WHEN AUTHOR Tony Hannan signed up to write a book on a year in the life of Batley Bulldogs he could not have imagined what drama would unfold over the subsequent 12 months.
Keegan Hirst’s decision to come out as rugby league’s only openly gay player gave Underdogs its central theme, but 2016 was also a year of tragedy and triumph as MP Jo Cox’s murder brought the area to national attention and Bulldogs achieved the unexpected by finishing third in the Championship and qualifying for the Super-8s.
In the hands of Hannan, a quirky and smart writer, it makes for a compelling story.
He was granted complete access to the club for the entire season and he makes the most of it. Underdogs is a fascinating account of life outside the rugby league spotlight and gets beneath the skin of the club, town and sport, at semi-professional level, in a way that’s not been done before.
Readers won’t need to be a fan of Batley or even rugby league to enjoy this. It is a must-read. Underdogs: Keegan Hirst, Batley, and a Year in the Life of a Rugby League Town. By Tony Hannan. Bantam Press. £18.99.