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Vale Paul 'Scobie' Malone

Paul 'Scobie' Malone was by my side at countless rugby league matches, firstly as a rival, and then as a 'teammate' at The Courier-Mail.

We were rivals when I worked for the now defunct afternoon paper, the Telegraph, and Paul was working for The Australian, and then The Courier-Mail.

In 1986 we covered the Kangaroos tour of Britain and France, Scobie for The Courier, and me for the Telegraph.

There was a large media contingent and the camaraderie was exceptional, despite the quest for that elusive 'exclusive'.

Paul had the more difficult task, because the time difference did not suit morning papers in Australia, whereas reporters from the afternoon press had many stories delivered to them on a platter.

Still, Paul managed to get his share of exclusives, and his feature pieces were beautifully written.

He was a wordsmith in the true sense of the word, but he also knew a story, and how to come up with an angle.

In 1988, when the Telegraph closed, we became workmates at The Courier-Mail, covering everything from Tests and State of Origin matches, to the Broncos' inaugural season, and the Brisbane Rugby League competition.

In 1995, when the Super League war erupted, life was sometimes difficult in the office, because it was such an emotional time, with some journalists siding with the establishment ARL, while others felt sympathy towards the rebel Super League cause.

Paul reported on both sides of the equation with fairness, but, as the senior league writer at the time, he invariably was assigned to Super League issues, given that News Limited, publishers of The Courier-Mail, were behind that organisation.

Paul Malone and Alfie Langer. Photo: Courier-Mail
Paul Malone and Alfie Langer. Photo: Courier-Mail

On the other hand, I was more likely to be assigned to ARL matters.

So, we were typecast as Super League and ARL men, although I believe when it came to 'reporting' the issues, we remained objective. Opinion pieces were another matter, but they should not be confused with 'reporting' events.

While three years of reporting on the Super League war failed to break Paul's spirit, it is fair to say he felt somewhat disillusioned, and he stepped back to some degree, while I took on the role as chief league writer, in coming years.

Paul's first love was tennis, and he reported on that sport with passion and inciteful knowledge. He also covered two Olympics and the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In more recent times, he provided coverage for the Australian Baseball League, and he also served a term as sports editor.

Since my retirement at the end of the 2012 NRL season, Paul and I have caught up socially a number of times, usually with other work colleagues, past and present. But sometimes there was just the two of us.

I visited him in hospital a number of times, and also at his Wilston home, most recently just before Christmas with Bart Sinclair, Brian Burke, Jim Tucker, Gary Smart and Bernie Pramberg. Paul loved hearing the banter between his former workmates, some of it which would only seem funny to newspaper people.

Paul could be very serious, but he was also great company, and we loved reflecting on those times in the north of England in 1986, at places like the Scarborough Hotel in Leeds, or the rural Chequers Inn, at Ledsham in West Yorkshire.

Paul Malone (left) with fellow league writers Robert Smith (AAP); Geoff Prenter (Sydney Sun); Peter Frilingos (Sydney Mirror) and Allan Clarkson (Sydney Morning Herald) on the 1986 Kangaroo tour of England.
Paul Malone (left) with fellow league writers Robert Smith (AAP); Geoff Prenter (Sydney Sun); Peter Frilingos (Sydney Mirror) and Allan Clarkson (Sydney Morning Herald) on the 1986 Kangaroo tour of England.

At the start of that 1986 season, Paul identified a young Ipswich player, Allan Langer as a potential star. Nine years later he was writing up Roma product, Darren Lockyer as another gun.

Scobie didn't often get things wrong.

* Tribute by former colleague, Steve Ricketts, current chairman of Queensland Rugby League History Committee