clear of Murwillumbah. In the Central Burnett League, Mundubbera beat Gayndah 29-26 in a thrilling grand final. Good to see Gavin Ford still involved with Mundubbera after all these years. I wrote a story about Gavin when he became a quadriplegic following a freakish accident in a game of league for his home town. I later visited Mundubbera when he became secretary of the club.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 5
Funeral of Brian Phillips, former Wynnum-Manly Rugby League chairman and a doyen of schoolboy football in Queensland. Down at my old home town of Murwillumbah, they have the last farewell for Kath Ayres, the widow of my former newspaper workmate, Jack Ayres. Their son, Allan, was a tough, talented league player for South Murwillumbah and could have made it in Sydney, but never wanted to leave town. His mum was the sister of Stan Sercombe, one of the best country rugby league administrators of them all. Buy two league books today – ‘The Voice’ (Ray Warren), and ‘The Night the Music Died’ by Ian Heads, which tells the story of the eventful 1974 season. That year Western Division won the Amco Cup, beating Penrith in the final and giving hope to all bush footballers they could mix it with the stars. It was compulsory viewing every Wednesday night when us young blokes (at Murwillumbah) would gather over a steak and a can or two of KB. What a shame Channel 10 have destroyed all the tapes from that era!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 7
Coffee with prominent coach, Don Gailer, a chief organiser of Carlton and United’s Beer and Beef Club. Now retired, one of Don’s most recent coaching appointments was Whitehaven in England, and he is wearing a Cumbrian representative polo shirt when we catch up. He guided Whitehaven to a higher division, but got the sack. Go figure. He now coaches Caboolture Snakes and lives at Redcliffe where a neighbour and friend is former Parramatta hard man, Graham Olling. Don wants me to MC the next Beer and Beef club lunch. At Brothers Community Club I meet fellow History Committee member, Paul Hayes who has had Broncos jersey signed by Wayne Bennett, as per a request from Carcassonne coach, Laurent Garnier. Laurent will hang the jersey in the club rooms of the French club as motivation for the players to strive for excellence. There is a gentleman wearing a Welsh league (yes league) Test jersey in the club bar.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 8
My dad has major skin cancer op. on scalp. Not good when you are 85. Said afterwards he felt like a strong drink. Doctor says his dad is also a 1929 ‘model’, and they don’t make them like that any more. How true.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 9
Get a text from Broncos’ Media man, Trad McLean to say he is having a beer with ‘The Hornet’, Nev Hornery at Wests’ reunion in Sydney. ‘The Hornet’ certainly was a wild man, but boy, could he play. Doug Walters is a guest on 4BC today. I saw him bat at the Gabba in his debut Test against England in 1965, when he made 155, and (from memory) hit a six into The Cricketers Club. In more recent times I have seen Doug having a beer and a punt at the ‘Rose and Crown’, Parramatta. Watch under-20s clash between Cronulla and the Warriors, and it is refreshing to hear referee, Dan Olford talk to the players as all whistle blowers should – ‘Come here 7’. ‘I’m not talking to you 9’ – that sort of thing. None of this ‘matey’, first name stuff, because there is no way referees can know the names of every player. To our youngest son, Lliam’s 30th birthday party tonight at Statler and Waldorf in Caxton Street. Some lovely speeches, and our daughter, Melanie does a great job with the slide show and photographic display. There is mention of Lliam’s early entrepreneurial days (I’m talking about when he was six or seven) selling grapefruit outside our Zillmere house. We had been giving the stuff away for free. Manage to watch some of the Knights’ incredible fightback for an ‘impossible’ 32-30 win over the Storm, but then someone uses their influence to get the bar’s tv changed to AFL for the Swans – Port Adelaide game. Really! Port Adelaide? Who gives a stuff in Queensland! My theory is that most dedicated rugby league people have Pay TV whereas the AFL and union types rely on watching the game at clubs and pubs. Get home in time to watch Jarryd Hayne inspire Parramatta to a win over the Raiders in Darwin.
MONDAY, JULY 28
Meet new on-site manager of Hermitage Gardens, Harry Moore, (a former student at Nudgee College), and his wife Robyn, who grew up at Aspley. Harry is related to former Australian rugby league centre, Danny Moore. Harry played union at Nudgee and league in the bush. Learn that my former colleague at ‘The Courier-Mail’, James McCullough had died while we were overseas. I shared a few ales with James at the Jubilee Hotel the night I finished at ‘The Courier’. He was a real man about town, a journo who liked to get his yarns from the coal face.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30
Marie has her mobile stolen at work by a dodgy character, who was caught in the act on CCTV. Police arrest him on premises. I take on role as secretary of the Queensland Rugby League History Committee. Check out ACB Ashes cricket tours, with a view to travelling to UK next year, but very expensive, and some of the hotels don’t look that flash.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 2
Watch Brothers play Normanby at Gibson Park, Stafford, with former Qld Residents coach, Wayne Treleavan in charge of Normanby. Former Norths forward, Paul Payne is Brothers’ coach and his dad, John, the former Queensland and Australian player, is there to watch. Catch up with my former Brothers’ teammates, Bob Cox and Noel Russell, as well as an Irishman from Cork, who thinks league is all right. Legendary Brothers’ strapper, Jimmy Johnson’s son is home from Oman, where he is a greenkeeper. On the way home I watch a bit of the Wilston Grange v Lions AFL match at Hickey Park, and the skill level is quite high. The Karmichael Hunt-Israel Folau experiment doesn’t seem to have attracted any Polynesian boys to the game, but I don’t think that was the aim anyway. Family dinner at ‘Survey Company’ in the city. Very good. It is Marie’s birthday tomorrow and Melanie’s next Friday. Mel has been two years now at the Queensland Treasury Corporation.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 3
Barman at Crushers has broken wrist, the result of a trampoline accident. Watch 50 Years of Channel 10, remembering how controversial (for the time) were shows like No. 96 and The Box.
MONDAY, JULY 14
Margaret from Headwater Tours picks us from our hotel at 10.45 a.m., and we are prepared for lots of questions as part of a de-brief, mentioned before the Loire walk. Instead, she does all the talking about her past week. Our train (Blois to Paris) is on time and we speed through boring countryside. Walk from Austerlitz Station to the lovely little Hotel de Levant, followed by drinks at Beauregard Café where Marie drools over lamb chops being consumed by Poms at table next to us. Then to a working man’s BAR/TABAC on Quay de Tournelle, where we run into Christian, a local construction worker who loves scuba diving. Christian openly ogles the girls as they pass by, and they seem to enjoy it. He recommends we eat in the Sorbonne area, and we do, via drinks at the expensive Café Delmas overlooking Place de Contrescarpe, where buskers do their stuff, not always to the liking of local residents, with one young bloke throwing eggs from his fourth floor flat. Eat outdoors at Le Mouffetard, where we are entertained by musicians. Sit beside 88-year-old Jewish doctor and his wife. He says we look healthy. Good to hear. Marie has veal kidneys, while I devour lamb rump. On our way back, we run into Christian and his scuba diving mates at a café and join them for a red wine. Hilarious.
Learn that Brisbane Easts rugby league stalwart, Athol Neilson has died aged 77. Athol travelled on three of my Kangaroo supporters’ tours, with his wife, Neryl. Their son, Scott was a star player for the Tigers.
TUESDAY, JULY 15
At breakfast an American woman ‘steals’ Marie’s boiled egg, and then complains to management that it is too soft. The idea is to boil it yourself, the way you like it, and my wife was on her way to doing this until the rude intervention. On one of my Kangaroo supporters’ tours, one member smuggled eggs from a Parisian hotel breakfast area, not realising they weren’t hard boiled. The rest, I will leave to your imagination.
On the Rue Bernardin (no doubt named after Norths’ hooker, Shane Bernardin) a local gives money and food to a beggar. It is quite a touching scene. Negotiate the grotesque bridge of locks (also known as Pont L’ Archeveche) and see a television ad being filmed at Pont Louis Phillipe, before exploring Les Marais area. I have beers at Le Relais Bar as Marie shops, and in the process chat to a retired Danish butcher by the name of Jorgenson. He is a Kenny Rogers look-alike, and appears to be in his fifties, but he is 71. His 75-year-old wife is still a beautiful woman. His business card says: ‘Heart and Liver Specialist’.
At Rue Soufflet we see a native Australian – a sulphur crested coackatoo on the shoulder of a lady riding a scooter.
Dine at Jardin d’Artemis, where the waiter is a real character. His son is fruit picking at Ayr in North Queensland, and he misses him terribly.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 16
Large Australian lady has a whole plate of prunes at breakfast. Today we walk Canal St Martin where we see a boat go by flying the Australian flag, and named ‘Moreton Island’. Lunch at busy Café Des Musees. Later visit the free ‘Liberation of Paris’ (World War II) exhibition at City Hall. Marie’s sister, Caroline texts to say my book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’ got a mention on ‘NRL 360’ on FoxSports, in particular the Gorden Tallis chapter where he is less than complimentary about Wayne.
To Tavern Cluny for live music, then to a nearby bar where young Parisian waiter says he is a big fan of rugby league. Arab looking bloke behind the bar is from Normandy, but said he played league in Avignon. Manager of ‘The Great Canadian Pub’ (I didn’t know there was such a thing) overlooking the Seine, is having a beer beside us, and says State of Origin packs out his bar. How about that. I tell them that 60 years earlier Paris had hosted the inaugural Rugby League World Cup final, between France and Great Britain, in front of a 30,000 plus crowd. It’s a little known fact.
THURSDAY, JULY 17
Our last day on the Continent, and it is a scorcher. We do far too much walking for the conditions. Share a goats cheese salad at La Favorite Café/Bar on the Rue de Passy, with lady near us puffing away on Camel cigarettes as a car is clamped and towed away in double quick time. Then we get wrong Metro line to Orly Airport and have to catch a tram as well. Great views of southern England as we head to London, where out connecting flight leaves on time.
FRIDAY, JULY 18
Fly over Russia unaware of the drama of the downed Malaysian Airlines flight. When we land in Hong Kong we have texts from concerned family members. At first, when we see the unfolding drama on the airport lounge TV screens, assume they are referring to the Malaysian Airlines flight that had disappeared ages ago, not realising a new drama is unfolding in Ukraine. AFL is on the big screen in our airport lounge, and NRL on a smaller screen next door. ‘Angriest Man in Brooklyn’ is one of the movies I watch in-flight. Bump into former Wallaby, Paul McLean in the airport lounge. A wonderful, gentle man, who is so modest.
SATURDAY, JULY 19
Flight from Hong Kong is 20 minutes late leaving because of typhoon in China. I watch entire (boring) Noah movie before any service from Qantas stewards. Disgraceful – the service and the movie. Back in Brisbane, breakfast with our children; visit my dad at Marycrest Aged Care, and then laze about watching the NRL. It is two years now since Dad left his home at Algester for his new ‘motel’, as he calls it, at Kangaroo Point. One of his mates at Marycrest, Peter Heymer, a retired train driver, had died while we were overseas. He was a lovely, gentle chap.
