NEWS: Rugby league author Ray French receives MBE

Rugby league author, commentator, columnist and former dual-code international Ray French has today been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours List. sends its congratulations to Ray for a hugely deserved award.

Rugby league author Ray French

Rugby league author Ray French, MBE

French, who most recently penned Ray French… and rugby, has been a towering figure in the sport since the 1960s.

A league and Challenge Cup winner as a player, he also represented England at rugby union and Great Britain at rugby league.

He then worked in radio and, most famously, as the BBC’s commentator at every Challenge Cup final from 1982 until 2008.

And despite his high profile, French’s support for the game’s grassroots remains as strong as ever.

UPDATE: Scratching Shed, the publishers of Ray French… and rugby, have sent their own message of congratulations here.

REVIEW: Coming Clean, by Terry Newton and Phil Wilkinson

Coming Clean, by Terry Newton and Phil Wilkinson

Coming Clean, by Terry Newton and Phil Wilkinson

Terry Newton’s death was the most upsetting, gut-wrenching rugby league story of 2010.

Now Coming Clean, Newton’s autobiography that was published just weeks beforehand, stands as one of the most poignant sporting books in recent memory.

Newton had his troubles. But he was undoubtedly one of the finest hookers to grace Super League.

Leeds, Wigan, Bradford, Wakefield and Great Britain all benefited from his guile, guts and determination – not to mention his craft around the play-the-ball.

Coming Clean is Newton’s story, from signing for Warrington as a 14-year-old through to the day a letter arrived from UK Sport notifying him that he had become the first athlete in world sport to test positive for human Growth Hormone (hGH). [Read more…]

NEWS: Dave Hadfield recommends…

Dave Hadfield, the Independent’s rugby league reporter, has been busy putting forward his suggestions for some Christmas reading.

Among the books he’s recommended are:

There’s also a couple more suggestions, including a cracking DVD of the sport’s greatest ever tries.

We’ll be running reviews on all of the above, as well as hopefully talking to some of the authors involved. In the meantime, why not have a read of our interview with Ray French.

INTERVIEW: Ray French… and rugby – memories of a sporting great

Rugby league author Ray French

Rugby league author Ray French

Ray French is a rugby league legend. We’ve tried, but there is no other way of putting it.

A dual code international more than 30 years before the likes of Jason Robinson and Henry Paul, he won the Challenge Cup in 1966 before moving into radio and, more famously, television. He was the BBC’s commentator on every Challenge Cup Final between 1982 and 2008.

Asking Ray French about the magic of the Challenge Cup is like opening a box of chocolates: it can be difficult to know where to start.

For nearly 30 years, French’s unique voice broadcast the competition’s climax to the nation’s armchair viewers – but his personal love affair with rugby league’s oldest trophy is now well into its sixth decade. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Don’t die with the music in you, by Wayne Bennett

Don't die with the music in you, by Wayne Bennett

Nobody involved in rugby league commands as much respect as Wayne Bennett.

His track record says it all; over and over again, he’s come out on top.

Don’t die with the music in you shows why – and how – he’s achieved what he has.

It isn’t just a book about the game he calls ‘footy’; it’s a book about life, about being the best you can be, about reaching your goals and living the right way.

Written in a short, punchy style, it’s an easy read that provides you with a gem less than two minutes after opening, no matter which page you land on. [Read more…]

REVIEW: The Rugby League World Cup, by Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews

The Rugby League World Cup, by Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews

Originally published after the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, and updated after New Zealand’s stunning triumph in 2008, League Publications have produced another triumph for anyone interested in the history of the greatest game.

Starting with the first World Cup back in 1954, when Scotsman Dave Valentine lifted the trophy for a Great Britain side widely written off before their exploits in France, Tim Butcher and Malcolm Andrews expertly guide us through each of the 13 Rugby League World Cups.

And while The Rugby League World Cup has a comprehensive stats and results section, it still brings to life some of the human stories involved with rugby league’s most significant tournament. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Gillette Rugby League Yearbook 2010-2011, by Tim Butcher and Daniel Spencer

Gillette Rugby League Yearbook 2010-2011

The Gillette Rugby League Yearbook is now firmly established as a must-have annual purchase for rugby league’s most committed fans.

And when you see the dedication, hard work and attention to detail that goes into producing each season’s effort, it’s easy to understand why.

Rugby league experienced some exhilarating highs and gut-wrenching lows during 2010 – all are captured and recorded in this comprehensive review of the season.

Tim Butcher looks back on 2010 month by month, starting at the turn of the year with Steve Prescott’s MBE, Jamie Peacock’s call for Super League to be reduced to 10 clubs and Brian Noble’s desperate scrabble to assemble a Crusaders squad in just six weeks. [Read more…]

REVIEW: Up and over, by Dave Hadfield

Back in 2003, Dave Hadfield took part in a 220-mile charity trek across rugby league’s heartlands. Up and Over is the resulting vivid – and amusing – account of spending a fortnight with Stevo chirping in your ear.

The M62 - 'Up and Over' charts Dave Hadfield's 220-mile walk from Hull to Widnes

Starting in Hull and winding his way to Widnes, Hadfield stumbles across the bizarre, loveable and downright silly while also bringing to life some of rugby league’s most memorable characters.

Thankfully for Hadfield’s battered feet, Catalans Dragons and Celtic Crusaders had yet to be born when this book was put together. But a meander that roughly follows the M62 is a rich enough source of material for this book to be full of heart-warming chuckles and moments of poignancy from a sport that has enchanted so many fans, players, administrators and journalists alike. [Read more…]