The market for league books is expanding

The BBC and national media may believe nobody's interested in rugby league, but a growing number of publishers obviously feel differently.

Until recently, rugby league titles were few and far between on the bookshelves, but the sport is now making an increasing impact, particularly on the Christmas market.

That means anyone looking for a last-minute gift for the rugby league fan in their life will have plenty of choice.

Leading the field is the Gillette Rugby League Yearbook 2010-2011 (edited by Tim Butcher and Daniel Spencer, League Publications Ltd, 16.99).

The 15th edition of this particular publication has been expanded to include a new club records section, on top of annual features including five 'personalities of the season', a month-by-month review of the 2010 campaign, in-depth statistics and a list of every player to have made a Super League appearance, from Carl Ablett to Freddie Zitter.


With plenty of editorial content to back up the stats, this is indispensable reading for the die-hard fan.

Leeds-based Scratching Shed Publishing have saturated the market with no fewer than 13 rugby league titles currently in print.

Reluctant Hero The John Holmes Story (Phil Holmes Jr and Sr, 13.99) has just been reprinted and would be an ideal gift for any Leeds supporter of the 1960s, 70s or 80s, or indeed anybody with an interest in how rugby league was played before Super League.

Other current titles include two former BBC TV commentators' views on the game: Ray French...and Rugby (Ray French, 13.99) and The Great Ones & Other Writings (Eddie Waring 13.99).

Also newly-published is Border City Blues The Story of Carlisle RL (Alan Tucker, 13.99), which includes an introduction by ex-Leeds player and coach Dean Bell, who began his English career at the Cumbrian outpost.

London League Publications are another prolific producer of rugby league books and their leading offering this Christmas is No Sand Dunes in Featherstone – Memories of West Yorkshire Rugby League (edited by Robert Light, 12.95).

This brings together a selection of anecdotes from some of the sport's leading personalities – including Maurice Bamford, Bev Risman, Peter Fox, Mick Morgan and Karl Harrison – with a particular emphasis on this region.

Most of the recollections – drawn from interviews carried out for Huddersfield University's Up and Under oral history project – are from the pre-Super League era and some editing would have made it an easier read, but there's still plenty to enjoy.

The title, incidentally, is a reference to one of the major differences between training Down Under and in West Yorkshire.

Supposedly, in Australia, players get fit by running up and down sand dunes.

Rugby league fiction is still thin on the ground (if you don't count some of the RFL's press releases), but London League have attempted to address that by publishing a novel Better Than All The Rest – A mother fights for her son (Philip Howard, 9.99).

Set in the rugby league heartland of Castleton – on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border – the story centres around fading player Chris Anderton and how his career is revived by disabled youngster Karl Burgess, who suffers from muscular dystrophy.

The book is clearly designed to raise awareness of both the sport and the disease, though it's stronger on the latter than the former.

It's not entirely successful, but a decent attempt by a first-time author.

Wayne Bennett.

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