SUNDAY, JULY 20
Walk suburbia this morning. Large dog at a house in Uxbridge Street, Grange tries to jump fence to get at me. Mongrel. Marie salvages eggplant, chillis and lettuce from our ‘community garden’, which has been neglected in her absence. At Brothers Community Club meet new manager, a 27-year-old from Bundaberg, who has high hopes for the premises, and believes the Brothers NRL Bid team will succeed. Learn that one of my favourite actors, James Garner has died, aged 86.
Lovely country drive. First stop a café at Meilhards, where the manager sings as he serves food to locals, tourists and cyclists. English couple, now living locally, interpret for us. Through Chamberet to Lacelle’, where we have picnic lunch near the rail station as a ‘Telecom’ man works diligently nearby, by himself. No, I mean it. Walk off the baguette and pate’ with a stroll along 189 hectare Lake Viam, followed by a walk along the wooded gorge at beautiful, medieval Treignac. A kayak slalom course is marked out on the Vezerre River. At Uzerche we walk along the disused rail line for a great view of the town and the Vezerre. Eat again at the hotel restaurant.
TUESDAY, JULY 8
Head north to the Loire Valley where we have booked a six day walking tour with Headwater, a travel company based in Chester, England. Stop at lovely Valencay for lunch, in time to explore an extensive market. Also see our first Loire Chateau, a grand 16thC building once owned by Scottish banker, John Law. Drop hire car at Blois, the pick-up point for the walk. Find a petrol station near the hire car firm, but they will not take any of our credit cards. Find an ATM and pay cash. Drinks at Café Terrasse at Blois Rail Station before being picked up by Margaret, the rep for the walking company. She is ex-Wolverhampton (UK) and Canada. She is accompanied by two young Manchester girls on work experience. Drive us to our hotel at Chaumont-sur-Loire, where we have a debrief in the front study. Weather is warm enough for Marie to have a swim in the pool. Dinner at Hotel Restaurant.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 9
First leg of walk is longest – 22km. There are more cyclists than walkers ‘touring’ the Loire, but we are happy to do it the leisurely way. Walk across the Loire to Onzaine, then through corn fields to the little River Cisse, and on to the Royal Forest of Blois. Directions provided are a little confusing at times. Mosquitoes bad as we walk mainly forest roads. Wish there were more little walking paths. See two young deer and an eagle. A long, last stretch through the suburbs of Blois. Stay at small hotel, which looks beautiful from the outside, but is fairly basic. Service from lady on duty a little brusque. Head down town for a drink at Tabac/Bar le France, opposite the chateau. Then to Pub Le Velvet and a very impressive Guillotine Beer from Belgium. Staff recommend a restaurant and it proves exceptional. Very trendy. Marie tries local brandy, and is not disappointed.
THURSDAY, JULY 10
Not impressed by breakfast at our hotel. No fruit, and ham is inedible. Walk to Blois’ river precinct, and then to the chateau itself. Amazing. I try an organic beer in the Chateau café – looks like muddy water, but tastes OK. Drinks at a bar down by the river, and the licensee has the worst dyed hair I have ever seen. He’s joking! One patron chats to me. Has Swedish blood, he says. Dinner at La Petite Hanfleur and I gamble big time, eating tripe stew. The last time I had tripe in France – at Clermont Ferrand in 2009 – I finished with food poisoning. All good this time around. Marie has rabbit terrine.
MONDAY, JUNE 30
Lovely morning at Port Vendres. Expresso at Kristal Café where three blokes are already sinking a few Bitburgers. Two blokes in a flash, open car hold up traffic. No-one seems to mind. They must be ‘heavies’. Spend the afternoon at Gilbert Brutus Stadium back in Perpignan, meeting many of the players and staff, among them former Cronulla centre, Ben Pomeroy who was the villain at Headingley, Leeds the previous night. Catalans looked set for their first ever away win at Leeds when Pomeroy made a mistake which gifted the Rhinos the match. There were messages for each player on the blackboard in the dressing room. “Smile, be happy,” was the message beside Ben’s name. I am interviewed by local journo, Herve Girette who tells me about Todd Carney’s most recent late night episode in Australia. ‘The bubbler’. In the Catalans offices there are a number of those famous panoramic team photographs of French touring sides at the SCG. Great stuff. I buy an 80th anniversary Catalans polo shirt. Evidently Catalans’ merchandise is the most sought after in Super League. After driving through peak hour madness, enjoy a few beers at a bar in Port Vendres, while watching France play Nigeria in the soccer World Cup, before catching up with my wife for dinner at Le France Café. I have local sardines, while Marie tucks into the mussels. Local ‘Banyuls’ red wine goes down a treat.
TUESDAY, JULY 1
Give Laurent Garnier a lift to Carcassonne where he is to take up job as coach of the city’s elite premiership rugby league side. I badly twist my back at the first peage (toll plaza), trying to retrieve ticket. Can you believe it! Then at the exit, the machine declines all our credit cards and Laurent has to use one of his. I hate the French Motorways. At Stade Domec in Carcassonne I pay homage to the statue of France’s greatest rugby league player, Puig Aubert, who was the sports star of all France (in every sport) in 1949. An amazing character who I had the privilege of meeting at Bar Le Rugby in Carcassonne back in 1978. Laurent and several directors of the Carcassonne club take me on a tour of the stadium’s facilities. The league boys change in dressing rooms at one end of the stadium, the union boys at the other end. The union’s facilities are slightly bigger. Fair enough, given they have two extra players. But seriously. League has put Carcassonne on the map, in sporting terms, (including a Test win over Frank Stanton’s Kangaroos in 1978) but union, from what I can gather, has the ear of the people in high places and gets preferential treatment. Carcassonne (union) play at the level below Top 14, but big clubs like Perpignan (for the first time) and Biarritz are also in this division, and are major draw cards. From Stade Domec we progress to Bar Felix, for a Kronenbourg or two with fellow league tragics, one of them an archivist for the league club. Waiter looks like Renee’ from ‘Alo Alo’. Former Australian forward, Bryan Niebling was a recent visitor, and left his business card at the bar. Bryan played at Carcassonne with the 1986 Kangaroos. To Carcassonne League’s own function and office area, where volunteers are preparing for the coming season. That night the board of directors of the club shout Marie and I to a sumptuous dinner at Restaurant Comte Roger in the old city, the highlight the local speciality, cassoulet. The president of Carcassonne Rugby League is a doctor, and a John Grant look-a-like, who has met every member of the history making 1951 French side in Australia. I delivered the 2011 Harry Sunderland Address on behalf of the QRL History Committee, and the ’51 tour was the topic.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 2
Learn that noted league author, Mike Rylance will arrive in Carcassonne today from Perpignan, but we have to move on. Mike wrote ‘The Forbidden Game’, the story of league’s fight against the prejudices of the rugby union and Government in France. Our destination today is Villeneuve-sur-lot, to the west, and we take the scenic route, literally and figuratively speaking. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the hills near Saissac, but then get lost in Albi, before stopping at the ancient village of Gaillac on the River Tarn, for refreshments. In Villeneuve we stay with English friends, Terry and Joyce Holmes from Tyldesley in Greater Manchester, who provide a grand dinner of salmon, prawns and vegetables, with copious amounts of red wine. They bought their house about 10 years ago, and share their time between the UK and France.
THURSDAY, JULY 3
Walk to town. Sad to see the traditional butcher shop on the main road, has closed, no doubt due to competition from super markets. Marie especially sad, because the proprietor was a handsome chap. At town centre cafe’ we are joined by local characters (and I mean characters), Anton and Damien, the latter the father-in-law of French Rugby League skipper, Olivier Olima. Anton, who owns half of down town Villeneuve, has been one of rugby league’s great benefactors in the region. We are also joined by a former rugby league referee. He has one arm (not one eye), but managed to referee for many years without too many problems. Sending a man to the bin for 10 minutes called for a little improvisation. Lunch at Bar Glacier, which I first patronised when covering Queensland Residents rugby league team’s tour of France in 1989. The official function was held there after the match against Aquitaine regional selection, and Anton was the host. He still owns the building, but is no longer the licensee. The French cockerel 13 is still proudly displayed on the front of the building, and will remain there, as long as Anton has a say. That night watch ‘The Footy Show’ from Australia (Paul Hogan is a guest) and then the Widnes – Castleford match from England. We also see highlights of the Commonwealth Games Nines (rugby league) from Glasgow.
FRIDAY, JULY 4
Lunch at a La Grange Restaurant at St Silvestres-sur-Lot to the east of Villeneuve, then to 13thc Monflanquin to enjoy the view from the ramparts of the ‘bastide’, or fortified town. Back in ‘Vill’, I walk along the River Lot, with the lock keeper at the hydro electric barrage providing a friendly hello. In town I am forced to take shelter in Mulligans Bar when a storm hits. Everyone is watching the France v Germany World Cup match, including six young blokes with painted faces, who grimace as Germany take a 1-0 lead. That is the final score in a dull affair. Back at Terry and Joyce’s we watch Wakefield beat Leeds in a Super League thriller, then the Bulldogs’ 23-6 demolition of Manly in the NRL.
SATURDAY, JULY 5
To the town centre market, and a band of Spanish Troupadors charm patrons with their singing and good humour. Marie buys steak for dinner. Back at ‘the house’ we watch Tour de France from sunny Yorkshire, and a Gaelic football match between Wexford and Clare. Mark Cavendish has a bad fall in Harrogate, and our son, Damien, who knows a bit about cycling, reckons it was his own fault. Local journalist, Bernard Tranier calls in gives me a copy of his book on the history of sport in Villeneuve, in particular rugby league. Bernard is worried that the Villeneuve Leopards may only be able to compete at the top level for another couple of seasons because of financial constraints. He is a league man through and through, but could be forced to cover union in nearby Agen to keep his employers happy. Many Australians have played for Villeneuve over the years, including Steve Plath, Jason Webber and most notably, Paul Sironen, who won his first senior premiership with the Leopards. Steve Plath, brother of ex-Bronco, John is regarded as a son by Anton. Back in Brisbane, Brothers are holding a reunion for their 1974 grand final side, and Wayne Bennett, the fullback on that occasion, is a special guest along with coach, Paul Broughton. I was meant to be MC.
SUNDAY, JULY 6
Say goobye to Madame Causse’ a remarkable old lady who lives opposite the Holmes. She hates politicians. Says they are all ‘bandits’. Head north to Perigueux where we have coffee/chocolate at Café de la Place, then shop at a nearby market. I have six freshly shucked oysters – beautiful. The young bloke who serves me says many of his friends have gone to Australia for work. Picnic lunch on a small river island after we leave town, then a drink at a nearby café/bar. The beer is brewed locally. It is very ‘different’. Next stop is St-Robert, built around a Franciscan monastery, where there is a great view of the countryside. Return to La Tour Hotel at Masseret for two nights. Dinner excellent. I have veal and Marie salmon.
