Rarely can a rugby league book have required such research and dedication, but in The King of Brilliance author Graham Morris has produced a work that is worthy of its subject – the early 20th century star James Lomas – as well as providing a remarkable insight into British rugby league before the first World War.
The King of Brilliance is a grand tome from the moment you set your eyes on the 272-page, nearly A4-sized hardback.
It’s the kind of book that is fitting of a man who captained the Northern Union team on its first tour of Australia and New Zealand back in 1910. Tales from that tour are outlined in Tom Mather’s Best In The Northern Union, another worthy historical title from London League Publications.
Cumbrian Lomas started his career at Maryport before moving away to first Bramley, then Salford, Oldham and York. He was the leading points scorer for his club in 12 seasons, setting a career record of 2,312 points in an era when points were far more scarce than they are today.
Author Graham Morris must have spent endless days, weeks and months trawling through libraries looking at microfilm copies of old newspapers in order to assemble such a definitive history on a career that took place a century ago.
He admits: “Researching James’s story has been as fascinating and interesting as it has been challenging. I knew before I began this book that James was seen as a great player. What I had not realised was just how great he was, and how highly he was valued during his time as a performer.”
However, his efforts have been entirely worthwhile. For anyone with an interest in rugby league’s history, The King of Brilliance makes compelling reading.
There are also plenty of hidden gems, including the story about how Lomas’s late arrival led to England starting a match against the Other Nationalities a man down, “although he was on hand to attempt the conversion after Fish scored the opening try.”
Lomas’s era was far removed from today’s professionalism, but he played at a time when the foundations for rugby league’s future were being laid.