28th November 2017, 14:29
100 Days That Shook Rugby League
WRL's communications and profile manager Ian Golden looks at one his favourite new Rugby League books that has just come onto the market.
Contents - part 1
Ahead of the World Cup Final this Saturday, a book with a number of World Cup, and other memories has been released and it’s so detailed, it’s taken me nearly the duration of the World Cup to read it cover to cover, after dipping into it at various points - it's that kind of book.
“100 Days That Shook Rugby League” is the latest offering from former Rugby League World editor Richard de la Riviere. It’s an interesting list although I would say that not all of them actually “shook” the sport. All interesting and momentus none the less and, like another of my previous book reviews, I’m happy that I learned a lot whilst reading.
The author excelled in his lists when editor of RL World and still excels with historical research in his weekly League Express column “On this day” so it’s no surprise that he combines the two with great success.
As you can see from the contents page pictured, there are quite a few Welsh references. The book actually starts pre-Rugby League with the first British Lions captain dying on tour, then mentioning the birth of the sport itself in 1895. Neither of those primarily feature Welshmen but I thought they needed to be talked about here.
So the first entry in there which is Welsh related is number five of the hundred, a story I personally wasn’t aware of, about a Cardiff-born Dewsbury player who murdered his wife and then killed himself. Don’t worry, it’s probably the most gruesome aspect of the whole book.
The back cover of the book says that the stories feature Epic Matches, Weird and Wonderful Tours, Controversies, Brilliance, Historic Milestones, Tragic Tales and other great stories. Plenty to wet the appetite.
A number of Welshmen featured in the epic matches. The first test of the Indomitables Great Britain tour, captained by Gus Risman and containing a few Welshmen gets a mention, whilst Billy Boston signing for Wigan is also included – that itself didn’t shake Rugby League but the events around would do decades later.
The 1954 and 1972 World Cup Final wins for Great Britain deserve a special mention here as both contained Welshmen, especially the latter where GB’s captain was the late great Clive Sullivan. Interesting to note that neither of those games were led by Englishmen and yet some people erroneously count these as part of England’s history.
Contents - part 2
A World Cup qualifying match is 1988 saw Great Britain’s first win over Australia in ten years and featured a classic try from Phil Ford whilst six years later, this not a World Cup game, Jonathan Davies lit up Wembley with a classic score after his team-mate Shaun Edwards had been sent off.
So like all reviews, one has to ask “What has been left out?” especially when relating to Wales. For me, the first ever proper test match between Wales and New Zealand in 1908 should have been mentioned as well as should have the 1975 World Cup game where Wales beat England in a game that eventually cost England a tournament win, something they’ve still not managed since GB split up for the World Cup.
However Wales’ 25-24 win over New Zealand in the 1975 tournament gets a chapter. Not because it was the last Wales rugby side to ever beat New Zealand, that in itself is historical, but because of Jim Mills’ sending off and subsequent ban that really did shock Rugby League. The only other Wales game to get a mention is our 2000 World Cup semi-final defeat to Australia. I’d also have written about our European Championship win over France in 2010 which saw us qualify for the Four Nations. That was a genuine shock where the tournament was almost designed in favour of France that year.
There are five Welsh aspects to the final ten entries in the book. #91 talks about the Super League licences being handed out and with Celtic Crusaders involved, two pages wasn’t enough. Numbers 93 and 97 both feature sad deaths – the former being Leon Walker who died whilst playing for Wakefield reserves against the Crusaders and the latter being our own Danny Jones. Number 96 is a “Grand Final Red Card Sensation” that we all remember whilst #100 features the Million Pound Game where Wales’ record cap holder Ian Watson coached Salford to an historic victory.
Have I left anything out? Plenty. It’s a great book that’s full of everything it says it is – “From the great games to the jaw-dropping controversies and the sadder moments in the sports incredible history” and I hope I’ve done enough to encourage you to give it a read. Buy it from http://shop.totalrl.com/