Bye Bye Scotland. Head for Scholes in West Yorskhire, via the Dales where we stumble across a game of cricket at the Sedbergh School in Cumbria. Stop for a look, and hear Aussie accents out on the field. Turns out it is the boys from Carey College in Kew, Victoria on tour. They are being billeted locally, but in most cases will stay in hotels or hostels, given the dramas involved these days in vetting families as suitable hosts. The standard of play is quite good, and lunch looks extraordinary. Carey college manager, Peter Schuller is a Melbourne Storm fan. In villages and towns across the Dales there are decorations and displays to greet the Tour de France which zooms through here next month. Stop at Leyburn in North Yorkshire, where we took the kids to a market back in 1990, on a freezing November day. A lot warmer this time. Listen to BBC2 and cannot believe it when ‘Steve Wright in the Afternoon’ comes on. Steve was on the BBC when I covered the 1982 Kangaroo tour for The Telegraph. He must be older than John Laws. Actually, he is ‘only’ 60. At Scholes we stay with our friends, Andrew and Sandy Varley, in their 1960s bungalow. They have a lovely garden, and Andrew, one of Britain’s finest sports photographers, proves he has a green thumb. Amazing. He also cooks dinner – a seafood pasta featuring prawns from Indonesia. He must have been to Coles in Australia.
A big day. Too big. Drove all the way to Perpignan, a distance of around 550km, mainly on lesser roads, given our concerns about Motorway Toll points. Not worried about the amount, but the fact something always seems to go wrong, re. payment. Coffee stop at Saint Cere, where we buy pate’ from local butcher. Have lunch on banks of Cele River at Figeac, then drive past amazing Millau Bridge (the world’s tallest) over Valley of the River Tarn. Around Narbonne, female prostitutes are dotted along the road side. In Perpignan we are met by Laurent Garnier, a former Catalans Dragons rugby league player who has taken on job as coach of Carcassonne in France’s Elite One Rugby League premiership. Laurent was part of Wynnum-Manly’s coaching staff in Brisbane and his wife, Erin is Australian, originally from Newcastle, but more recently of Camp Hill in Brisbane. They have two little boys. We make a quick trip to Gilbert Brutus Stadium, the home of Catalans Dragons, and then pick up Laurent’s parents from the bus station after their pilgrimage to the northern World War 1 battlefields. Our accommodation is at Port Vendres, to the south of Perpignan, in an apartment owned by a former French under-16 rugby league player who is now a magistrate in Marseilles. He has a Sydney Roosters’ cap in his collection, a man of great taste. Marie and I dine at Chez Pujol on the waterfront. Franck, our waiter, is a funny guy. I have local fish and Marie scallops.
No sign of ‘Nessy’ as we travel the southern side of Loch Ness on a narrow road devoid of most of the tourist hordes. Lunch stop at Port Augustus, a lovely place, but no shortage of those same hordes. Wait half an hour for hot chips, as boats go through the locks. that’s LOCKS people. I buy Haggis at the butcher shop. Lock keeper chastises tourists for handling a baby bird. A red bearded ‘sheik’ turns up in a chauffeur driven limo, with two lasses aboard. Good for some. Port Augustus was a favourite get-away for Queenslander, Don Gailer when he was coaching Whitehaven in the English Rugby League a few years ago. We head to Isle of Skye, and stop at Glen Shiel where I drink, and replenish water bottles, from a burn. Our accommodation on Skye is Redwood House on Loch Gleshornish. We have trouble stirring Chris, the manager, but are entertained in the meantime by his two ginger cats. Chris is from Birmingham, but spent 10 years in Huddersfield. Walk to Greshornish House and view the adjoining salmon farms. Rabbits everywhere in the fields. Chooks join us (one jumped on Marie’s lap) as we enjoy our red Leicester cheese at the back of our unit.
Big walk along eastern bank of Loch Lomond. A lot of bush bashing to start with, not realising National Parks had closed the area. Reward ourselves with drinks at the Clansman Bar (part of the Rowardennan Hotel) on our return, the barman (Wilkinson his surname) revealing he has a brother at Stafford Heights in Brisbane, not far from us. Talk to Aussie, Graham, who works for Commonwealth Games Committee ahead of the Glasgow ‘event’. Back at Oak Tree we relax in beer garden as emergency vehicles – ambulance, police, fire and mountain rescue – charge by towards the national park. Never did find out what happened.
Head north from Hawick and our first stop is Peebles. Think of Harry Peebles, former prominent trade union official in Queensland. Coffee from Cocoa Chocolate’ is very good. One beer at a pub in Dunkeld. Later we book into Old Mill Hotel in Pitlochry where chaos reigns as car park is dug up. Window comes off hinges in our room. Great start. Tall waitress comes from Rotorua. Marie does scotch and gin tasting while I have one ale at McKay’s Pub. Traditional Scots night at Athol Palace Hotel is next on the agenda. Quite moving, and the host is hilarious. A celtic conference is being held in Pitlochry and we bump into a delegate from Brittany in France. Also an Esperanto Conference. It’s all happening.
Later that Saturday in Hawick, in pouring rain, we witness Ross Gibson’s final symbolic flag handover at City Hall. Ross, 24, is an electrician, and no relation to our hosts.
MONDAY MAY 19
Radio station 4KQ (Wayne Bennett’s favourite) interview me this morning in relation to my book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’, as well Sarah and Paddy from a station on the NSW Central Coast. My old mates from Radio TAB also have arranged to talk to me.
Run into former New Zealand rugby league international, Eddie Heatley during my afternoon walk. Eddie was a member of the formidable 1971 Kiwi outfit which thrashed Australia 24-3 at Auckland’s Carlaw Park. I played against him in 1975 in the Group 3 competition in NSW when he was contracted to Wauchope and I was a battling second rower for Wingham. Wauchope went on to win the premiership that year, with the help of former Australian Test prop, John Wittenberg, who had been playing local second division with Comboyne, but stepped up to the ‘big time’ for the finals. When Marie and I bought our first home at Zillmere in Brisbane in 1980 our local ‘milko’ was Eddie Heatley. It’s a small world.
Farewell my 84-year-old father, Jon at Marycrest today, thinking maybe it will be the last time I see him, given his frail state. Tomorrow Marie and I head to Europe for eight weeks, and naturally there is plenty of last minute panic. A family get together tonight with our children, Melanie, Damien and Lliam and Lliam’s wife, Channelle. I submit my application for the job as secretary of Hermitage Gardens Body Corporate.
My book is on sale at Brisbane International Airport. I’ve really made it now. Our Qantas flight is delayed on the tarmac for an hour – something to do with the fuel. Lovely.
See plenty of islands in the Indonesian Archipelago, in-between watching movies like ‘All Hope is Lost’, ‘Her’ and ‘Walter Mitty’.
Customs slow at Singapore Airport, something which surprised us, given Singapore’s reputation for efficiency. Our taxi driver is a 66-year-old retired policeman who says Singapore’s standard of living is not what it used to be, and he blames immigrants. Streets not as clean as I remember from only previous stay – in 1982. Dine at Menya Musashi Japanese restaurant, and I struggle with the chop sticks.
Learn that back in Brisbane Janice Gutugutuwai has lost her courageous battle with cancer. Such a lovely lady and a tireless worker for rugby league.
An emotional day for my wife, Marie as we visit the grave of her uncle, Ray Geraghty, who was beheaded by the Japanese following the Fall of Singapore in 1942. He was just 17, and had lied about his age to enlist from Casino in northern New South Wales. Seven other Australians were executed on the same day and their graves are next to Ray’s in Kranji Cemetery. Marie’s mother, Mary Donnelly, Ray’s sister, never got the chance to visit the cemetery, and, as far as we know, Marie is the first member of the family to make the pilgrimage. The cemetery is next to Woodlands Race Track, and is kept in immaculate order. My uncle (on mum’s side), Les Kelly was captured by the Japanese at the Fall of Singapore and was a POW for the rest of the conflict.
Explore Fort Canning Gardens, and return via the river, in stifling heat. Dramas in Ukraine are big news on CNN back at our hotel. In the afternoon we explore Bay Gardens, paying for entry to two of the impressive nature domes. Cloudland the most interesting. Walk to the Marina Barrage for a view of hundreds of ships off-shore. Final drinks at Clark Quay where Broncos v Wests Tigers NRL match is being shown live in the Brewery Bar. Cab to the airport, and our driver has a son at a Muslim boarding school in Indonesia. Workers are setting up for the F1 Grand prix. Our flight for Heathrow leaves on time, and steward gives me a bonus beer, mentioning something about David Boon’s Australia to England drinking record. Great to meet a flight attendant with a sense of humour.
Arrive London 4.45 a.m. and breeze through Customs. Get first Tube of the day – to South Kensington. Streets so quiet, and dirty. My 16th visit to the UK, but the first in their summer, given my career as a rugby league writer. Walk to Kensington Palace, via a café in Gloucester Road. The first of many disappointing coffees in the UK. Aussies have become such coffee snobs. To Portobello Road Markets – mainly junk. Tube from Ladbroke Grove to Mansion House, where helpful attendant reveals he had been to the most recent Ashes Cricket Test at the Gabba. Marie and I emerge from the station into bright sunshine and are met by the sight of thousands of runners in a BUPA CHARITY event. There were several bands on street corners, encouraging the runners to keep going. Quite inspirational, the whole thing.
Walk Millennium Bridge and sign-on for a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, given it is 450 years since the bard’s birth. Our female guide was full of beans. It couldn’t have been the coffee. To the nearby Anchor Pub for lunch. Fish and chips just OK. London Pride Ale, lovely. Monaco GP on big screen, preceded by tribute to Australia’s own, Sir Jack Brabham, who died last week.
Chairman, Kevin Brasch and I, on behalf of the QRL History Committee, assess merits of an autographed 1980 Queensland State of Origin team photo in possession of a Kiwi chap, Brian Fothergill. It seems genuine, according to the esteemed experts we consult, and the QRL makes a financial offer. But for the time being Brian is keeping the photo.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 7
My former employers, News Corp, shout lunch at the excellent Alliance Hotel at Spring Hill as a group of ‘old farts’ – yours truly, Barry Dick, Bernie Pramberg and Paul Malone (sorry Scobie) discuss memorable moments in Origin for a lift-out in ‘The Courier-Mail’. We have a great time reminiscing. Have a beer at a bar on way home (I will keep the name of the bar to myself) where woman tells me she bought lease for her 21-year-old son, a cook, with (limited) experience on the Darling Downs. Seems an almighty gamble, if you ask me, and the place always looks quiet. Watch movie ‘Two Days in Paris”. Not bad.
THURSDAY, MAY 8
After my wife and daughter lunch at Jo Jo’s in the City, they see my book, ‘Bennett’s Broncos’, on sale at Dymocks. No-one from publishing company, New Holland told me it was out. I thought it was being released ahead of Father’s Day in September. Never mind. At least it is out there. Attend meeting of Brothers NRL Bid team at Brothers Community Club, Grange. Also in attendance are bid team founder, Justin Barlow; Trevor Bailey, Paul Hayes and Anthony O’Brien. Watch Luke Nguyen’s France special which features tarte’ flambee’ in the Alsace-Lorraine region. Marie and I and the three kids enjoyed the local delicacy, courtesy of the Huck family, while staying in their ‘gite in the village of Rossenwiller in 1990.
FRIDAY, MAY 9
Have been asked to take on job as secretary of Hermitage Gardens Body Corporate. Will have to give it some thought, but keen to contribute to our community. Watch Cowboys 27-14 win over the Broncos. Matt Scott was amazing for the victors, Martin Kennedy terrible for the vanquished, although the Broncos did not have much ball in the first 20 minutes when props were trying to assert their superiority.
Watch Super League match between St Helens and Leeds, and think I am hearing things when Saints’ fans sing rugby union anthem, ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’. But it turns out they are ‘taking the piss’ as Leeds choose to kick for goal from a penalty instead of running the ball. Got to love the Pom crowds.
SATURDAY, MAY 10
House warming party at nephew, Kieran Ricketts’ abode at Ormeau. Kieran is a journalist with the ABC in Brisbane.
SUNDAY, MAY 11
Mother’s Day brunch at Eve’s on the River, and staff cope admirably with big turnover of patrons. Watch under-20s match between the Knights and Storm in Newcastle and a brawl flows off the field into the fence. Ugly stuff. Minutes silence before NRL game for former Penrith centre, Ross Gigg who died earlier in the week aged 58. He had been working for the harness racing industry in Newcastle. I played in the centres against Ross, and Glenn West in the Brothers’ side which beat Penrith in a Amco Cup game at Lang Park in 1976. Glory days. They pass you by.
ABC’s Landline features many names familiar to me from my Tweed Valley days – dairy farmer, Pat McDonald; the Paddons and Guineas.
Send congratulations to former Wynnum-Manly halfback, Denny Lambert on a recent job promotion. He replies that nothing compares with his selection as The Courier-Mail best and fairest, back in his playing days. I had the honour of presenting a number of the awards, including one to Greg Inglis for his efforts for Norths. Watch confronting movie, ‘Oranges and Sunshine’, while recuperating from hernia surgery.
Attend ANCAC Day service at Windsor. Naval cadets at the monument. The marshal is Rosalie Raciti, a former teacher who went to Windsor Primary and Kedron High. Also in attendance is Ian Smith (friend of our son, Damien and a former singer with band, Platform 6), wife Angie and their two little kids. Platform 6 performed in England for a number of years. Tea and bikkies at Windsor Museum after the ceremony. Good to see them referred to as biscuits, not cookies.
Early game at Gibson Park between Brothers and Arana Hills (Second Division rugby league) finishes before time after Brothers’ player suffers compound ankle fracture. Brothers beat Deception Bay 28-26 in the main game. Deception Bay not happy with the refereeing, and make their displeasure known. Post match scenes were not a credit to the code. Watching from the ‘pig pen’ are former Brothers five eighth (yes, that’s right), Billy Johnstone; former Brothers’ prop, Mark Crear and former Bros secretary, Don Munro. Johnston, who found fame as a hooker, started in the backs when he arrived from the bush. Billy coaches Litchfield in the Darwin comp. He says AFL rules in the top end. He has a son who plays union in Townsville, where Billy was based for so long with the Cowboys. Union? Might have something to do with less dramas among the union spectators. Billy reckons there was no tougher league forward than former Redcliffe cult hero, Bevan Bleakley, who like Billy, could go a bit in the boxing ring.
Walk to Keith Payne Park at Stafford, named after VC winner from the Vietnam War. Amazing story about how he saved so many of his mates under concerted attack from the North Vietnamese. All our VC winners (pre Afghanistan) are remembered in the park, including two from the Northern Russia campaign, which followed World War 1.
Woman in four wheel drive runs red light on Stafford Road and nearly cleans me up as I drive to Zillmere for a hair cut. Rather than being apologetic, she just laughs, while her kids make rude gestures. What hope have they got! Learn that former Brothers Murwillumbah prop, Brian Leslight had died at the age of 77. Brian was a no nonsense forward who had the respect of teammates and rivals alike. His younger brother, Allan played lower grades for Easts in Sydney, while another brother, John is well known in the speedway circuit around Australia.
Media personality, Steve Haddan accepts an invitation to become the newest member of the QRL History Committee, filling the vacancy left by the death of former author, academic and Wallaby, Max Howell. Steve, who has recently completed a book on Brisbane grand finals, says he is honoured to have been asked.
Attend the Men of League Kick-Off Club lunch at Broncos Leagues Club, seated beside Senator Glenn Lazarus, the function’s guest speaker. I was ghost writer for the former Test prop when I worked at Queensland Newspapers, and he wasn’t afraid to be controversial. Interesting to see whether he carries that over into the political sphere.
Watch clips of Broncos’ training and there were a few forward passes. If it happens at training, it will happen at match time. In his column in ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, Peter Fitzsimons mentions the absence of on-field villains in the NRL, a point I had raised on 4BC. Try new Vietnamese Restaurant, Viet Lotus at Grange, and Marie and I give it the thumbs up. On the topic of food – why is it that fast food TV ads only show fit people tucking into the stuff? We are repeatedly told advertising should embrace people of different ethnic backgrounds. What about people of different sizes?
Easter Sunday Mass at St Columba’s, Grange. Church is packed. Very good breakfast at nearby Conti Cafe afterwards, and then to Bishop Park with our daughter, Melanie for Norths v Souths Logan Intrust Super Cup match. Norths’ winger, Rogan ‘Guns’ Dean is crowd favourite as a result of a Sunday Mail story about his bulging biceps. Souths win convincingly.
Buy two tickets for Melanie Sacha concert at Power House and give them to our daughter, Melanie. No explanation necessary, except I will not be able to go because Marie and I will be overseas. I love both Melanies, with the singer often filling our town house with her unique voice and lyrics. Visit my Dad at Marycrest and speak to a couple of his mates. Vic and Peter. Peter mentions Jack Fallon, a Brisbane rugby league hero of a bygone era, who never shouted (evidently) in the bar.
80th anniversary of founding of French Rugby League Federation.
Jim House, a drinking mate at Brothers’ Community Club, used to sail 18 footers and his ‘bail boy’ was Brisbane Aussie rules and rugby league star, Barry Spring. Spring was recruited from Mayne AFC by legendary Norths league coach, Bob Bax at a time when field goals were worth two points and they were being attempted by everyone from props to halfbacks. Mick Veivers, a Test forward, kicked a 55 metre effort on the fourth (and last) tackle when he was playing for Manly-Warringah. South Sydney’s Eric Simms was the master, and it was because of him the value of the field goal was cut from two points to one, although Barry Spring’s feats at Norths played a role. I remember Barry working in one of the can bars at Lang Park in the late 70s, early 80s. A nice bloke.
Marie and I have lunch at Alliance Hotel, Spring Hill. Excellent. Marie has a seafood pasta and I tuck into mushroom ravioli. Our waitress had no voice, the result of a big function at the pub a few days earlier. Watch movie, War Horse. Very good. Thought it was filmed in Yorkshire. It was Devon.
My sister, Gay and her husband, David, attended Macbeth at QPAC. Play excellent, but experience ruined by chatting schoolkids and people on mobiles. No class. No discipline from teachers.
Am I a lone voice with this? What is it about TV reporters, particularly on SKY, telling us to ‘have a listen’ as they refer to an interview done earlier in the day. We can make up our minds whether we have a listen. It’s like someone saying: ‘right?’ after they have made a point. Extremely irritating.
Former Great Britain centre, Andy Currier is featured in Rugby League Week Legends section. In 1988 when I was covering Central Qld v GB in Rockhampton word came through that Currier was a late addition to the touring squad because of injuries. The GB media man, with his Pom accent, said ‘Currier’ as in ‘Courier’, and I took it literally, spelling it that way. Dave Hadfield (aka George Dunkerley) gave me heaps in RLW the following week for not checking the spelling. Touche’.
1981 Newtown side in RLW centrespread, including one of my favourite players, Graeme O’Grady.
Men of League coin collection before Broncos v Eels match. Give a bit of gold to former Brisbane Wests skipper, Bob Green, who says 10 metre rule should apply to attacking side as well as defending team, then the gang tackle would not be so prevalent. Makes sense to me. Share stadium lift with former Brisbane Souths five eighth, Bruce Harry who is on his way to his corporate box. Ex-Broncos Ben Walker and Darren Smith ask about my book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’. It’s at the printers, I tell them.
Parramatta are shock winners, and their fans dominated on the BCC bus on the way home.
Brothers well beaten by Pine Rivers in rugby league at Stafford. Watch the match with former Brisbane representative hooker, Allan Nunan and wheel chair athlete, Paul Bowes. Allan is a twin, and the other ‘half’, Geoff, also played first grade in Brisbane. Both started their senior careers with Brothers at Murwillumbah. Walk home via Wilston Grange Aussie rules ground where colts sides are warming up. They all look fit. All white kids, except for one Sudanese bloke.
To Davies Park for Souths v Wynnum-Manly. Run into former Broncos and Redcliffe prop, Isaac Ah Mau who is in the sights of Channel 9 as a ‘sideline eye’ commentator. Watch the first half from ‘the hill’ alongside Souths colts players. The bar only serves ‘Gold’. “Would rather drink kero”, says one colts player. Ex ‘Crusher’ David Krause says hello. His son, Josh is playing for Wynnum and scores the winning try. I saw Josh play for Marist Brothers in Lismore last year, and he was the star. Bronco, David Stagg plays for Wynnum and cops a bit of stick from blokes in the can bar.
Watch second half from corporate tent, courtesy of Souths CEO, Jim McClelland. Mohamed Allouche, Bob Hudson, Mark Clarkson and Peter Nocon avail themselves of the hospitality, and fair enough, given they were all great servants of the club. To the clubhouse as rain falls and catch up with more Magpies – David Bell and Paul Rocheford – the latter forced to retire prematurely in 1988 because of a shocking knee injury.
Learn that former Australian forward, David Wright has suffered a heart attack in Melbourne, but he will be OK. Also former Telegraph turf editor, Larry Pratt has died. I worked with Larry, and his son, who was a copy boy. Larry was a real gentleman.
I Remember saying at work years ago what a black day it would be for rugby league if a player became a quadriplegic, live on national television. Those words came back to haunt me as Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon landed head first on the AAMI Stadium turf in a tackle by three Melbourne players. I think Alex panicked, but the onus is on the tacklers to provide a safe landing. The landing can be hard, but not head first. I have been on record many times as saying referees must call ‘held’ early in the tackle if it looks suspect, but referees have to have a feel for the game, and many do not.
The day started pleasantly in the quirky backyard of Red Hill residents, Bill and Erica O’Neill, friends of my Dad, and my late Mum. Bill played rugby union for the ACT and coached future Wallaby Simon Poidevin.
Walk Sandy Creek Circuit at Mount Tamborine. As usual, or so it seems in our National Parks, part of the track is closed. Not questioning the rangers, just the funding. It doesn’t seem to happen in New Zealand, or even Tasmania. If the dollar is the bottom line, surely maintaining the integrity of our track system would be compulsory. Buy rhubarb from a roadside stall and then home via Bill Norris Oval, Beenleigh where our son, Damien’s Beenleigh High Opens side goes down narrowly to Alexander Hills in a trial. Referee is a 57-year-old Kiwi, Karl (from Hamilton) who now lives at Ipswich. Very fit for his age.
My book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’, arrives on my doorstep with a congratulatory note from publishers. Unfortunately find a couple of literals at first glance. Damn. The book features the 38 players who appeared in the Broncos five grand final wins between 1992 and 2000. APN League writer, Wayne Heming gets naked for website league segment after foolishly backing the Warriors to beat the Cowboys. It was only a matter of time.
Former Brothers’ skipper, Trevor Bailey asks me to interview Wayne Bennett and Paul Broughton at club reunion on July 5, but I will be overseas. Getting excited about UK visit, particularly our stay at Hawick in Scotland. Look at Hawick News on-line and discover that excellent local band, Scocha have played at Hawick Baths as part of the Reivers Festival.
Mass at St Columba’s, Wilston, which is celebrating its centenary. About 120 in congregation, including former Courier-Mail rural writer, Gordon Collie. Two altar boys. Good to see. Oz-Kick sign-on at St Columba’s School. The AFL have the evangelical zeal of the Christian missionaries.
Lunch with David Bourke, former Broncos, Brisbane Souths and Valleys fullback who toured France with Queensland Residents in ’89. David has some good ideas about an Ipod ‘library’ to document the old BRL days. Discover that David is nephew of former Penrith and Brothers’ five eighth/centre, Wayne O’Keefe, a teammate of mine at Brothers in 1976.
With former Broncos CEO, Bruno Cullen, I am a guest on Peter Psaltis’s evening sports show on 4BC. The subject of disappointing NRL crowds comes up, and I suggest the NRL lacks heroes and villains, particularly villains. This elicits calls about old BRL days and the likes of John Payne, Bob Green, Neville Hornery, Tony Obst and Ross Strudwick. One caller mentions Leon ‘Moose’ McGuire and I have to concede that I don’t know a lot about him.
Meet with QRL History chairman, Kevin Brasch and fellow member John McCoy re proposed May 3 ‘Origin 100 Games’ function. It is something of a shambles, with many of those former players invited, failing to get back to us. Darren Lockyer has replied, but says it will be difficult for him to attend because he has to commentate on the Test in Sydney on May 2, and then the following night present the Darren Lockyer Shield to the winning under-20 Origin side at Penrith. Darren says he will attend our ‘do’ if the QRL insists, and provides transport. I think that’s fair enough.
Kevin and John swap Mount Isa yarns, given Kevin was captain-coach of the Isa in the Foley Shield, and John’s first radio job was in the north western city. Forrester Grayson, who was playing in the Isa in those days, was one of John’s favourite footballers and personalities. Grayson, originally from Dayboro, was also a rodeo star. He represented Brisbane Rugby League against France in 1977 when he played for Redcliffe, and had enough ability to play at State and Test level, but just wasn’t dedicated enough. Off the field? Well, put it this way. He was a colourful character.
Chris Garry phones from The Courier-Mail wanting info on Stan Napa, father of Roosters forward, Dylan. I know Stan from Norths in ’79, and Lanes Gym at Chermside, where we both worked out. Stan never played for New Zealand, but must have gone close after representing Auckland from the Otahuhu club.
Discover that my former Courier-Mail co-league writer, David Potter is now media manager at St Joseph’s Gregory Terrace.
Marie and I are guests in the Intrust Super box for Broncos v Roosters match at Suncorp, which Chooks win in spectacular fashion with an 80th minute try to Boyd Cordner. Never in doubt. Former Bronco, Isaak Ah Mau and our financial planner, Craig Chalmers are our hosts. Former Olympians, Mark and Tracy Stockwell also in box. Mark went to St Laurence’s with my brother, Andrew. Former Brothers’ teammate, Paul Beauchamp, a guest in another box, says hello. Emotional farewell to injured young star, Jharal Yow Yeh before the game.
After 35,000 at Suncorp for Bronx game, just 400 at Gibson Park, Stafford for Brothers v Dayboro in Second Division, but just as enjoyable in its own way, particularly as the result is the right one again – Brothers 18-8. Paul Payne coaches Brothers, and his Dad, John, a former Qld and Australian rep., is there. Three best players each have to scull a can of Gold. A lower grade cricket grand final is being played on the adjoining field, but we were never in danger of being clobbered by a six. Back at Brothers bump into former Brothers’ coach, Gary O’Brien and his wife, Angie, who lived at Hawick in Scotland for a year, giving her a chance to catch up with family from there. Prominent player-manager, Col Davis and former Brothers’ halfback, Greg Smith (the Rockhampton connection) are trying their luck on the punt, with former Brothers’ skipper, Trevor Bailey.
Marie attends working bee at our Hermitage Gardens community garden. 3 cane toads meet their maker. Could God have made them? Surely not.
Later it’s off to Davies Park for Souths Logan v Tweed Heads. Bump into Tweed forward, Paul Stephenson as I arrive. Thought he had retired. His son is a Roosters’ fan. Good lad. Paul is sidelined by a rib injury. One beer on the hill where Souths Logan FOGS players make sure empty cans are binned. Admirable. Watch second half from clubhouse where former Olympic swimmer, Justin Lemberg is enjoying an ale while watching his son, Zac in action for the Magpies. Former Wallaby, Nigel Holt also enjoys the action. QRL boss, Robert Moore converses with player manager, Jim Banaghan, while South East Division chairman, Brad Tallon takes soft drinks to a group on the hill.
Run into Tweed official, Peter ‘Cat’ Ryan after the match. A former Tweed, Toowoomba All Whites, Newtown, Illawarra and Cronulla forward, Peter recently had treatment for Parkinsons, and is doing really well. I attended a fund raiser, along with about 600 others at Kirra Beach Hotel last year. Wayne Bennett was there to support Peter, who was his housemate in Toowoomba back in 1970. I played many times against Peter on the Tweed, first in the juniors, and then in first grade. In the 1973 Group 18 Gold Coast grand final at Murwillumbah, I was concussed by one of Cat’s beautifully disguised jabs. Seagulls, with Tom Searle as captain-coach, beat us (Brothers) easily.
After the best part of three weeks in New Zealand, one thing stands out after a few days back in Brisbane. The Kiwis have more civic pride. There is so much more litter and dog poo around Brisbane’s streets, and the lawns are generally not as well kept. Also, we appear to have a lot more overweight people.
Now, let me elaborate. Admittedly, Marie and I spent much of our time in relatively sparsely populated areas of New Zealand, like Bay of Islands and Waiheke Island, but we also spent quite a bit of time in Auckland and Whangerei. Also, I know the grass grows much more quickly in Brisbane’s tropical heat. But I’m sorry. The Kiwis have it over us in the aforementioned areas. At least, that is my impression.
They also don’t have as many ‘Stop/Go’ people as us. I dread to think what our unemployment rate would be without traffic controllers and coffee shop workers. There is overkill in both areas.
Meet with QRL History chairman, Kevin Brasch to discuss planned 100 Games Origin function on May 3. He has had a terrific Huddersfield League Calendar sent to him by a mate in England. Kevin played for Huddersfield in the 1950s. Maryborough based Ted Weber, manager of the 1989 Queensland team in France, has written a book on the history of Wide Bay Rugby league – 1910 to 2010.
That night I have a few ales with top Courier-Mail sports writer and former colleague, Paul Malone at Citron in Wilston Village.
To Lismore, via Tugun Beach for a surf and fish/chips. Kiwi Land can’t rival the beautiful water temperatures we have here. To Caroona Nursing Home to see Marie’s mum. The residents are enjoying a European slide show when we arrive. There is new framed photo on the wall of the community room – it was taken during the Queen’s visit to Lismore in 1954, and features a host of local faces in close-up as Her Majesty passes by.
Visit one of Dad’s great mates, ‘DOK’ Kaden and his wife, Clarice, as well as my late mum’s good friend, Terry Duncan, who turns 90 in August. DOK, a former teammate of Dad’s at South Lismore RLFC, is such a character, with a wonderful sense of humour, despite a few health setbacks.
To Lismore Golf Club for dinner. Excellent Chinese food. Drinks with a number of local characters, among them Terry McDermott, a top league player in his day, a NSW Country rep in the 1960s.
Learn that former QRL judiciary chairman, Merv Hoppner has died. Merv was tough, but fair, and certainly looked after me, in terms of comments re illegalities, and the reasons for bans he imposed.
Nev Soward (brother-in-law) shows me a scrapbook which features interesting articles about the old Kyogle competition which included teams from Nimbin and Wiangaree, as well as two clubs in Kyogle itself – Wallaroos and Kiwis. I played a trial, for Murwillumbah Brothers, against Kyogle in the early ’70s and they were very strong. John Johnson was one of the best players out of Kyogle, and he carved out an impressive career at Tweed Seagulls.
Back to Brisbane for Broncos first home game of year – against North Queensland, and the Broncos finished deserved winners. Former Broncos’ media man, Tony Durkin grabs me in excitement as the fulltime hooter sounds.
Lunch with former Australian team manager and Brisbane Souths CEO, Graham Kerr (and wife, Jean) at Brothers’ Community Club. Graham told me winger, John Hopoate was the only player he couldn’t cop when he managed Australia’s World Cup side in Britain in 1995. What a shock. Editor of The Australian, Chris Mitchell is also among the diners at Brothers. Graham is worried about the future of the Cooroy Bowls club, which got up and running largely thanks to a ‘land grant’ from the Kerr family many years ago. Bowls clubs everywhere are battling, and in some ways they only have themselves to blame, given they didn’t change with the times years ago. The Grange club, and many others, rely on volunteer bar staff, something I know the Liquor Trades union frowns upon.
Margaret Olley Art Centre opens at Murwillumbah. The Olleys were neighbours of my grandparents, and my dad and his brother, Bill in High Street, Lismore back in the ’30s/40s, with my grandmother sometimes borrowing horses from the Olleys to ride the high paddocks. Should be a great boost for Mur-Bah. Margaret did a lot of painting in the Tweed area. Hear that Riverview Pub in Murwillumbah is being refurbished, no doubt partly to take advantage of the influx of tourists.
Good to see former Tweed Seagulls executive, Col Hayes honoured at Seagulls v Norths’ intrust Super Cup match at Piggabeen. Col was instrumental in getting Seagulls Leagues Club up and running in 1972. The previous year Seagulls finished last. In ’72 they made the grand final, only to be beaten by a Gold Coast Tigers side which included Steve Rogers and Pat Kelly. I covered many Group 18 meetings on the top floor of The Court House Hotel in Murwillumbah, and Col, a former school teacher, was an intelligent, forward thinking contributor.
Today, I received an email from Angie Dow, the daughter of my former boss at the Tweed Daily, the late Bob Dow, who also covered those Group 18 meetings, and churned out his reports at double my pace, and with great accuracy. She had just read my website piece on former Australian centre, Ron Saddler, a report which I’m told is on display at Brothers Leagues Club in Murwillumbah.
Saw an old ‘I Feel Like a Tooheys’ advertisement today, featuring Ray Price and company. Still looks good.
Check out and walk to Blackpool Bay, and then along a lovely bush track to Little Oneroa Bay, where there is a mobile pizza van, and the product looks pretty good. Brunch at Wai, which was recommended by our son, and it is every bit as good as we were led to believe. Go to pay with Amex – gone. Left it at Mudbrick. Get our Pommie cab driver (from Chiswick) to take us to Mudbrick on way to ferry. He says I sound like Kel from Kath and Kim and Marie sounds like Julia Gillard. Gadzooks Batman.
Ferry crossing smooth despite the choppy water. Flight goes well, although young bloke beside us is unbelievable fidgety.
He got through Customs.
Back in Oz. A Woolies delivery to re-stock our pantry. I wish we didn’t HAVE to rely on Woolies. Haircut at Zillmere and return via Geebung where work is well underway on long overdue rail fly-over. Visit my Dad at Marycrest then a family dinner at Lliam and Channelle’s Paddington abode.
A big day for me – the unveiling of a plaque in my honour on the Media Wall of Fame at Suncorp Stadium, just outside the press box. Recently retired ABC caller, Gerry Collins also ‘inducted’. It is great that my father, Jon can be there, despite his failing health. It was Dad who got me interested in rugby league, given he played for South Lismore and later was treasurer of Brothers at Murwillumbah during a golden era for the club. He also took me to my first match at Suncorp (then Lang Park) – the 1966 Second Test between Australia and Great Britain, which Aust. won 6-4. My late Mum, Lola, would have been proud. My wife, Marie; children, Melanie, Damien and Lliam also attend, with Damien and Lliam accompanied by their respective spouses, Emma and Channelle. Great to see some of my former work colleagues there, among them Barry Dick, Brian Burke, Jack Craig, Gary Smart and Karl de Kroo, as well as Ross Livermore’s widow, Meralda and Broncos Media boss, Trad McLean. My first sports editor, John Morton, was unable to attend because of ill health.
Bump into Redcliffe stalwart, Steve Bleakley (also the Crushers’ last coach) at Hamilton as we stop for seafood on the way home. ‘Chicken Legs’ still looks fit enough to play.
Lady in four wheel drive fails to stop, as required, as I walk along footbath at Newmarket Shopping Centre. She was exiting the complex, and I dread to think what would have happened if a kid was running along the footpath, instead of an observant senior citizen like me.
NRL season kicks off, and Marie is happy that Souths get over the Tigers. Enjoy the juniors section on The Footy Show. The Lane Cove kids are hilarious. Darryl Brohman is quite funny as well.
HARPS Gaelic Sports Club has a promotion at Wilston Grange Aussie rules club, as I walk to Elixer at Stafford for coffee supplies. I don’t mind hurling, but Gaelic football doesn’t do much for me. Brothers lose to the Wayne Treleavan coached Normanby at Purtell Park in Second Division Rugby League. Meet up with some of the Brothers’ players, coach, Paul Payne and his dad, John at Brothers Community Club.
Rumours abound that Pete Nolan will return to the Broncos – from Parramatta – as recruitment chief.
My January report that top NSW North Coast pitcher, Sonya Pope would be forced into retirement because of a bicep injury proves incorrect. But Sonya can’t pitch, and has to contribute with her batting, something she does in great style for Devils, with a five run spree in their 12-4 win over Condors.
To Bishop Park for Norths v Burleigh match, and what proves Jharal Yow Yeh’s last game of football. The Broncos contracted Norths’ outside back hurts the other ankle early in the match, and makes for a sad sight as he limps around the field, reluctant to leave as he contemplates his football mortality. I covered the match in Perth when he shattered his ankle, and given the extent of the injury, he did well just to get back on the field. I have no doubt if a fully fit Yow Yeh was on the field for the Broncos in 2013, they would have won several more matches and made the finals. He was going to be a superstar, and it’s such a shame. But such is life. Balmain centre, Geoff Starling played for Australia when he was 18, but his career was ended by illness (Addison’s disease) when he was just 22.
On the Bishop Park ‘hill’ I bump into the likes of South East Division chairman, Brad Tallon; former Qld Origin forward, Steve Jackson; Warwick identity, Mark Sullivan and former Courier-Mail editor, Michael Crutcher, a Norths’ nut.
Driveway service at several petrol stations in New Zealand. Nice. Head south along the west coast where a Siberian chap asks us to photograph him at Opononi. He had lectured at Qld Uni many years ago – about Siberian Tigers. He even has a scar on one wrist, the result of a tangle with one such tiger, or so he says. Leg stretch at Dargaville, and one Red Lion (the only one of the trip) at the Empire Hotel. Dargaville is not exactly beautiful, but it is a vital centre for a big rural population, and a substantial field day was being set up on the edge of town. Tail gated all the way into Whangerei by a young woman in a four wheel drive. I thought that only happened in Brisbane. Walk from our highway motel to Whangerie’s town basin for dinner on the waterfront.
Swim at lovely Matapouri Bay after a walk around the headland where blokes are snorkelling in the deep water. Local store owner had friends at Daisy Hill near Brisbane. Dinner at Dickens Inn in Whangerei town centre.
Return car to Auckland and then catch ferry to Waiheke Island, where our youngest son, Lliam had worked in the vineyards. It is our first visit. I had first heard of Waiheke from Dave Hadfield, rugby league writer for The Independent newspaper in England. Dave is a great walker and led several other league scribes on a coastal walk, only to discover it was much longer and tougher than anticipated. They ventured into what they thought was a restaurant (for a cold ale) only to discover it was a private residence. Dave has never lived it down.
Our accommodation on Waiheke is the Winemaker’s Loft, just below the Cable Bay Vineyard, and it proves idyllic, with views across the water to Auckland. The walk to the island’s biggest town, Oneroa, is only 20 minutes. We have drinks (oysters and a cheese platter) at The Oyster Bar and then buy lamb chops and pork sausages from the local female butcher.
We undertake a walk around the peninsular near the ferry terminal. Eat oysters on the beach and then berries on the headland as yachts arrive below us. Run into a lost Scots couple from Arbroath. Swim at northern end of Onarua Beach where three backpackers – two male, one female – bathe nude and then improve their tans on a boat ramp. Nice.
Travel around Waiheke on a local bus. First stop Palm Beach, where there is a clothes optional section. We keep ours on. Then to Rocky Bay where two old blokes are working on a yacht in dry dock. Next stop, Onetangi Bay, the longest beach on the island, where a Russian ‘super yacht’ is moored off shore. Drinks at Charlie Farley’s on the esplanade – Emerson’s Pilsener from Dunedin. Good service, good vibe.
Learn of the death of Warren Rann (79), a former prominent rugby league player from Nimbin. Yes, they played rugby league there, once upon a time, fielding a side in the Kyogle competition. Warren played for North Coast against the 1962 Great Britain side at Oakes Oval, Lismore. In 1977 he travelled to England as a member of the Nimbin Tug of War team, which was chosen to represent Australia in a tournament in Hampshire. Warren was a mate of my brother-in-law, Neville Soward, who also played league for Nimbin.
Winery tour, with Nigel our tour guide/driver. Originally from Wellington, Nigel lived for a number of years in Fiji where he met many Australians working with CSR. Others on the tour included a Canadian female doctor in New Zealand for a Navy Divers’ exercise. She said the Australian divers put on a great show at the welcoming night. Also on the bus was a German girl from Lake Constance; a Kiwi couple celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary and a lass from Washington DC.
First stop was Peacock Sky, then Kennedy Point where they have a couple of Highland Cattle. Oysters came with the wine. An olive oil mill also was on the agenda and we bought a gift pack. Lunch (not included in the tour price) at Te Motu Winery where I had a lovely cut of beef – ‘back strap’. Back in Oneroa we had drinks at the Solar Bar, which has a lovely outlook over the water.
Back to Onetangi Bay for their annual extravaganza race day – horses and tractors – as well as a tug-of-war. Very well run and everyone in a good mood. The official race starter is a real character – an old bloke in silks. Our last night on the island was crowned by dinner at Mud Brick Winery, where the sunset was nice, but not as spectacular as Cable Bay on our first night.
Rugby type on next table with his wife and a Welsh couple. Looked familiar. Our waiter, Diego, is from Argentina.
Don Munro turns 80 today, a great league man, former high ranking official with Brothers and the Queensland Rugby League. Don and his wife (Lady) Heather were fun loving members of several of my Kangaroo Supporters’ tours, and I still see them regularly at either the Brothers’ Community Club at Grange or the football at Gibson Park, Stafford.
Marie and I arrive in Auckland at the start of a 20 day North Island adventure. The city is abuzz with Nines fever, and on top of that Wigan have arrived to play a trial against the Warriors ahead of their World Club Challenge match against the mighty Roosters.
Our airport shuttle bus briefly breaks down, but the driver keeps his cool, and eventually we are on our way. Lots of interesting watering holes in Auckland with Tyler’s Garage down near the docks one of the best.
Cruise ships, Sea Princess and Sun Princess are in town, and plenty of the passengers have the same idea as us – a day trip to lovely Devonport on the north side of Auckland Harbour. That night we find a sports bar showing the Warriors – Wigan match from Hamilton, and we have the company of fellow Aussie league nuts, Wayne Cousins (former Wests Tigers Media Man) and a father and son combo from Quilpie in Queensland. You can’t go anywhere.FEBRUARY 13:
Pick up our hire car from an establishment just around the corner from the old Carlaw Park, former league HQ. I covered two matches there – the 1985 Test in which John Ribot scored on fulltime to break Kiwi hearts, and the 1988 Auckland v Queensland Residents’ match which the home side won 70-12 after leading only 24-12 at halftime. That was a bad night to be an Aussie as Kevin Iro ran riot against the Greg Platz coached Maroons.
We head north via Mangakura, enjoying a picnic lunch on the boat club jetty (not as glamorous as it sounds). Our next leg stretch takes place at beautiful Lang’s Beach on Bream Bay. We arrive at Paihia at 5.30 p.m., just as a market is packing up. Our Aloha Motel is in a lovely hill-top location on the approach to Paihia and Stacey and Jason are fine hosts. Dinner at Alfresco Restaurant/Bar where lovely female singer provides ideal background to a splendid meal.FEBRUARY 14:
We have self catering, so when we are told there is a fish cart down the road, off we go hoping to buy local flounder. But all that is left is mullet, caught at Kerikeri that morning. We thought, why not, and while we didn’t regret it, the pack (for $10) was enough for three meals.
Caught the ferry across to Russell (New Zealand’s former capital) where, after a solid walk around Kororareka Point, we dine at the famous Duke of Marlborough pub. My seafood chowder is very good and Marie gives the thumbs up to the calamari.
If you ask nicely, at certain times of the day, the ferry skipper will drop you at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on the trip back to Paihia, and then it is possible to walk back to Paihia. My wife first visited Waitangi in 1971 as a back packer and it was free.
This time we were asked: ‘Where are you from?’ When we said ‘Australia’, they replied: ‘That will be $50’. Thanks for coming.
Still, it was worth it.
On the way back we drink at a beached vessel called ‘Shippeys’, which also does fish and chips, before a few more bevvies on the veranda of the Marlin Club overlooking the beautiful waters of Veronica Channel.
Mullet for tea.FEBRUARY 15:
I have six local oysters at Alfresco on our first night in Paihia, but needn’t have forked out my hard earned, because oysters are easily obtained from the beach just down from our motel.
Saw a mobile sawmill and a mobile abattoir today. Kiwis are certainly innovative.
Go to Splash Bar to watch the Nines, and walk in just as Brad Fittler scores his intercept try for the Roosters against the Broncos. The bar manager, Mike Ellis, a local, lived at Redcliffe from 1986-89 (worked for SEQEB) where he fell in love with league and on his return dumped boring old union for the 13 man code. “I could read a book out in the backs playing union,” he says. Some Aussies arrive and ask for Bundy and seem aggrieved when it is not available. Poms ask: What is your best beer? ‘Kronenberg’, Mike replies, much to their disappointment.
Mullet for dinner.
- Head a bit further north to Kerikeri for their famous Sunday market, and although it is small, it has great fresh produce, as well as lovely bratwurst, blue berry pancakes and fig jam.
- I looked to the skies as what sounded like an air raid siren went off (I had recently seen ‘The Book Thief’) but it turns out that the siren is a call to arms to local volunteer emergency workers when there has been an accident, fire or whatever. There goes the Sunday sleep-in.
- On our return to Paihia we walk the coastal path to Opua – lovely coastal views and cooling patches of sub-tropical rainforest.
- Back in time for the Nines semis at Splash Bar where we are joined by a dozen or so Aussies on a golf tour, among them former Broncos kicking coach, Graham ‘kicker’ McColm, who was a prominent Aussie rules player with Mayne in Brisbane. Also Nudgee Golf Club pro, John Downs and Bob (sorry, I’ve forgotten your last name, Bob) who used to work at the Lang Park Leagues Club back in the days of Dick Breen, Senator Ron McAuliffe and Ross Livermore.
FEBRUARY, WEEK SIX:
MONDAY FEBRUARY 3
Professor Max Howell died today, aged 86. A former Wallaby, Max was a valued member of our Queensland Rugby League History Committee. He was approached by several league clubs in England back in the late 1940s, but rejected the offers to concentrate on an academic career. Max was a prolific author, continuing to write up until his death. His ‘The Centenary of the Greatest Game Under the Sun’ is one of the great reference works on the 13 man code.
TUESDAY FEBRUARY 4
Marie and I raised our family at Zillmere where we lived for 28 years, and I still travel there from Grange for a haircut by Paul. Father Jon Kilenko was parish priest when we left six years ago, and I notice he is still there catering to what is very much a multi-cultural congregation. We still get our tax done at Sandgate, by Tim Mead, and previously his dad, Kevin.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5
To Sydney for Hall of Fame Advisory Committee Meeting. Chinese female cabbie from Sydney Airport to NRL HQ is a delight. Her two sons and one daughter attend Sydney High, with the boys playing union and cricket. The family has a house at Coomera. Shaun Wendt, former QRL South East Division executive officer is the first person I bump into at the NRL. He is now NRL football operations manager. Wallaby great, Mark Ella waits in reception (not sure what that is about) as I retire to the back rooms of the League Museum for a coffee with historian, Terry Williams. Museum volunteer, Gary O’Donnell, a Maroubra junior, managed Parramatta’s under-20s. He welcomes the grand-daughter of Sid ‘Sandy’ Pearce, who is visiting from the country.
The Hall of Fame meeting goes well and I put the case for higher Queensland representation on the Committee. I was the only rep from north of the border, until Wally Lewis’s recent addition to replace fellow Immortal, Andrew Johns, who had not been able to find time to attend a meeting. The other members are Frank Puletua (chair), Williams, Ian Heads, Martin Lenehan, David Middleton, Geoff Armstrong, Paul Kind and John Brady.
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 6
Watch Huddersfield beat Wigan on Euro Sport. Some people are critical of Wigan’s veteran Australian fullback, Matt Bowen, but I reckon he is doing just fine. Phone my good mate, Brian Atherton on the occasion of his 65th. A former Widnes (England) ‘first team’ footballer, Brian played for Dapto, Murwillumbah Brothers, Wingham and Taree United in Australia, and was my captain-coach at Murwillumbah in 1973. He was groomsman at our wedding in Lismore in 1975, and through him I got the travel bug. Met his parents, Lil and Bill, at Widnes in 1977 and they were so kind to Marie and I. Brian’s brother, Billy played amateur league for Farnworth.
SUNDAY FEBRUARY 7
Bump into long serving Broncos medico, Dr Peter Friis at Lutwyche. Lovely fellow, who enjoys a long walk. He ‘did’ Offa’s Dyke in the UK several years back – 117 miles – and got sun burnt during a particularly hot May. There have been some great characters among the league medicos, none more so than Dr Hugh Hazard, the long serving Kangaroos’ doctor who was nicknamed ‘health’. He loved a smoke, a beer and a red wine.
Dr Keith Woodhead was doctor on the Queensland Residents tour of France in 1989 (25th anniversary this year – amazing), and has not been in the best of health lately.
JANUARY – FEBRUARY, WEEK FIVE:
MONDAY, JANUARY 27
I spot former Sydney Wests’ first grade lock (1974), Brian Isbester at Brothers Leagues Club. Watch ‘Town’ on SBS, with Huddersfield in Yorkshire featured. The narrator pays homage to Huddersfield Giants rugby league side and the independent spirit which saw clubs break away from rugby union at a meeting at Huddersfield’s George Hotel in 1895.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 29
Learn that four Kiwis have signed with my old club, Wingham Tigers in Group 3, New South Wales. The Tigers’ didn’t have to look very far outside their own backyard when I played, such was the depth of local talent in the meat works town.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 30
Lutwyche Resident, Paul Sherman is a deserved winner of an Order of Australia award for his services to the arts. I am reliably informed he is a Shakespearian whiz and, when still in grade 9, produced his own backyard version of Hamlet.
Bump into Betty Bootle, former Brothers’ Dairy Bar barmaid who worked at the club from 1974 to ’89 and was always so patient, kind and attentive with ‘her boys’ – the players – and they gave her due respect in return.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2
My father recalls the Queen’s visit to Lismore in 1954 when Her Majesty and ‘Phil the Greek’, as Dad calls the Duke, stayed at the Gollan Hotel. Last I heard, the Gollan was the watering hole of the Marist Brothers Rugby League Club. Perhaps they should be called Royal Marists.
JANUARY, WEEK FOUR:
- MONDAY, JANUARY 20: Visit the QRL offices and bump into former Broncos official, James Hinchey who is now the NRL’s Regional Development Officer for South East Queensland. Also former QRL executive assistant, Kathy Sweeney who was back in the office to undertake tasks re the QRL constitution. Discover that a former News Ltd colleague, Tim Prentice, is a big contributor to ‘The Roar’ general sports website. But the big news of the day – fanfare please – My book ‘Bennett’s Broncos’, has gone to print.
- TUESDAY, JANUARY 21: To the movies to see ‘Saving Mr Banks’, the story of P L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. I enjoyed it, despite ordinary attempts to recreate Maryborough and Allora. I can understand the Yanks filming in the USA for financial reasons, but they could have got more sound advice re the Aussie building styles of the day. Tonight the ABC showed a genuine Australian movie, ‘The Mango Tree’, which was largely filmed at Gayndah in the Central Burnett in 1977, with the main street replicating Bundaberg as it would have looked in 1917. They didn’t have to do much, really. I was working at ‘The Telegraph’ at the time, and photographer, Geoff McLachlan and I were assigned to cover happenings ‘on set’. I interviewed cast members, among them Sir Robert Helpmann, Michael Pate and Geraldine Fitzgerald, and then phoned Telegraph chief of staff, Frank Watkinson, who said we should stay overnight, but Geoff had to get back to Brisbane – to play table tennis. He drove like a bat out of hell, dodging kangaroos along the way, for the sake of a game of ping pong, when we could have been having a few frosties with some of the big names of the Australian arts scene. I never did find out whether Geoff won.
- WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22: My former sports editor, Brian Burke has invested in a couple of horses at a Nathan Tinkler ‘fire sale’. Laurie Parker, a prolific writer of letters to ‘The Courier-Mail’, and a former community radio personality in Logan City, has moved to Charleville to work in family law. He also finds time to coach the Charleville under-12s rugby league side.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 23: Fox Sports show Third Test from the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Britain. Some great stuff, although French referee, Julian Rascagneres was a little lenient towards Australia. I covered that match, and the atmosphere at Central Park was electric, with the Poms giving a good account of themselves. A barnstorming try by Australian skipper, Wally Lewis was the highlight for me, although the Poms scored a great team try, with Garry Schofield crossing, much to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Coffee with Broncos media chief, Trad McLean at the leagues club where I was surprised to see former Australian Associated Press chief league writer, Wayne Heming working ‘on the door’. ‘Ticker’ as he is nicknamed, took a redundancy from AAP, but the pay-out was not as generous as those handed out by other sections of the industry. ‘Ticker’ loves a punt, so he is at home in the club industry. But he wasn’t giving up on returning to the media.
It’s amazing who you bump into at the Broncos. Also there on this particular day were Troy Morton and Frank Barrett from the QRL; former Test forward, Lew Platz and former Gold Coast Titans under-20s coach, Mark Gee.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 24: At today’s QRL History Committee meeting we took possession of a 1925 league scrap book, presented to us by the Gibson family of Clayfield. The late Joe Gibson was president of the Queensland Rugby Union. In 1925 rugby union was in recess in Queensland, so to keep on a scrapbook on local ‘rugby’, it was league or nothing. Absent from our meeting was former Wallaby, Professor Max Howell who was not enjoying the best of health.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 25: Watch some of the Norths v Ipswich/Logan QCA match at Shaw Park. Great, free entertainment with Ipswich’s bowlers copping a caning. It brought back memories, seeing names given to the various ovals at Shaw Park – Rob Kerr, Ernie Toovey, Geoff Dymock, Alan Pettigrew – men I interviewed when I wrote cricket for The Telegraph in the 1980s. Ernie was escpecially helpful in his role as state chairman of selectors.
My old newspaper, The Daily News, reports that Aussie rules is the fastest growing sport on the Tweed. What is happening to the world?
SUNDAY, JANUARY 26: My wife, Marie is up early to cook damper for Australia Day; kookaburras ‘sing’ out the back, and the ABC News intro sounds out on the transistor. It doesn’t get more Aussie than that. My dad joins us for a roast lamb lunch. At Brothers club I have a beer with legendary Brothers’ strapper, Jimmy Johnson.
Friends start recalling stories of the 1974 January floods. I was working at The Daily News at Murwillumbah and three or four of my mates had to move out of their abodes because of rising water. My place, on top of a hill in Dorothy Street, was the mecca for these natural disaster refugees. They drank my beer, raided my pantry and when I arrived home from work at 11 p.m. were sound asleep with the television on test pattern. Stations shut down before mid-night back then, and didn’t come on again until mid morning. Great days.
JANUARY, WEEK THREE:
- MONDAY, JANUARY 13. It’s always a pleasure to visit the QRL and Men of League offices at Suncorp Stadium, in my role as QRL History Committee Development Officer. MOL state CEO, Steve Calder told me about a bursary provided by the organisation to help fund a young lad’s education at Nudgee College.
- Learn that Sydney Morning Herald league writer, Glen Jackson will join the NRL Media Unit. Thought he would be in newspapers all his life, but it’s not a happy industry.
- TUESDAY, JANUARY 14. Watch some of EPL game between Aston Villa and Arsenal with Aston Villa player, Nathan Baker carried off after he copped a ball in the face. It looked pretty soft, but pro soccer players can really drill a ball. I played soccer in the bush in the 1970s and the leather balls used back then, certainly stung if they hit you in the face. I was interested to read that Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey is a former Welsh union player who was approached by St Helens’ rugby league after he played a colts league match. Ramsey had already signed professional soccer papers at that stage.
- Learn that my former Brothers’ Murwillumbah teammate, Gary Harley has been punted by 2KO as caller of Newcastle Knights matches. Big Gary was a skilful five eighth, but wasn’t fit enough to play 80 minutes. He is an institution in the Hunter region and punters in Queensland would know him from race calls from Maitland Dogs etc.
- WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15: Rumours abound that Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters will return to the Broncos as a coaching team, following Kevvie’s addition to the Knights’ staff.
- The QRL History Committee is co-ordinating a comprehensive history of playing fields throughout the state, but the initial response from clubs has been a bit disappointing. We hope to publish a book on the subject, which I think would be well received.
- ‘Paddock to Plate’ on Lifestyle Channel features the Far North Coast of NSW, including Brunswick heads oysters. I first tried the delicacy at Brunswick, and it’s great to see the river is still healthy enough to support the industry. Saw a large turtle in Kedron Brook, an increasingly rare sight given the activities of some groups who pillage the stream. I scared off one mob by pretending to ring Fisheries on my mobile.
- FRIDAY, JANUARY 17: Darryl Van de Velde replaces Rick Green as ‘Statewide Competitions’ director on the QRL. I have had a lot to do with Darryl over the years, when he was a coach in England and Australia, and of course as inaugural chief executive of South Queensland Crushers. A good man with a deep passion for the game.
- SATURDAY, JANUARY 18: Nearly got cleaned up by a cyclist at Southport, after he failed to stop for my wife and I as we walked across a pedestrian crossing. Surf rough and former North Sydney and North Queensland Cowboys forward, George Bartlett goes to the assistance of his two Canadian friends after they panic when a rip takes them south.
- My wife witnesses bus rage back in Brisbane with a female member of the public slapping a female driver across the face because she would not let her ride for free. The joys of public transport.
- SUNDAY, JANUARY 19: My wife joins five other ‘Bushcare’ volunteers in planting trees along Kedron Brook, followed by real ‘billy tea’. Better google that, kids. Butterflies everywhere. Ah, nature.
- Bump into former Channel 9 political reporter, Spencer Jolly while visiting my dad at Marycrest Aged Care facility at Kangaroo Point. Spencer’s dear old mum is 102.
- Villefranche Aveyron defeat Albi in a Lord Derby Cup match in France, a real ‘local derby’. Broncos’ media manager, Trad McLean would be pleased, given he played for ‘Vill’ ‘back in the day’.
JANUARY, WEEK TWO:
- The Brisbane Lions have landed another league man as their Media manager, this time Steele Tallon, following in the footsteps of Dave Donaghy, who played Universities Rugby League. Steele’s brother, Brad is Chairman of the Queensland Rugby League’s South East Division.
- Seen enjoying the delights of Noosa were former Valleys teammates, John Ribot and Peter McWhirter and former Queensland rugby union stars of the 1950s, Des Connor and Kevin Brasch. Connor kept Brasch out of the Wallabies side in the 1950s, and the former Newmarket Primary School pupil switched to league. But they have remained good friends, even though Connor defected from the Wallabies to the All Blacks.
- Good luck to much travelled coach, Don Gailer who will be in charge of the Caboolture Snakes this year. Gailer recently returned from a coaching stint in Cumbria in England, and the former Carlton and United Brewery executive is working hard to revitalise the Beer and Beef Club, with the Plough Inn at South Bank to be the venue.
- Sonya Pope, arguably the best softball pitcher on the New South Wales North Coast, looks set to be forced into retirement in her early 30s because of a bicep injury. Her mother, Caroline Soward (previously Galea) was also a stalwart of softball in that part of the world, playing well into her 40s.
- I learnt a lot about former Brisbane representative rugby league winger, Bob Gray this week, with a number of league identities attending his funeral on North Stradbroke Island. One of his former workmates, Peter Mahoney from Landsborough told me Bob could run like a gazelle, even though he was a robust type. The indigenous star, a crowd favourite at Lang Park, played for Brisbane against New Zealand in 1959, and against France in 1960. He could also sing like Sinatra. “If he had been serious about his football, he would have played for Australia,” Peter reckons. After a Bulimba Cup match in Toowoomba, Gray and fellow winger, Fonda Metassa had a few drinks too many and missed the bus back to Brisbane, something which didn’t go down well with officialdom. It was Peter Mahoney who got Gray to switch from Valleys to Brothers at the same time as Des Mannion, a recruiting coup which went down like a lead balloon in Diehard country.
- Whenever I get to Lismore in northern New South Wales I try to get to the golf club for a few ales or a bite to eat, and it’s not hard to get into a conversation about rugby league with the likes of regulars, Toby Daley, Dick Ryan and Mick Davis, the latter having played for North Coast against Great Britain at Kempsey in 1966. The North Coast team included future Penrith five eighth, Grahame Moran and Bill McCarron, the older brother of future Queensland prop, Ray McCarron. Bill also played Foley Shield for Townsville. Davis, whose son, Mick Jnr played for Souths, in Brisbane as well as the Crushers and Gold Coast, tangled with a few of the Pommy forwards, and from all reports held his own. The North Coast team was managed by Stan Sercombe from Murwillumbah, one of the best country administrators I have come across in my time in the game. Great Britain featured some of the legends of the code, among them Frank Myler, Allan Hardisty, John Mantle and Brian Edgar.
- I switched to NITV in time to see Mark Ella promoting an indigenous rugby union game. We are fortunate in league to have so many quality indigenous players, and the 13 man game is definitely their preference. But Shannon Walker, the Kyogle product who is excelling at Sevens, is a poster boy for union in their efforts to get more indigenous players into their game. Olympics or not, I can’t help but feel that ‘fair dinkum’ footballers will want to concentrate on the respective 13 and 15 man games.
- I learnt this week that Warrington Wolves had arrived in Australia for a three week training camp, including a hit-out with the Sydney Swans. English clubs usually head for warmer climes in the depths of the northern hemisphere winter, and it makes good sense, on many fronts, to come to Australia, rather than the Canary Islands or Miami, despite the cost.
- Featherstone Rovers are claiming the quickest try ever – after just seven seconds against Hunslet Hawks. Go on-line to see how it happened.
- First day of the year, woke at 5 a.m. – tells you a lot about my New Year’s Eve – to the sounds of our former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, being interviewed by the ABC about political events in 1983. Thirty years from now it will be Tony Abbott, and it’s anyone’s guess how the ABC will handle that.
- Breath tested twice on New Year’s morning – predictable, if nothing else.
A mate of mine reckons the band, ‘Castlecomer’ were the best newcomers at the Woodford Folk Festival. – Ice hockey leaves me cold – did I write that? – but I was fascinated by the Detroit – Toronto match played outdoors in blizzard like conditions. The American Women’s Olympic team were guests during a break, with each player introduced to the fans. There was one poignant moment, after a particularly pretty team member featured in close-up, and the next team member, a tall, comparatively plain lass, essentially mouthed these words – ‘It’s so unfair. How can I compete with that’.
Speaking of Yanks. It’s great to see baseball coach, Mike Young back with the Australian cricket team. You always feel good and positive after spending a few minutes with Mike, and I am one of the first to bag Yanks for being ‘corn balls’, at times.
- Funny day at Redcliffe on Saturday, Jan 4. Indian lady asked me for a lift to Woody Point as I filled up my car at Clontarf at 6.50 a.m. She needed to open Masala Café at 7 a.m. and there were no buses running. I obliged, even though the garage cashier warned me to be careful. All good. Brought back memories of 1992, I think it was, when I arrived home at Zillmere with two backpackers I had picked up outside a garage at Maryborough, after covering a pre-season rugby league double header at Bundaberg. It was against company policy to give people a lift, but I felt so sorry for this couple, sweltering on a humid February day and having no luck getting a ride. He was English, of Jamaican heritage, and she was a Scot. They stayed at our place for a week and Marie and our three kids loved it, because he was a chef, and we gave him free rein in the kitchen.
While having my coffee in the tiny park beside the Woody Point Jetty a bloke decided it was the spot to practice his golf. And boy, his game needed fine tuning. It was time to leave.
Ever noticed that Redcliffe is one of the few places where you are likely to see kids wearing the local (Dolphins) jersey instead of NRL gear?
Bee Gees song came on 4KQ as I drove past old Palace Hotel. Timing.
Drove to Redcliffe via Zillmere, where I saw that one of Brisbane’s weirdest houses – a fortress like construction in Battersby Street – was for sale. Hope the former owner has found peace, wherever he is.
Sounds like the tennis was great at Tennyson, but have not heard one good report about the catering. $9 for a (very ordinary) meat pie, around $11 for a sausage on a roll Munich Beer Fest stuff, it was not. And I’m also reliably informed food and drink service at Eagles Farm Races on New Year’s Day was deplorable.
In September this year, if all goes to plan, my book on the Broncos’ glory days (when they won five titles between 1992 and 2000) will be available for purchase. The publishers asked me to interview 38 players, and I managed to do 33 face-to-face, three by phone and one by email (Lote Tuqiri from Dublin). Anthony Mundine was the only former player not to get back to me.
It was hilarious to hear Broncos 2000 grand final skipper, Kevvie Walters talk about the Ipswich Jets in their early days.
“The Jets were battlers back then,” Kevvie said. “They would go the ‘biffo’. They would be in the game for the first half, and then the class of the opposition would come through. But they had a crack every week.”
Ah. Brings back memories of Friday night at the Ipswich Reserve in the early days of the State League, with sausage rolls and a XXXX afterwards with local league stalwarts, Guv Clark and Banjo Green.
Peter Badel will have a book out at the same time as mine – his on John Sattler. Solution? Just buy both.
There has been a lot of debate about why Australians can’t match the ‘Barmy Army’ in terms of chants.
Australians are very good – individually – at witty remarks, but will never really get into the organised stuff.
The small ‘Fanatics’ group at the Brisbane Open tried their best, and I’ll leave it at that.
My theory is that the English ‘chanting’ is a cold climate thing.
It is born of thousands of people having to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the terraces at football games on winter days, usually after quite a few pints at the pub.
In Australia we have been brought up on two or three games of footy on the one card – not just the one game as in England.
And in our mainly warmer climes, in stadiums built for cricket as well as football, our fans have adopted a more casual approach to footy watching, sometimes relaxing on a blanket on the hill. But I acknowledge there has never been anything relaxed about Aussie rules supporters in Melbourne.