Christmas guide to rugby league books in 2013

Looking for a rugby league gift this Christmas? Here’s our list of the books released over the last 12 months…


rlyearbook2013Rugby League Yearbook 2013, by Tim Butcher and Daniel Spencer

Darren Lockyer – Autobiography, by Darren Lockyer and Dan Koch

Off The Cuff: The Lee Briers Autobiography, by Lee Briers and Mike Appleton

Rugby League: A Critical History 1980 – 2013, by Richard De La Riviere

The Official Super League Annual 2014, by Neil Barraclough

leebriersThrough Adversity: The Fight For Rugby League In The RAF, by Damian Clayton

Learning Curve: The Story Of Student Rugby League, by Dave Hadfield

Big Jim: Jim Mills – A Rugby Giant, by Peter Lush and Maurice Bamford (Kindle edition available here)

Soldiers’ League: The Story Of Army Rugby League, by Sean Fanning (Kindle edition available here)

They Walked On Water: The Untold Story Of Wembley 1968, by David Hinchliffe

slannual2014No Helmets Required: The Remarkable Story Of The American All Stars, by Gavin Willacy (Kindle edition available here)

Heading For The Line, by Michael Miles (Kindle edition available here)

Rugby League In The Seventies, by Harry Edgar

Making Up The Numbers: The Clubs That Hoped To Be Giant Killers, by Stuart Sheard

Rugby League Back o’ t’ Wall – A History of Sharlston Rovers ARLFC, by Graham Chalkley



Broken Time: The Complete Script, by Mick Martin

Two Seasons, by Geoff Lee (Kindle edition available here)

Rugby Football: A United Game, by Peter Lush (Kindle edition available here)

What’s A Bear To Wear, by Tom Palmer

Haka Boy: A Rugby League Story, by Tom Palmer


Computer Games

Rugby League Live 2 World Cup Edition

REVIEW: Big Jim: Jim Mills – A Rugby Giant, by Peter Lush and Maurice Bamford

Big JimWho is rugby league’s biggest bad boy? Gareth Hock? Willie Mason? Ten years ago Barrie McDermott would have been up there, too. But none of them compare to Jim Mills, whose authorised biography Big Jim has just hit the shelves.

The former Widnes, Halifax, Salford, Bradford, Workington and North Sydney forward was sent off a staggering 20 times during his career in the sixties and seventies, a fact former Warrington forward Mike Nicholas remembers all too clearly.

“Jim and I used to keep the disciplinary committee busy in the 1970s. We used to go in with the other players on charge and they would save our hearings till last. They used a trolley to wheel our files in and the committee used to boo us as we came in.

“I was sent off 15 times and Jim 20. Jim didn’t do anything by halves; he ended up banned from the whole southern hemisphere at one point. He got sent off everywhere except New Zealand, and that’s because they wouldn’t allow him in the country to play.”

Nicholas recently attended the launch of ‘Big Jim’, where 250 guests gathered to pay tribute to a man who won 17 caps for Wales and six for Great Britain during a career that took in three Wembley Challenge Cup finals for Widnes and 11 other finals for a team known as the ‘Cup Kings’.

“There were two firsts,” says Nicholas of the launch event. “One was the first round of applause I’ve ever had from a Widnes crowd, and the second was to get a handshake from Jim instead of a headbutt.”

Doug Laughton, who Mills played alongside at Widnes before the pair teamed up in the club’s coaching set-up, shares his own memories of Mills in the book’s foreword.

“As a rugby player Jim was a huge, very fit, fast, intelligent, tough forward who I never saw take a backward step. You would want Jim in your team anywhere, anytime,” says Laughton.

But it is an amusing tale that Laughton remembers that perhaps most sums up the reputation Mills carried during his illustrious and often notorious career.

“When tackle counts came into our game I was assistant coach to Frank Myler,” says Laughton. “One day Frank said to me: ‘Doug, big Jim has only done one tackle all game.’ I said to Frank: ‘Have a word with him,’ and Frank did.

“’Jim, you only made one tackle in all the game, what have you got to say?’ Looking Frank straight in the eye, Jim said: ‘Frank, would you run at me during a game?’ The team meeting ended in laughter as nobody in their right mind would run anywhere near big Jim.”

Big Jim is an entertaining read for fans who remember a bygone era in rugby league, spreading light on one of the sport’s biggest personalities of the time.

Now approaching 70, he still enjoys watching rugby league. And as authors Peter Lush and Maurice Bamford put it, “at least now if he is heading along the M62 towards Leeds, it is usually for a social occasion or to watch a match, and not to try to explain to the disciplinary committee why he got his retaliation in first.”

Buy Now


Big Jim: Jim Mills – A Rugby Giant, by Peter Lush and Maurice Bamford, is available now. ISBN 978-1903659700, published by London League Publications. Buy now and save on the cover price. This title is also available in Kindle edition.

REVIEW: Heading For The Line, by Michael Miles

headingforthelineMichael Miles only started watching rugby league three years ago when London’s Evening Standard ran a promotion offering free tickets to watch Harlequins (as they were then), but he has now produced what must rank as one of the definitive guides to rugby league grounds across the UK.

Heading For The Line gives any travelling fan everything they need for any away day. Each professional and semi-professional club is covered, so whether you’re heading to the DW Stadium or the Prince of Wales Stadium, everything is at your fingertips.

Want to know the best route to the Keepmoat Stadium? Miles has got it covered. How about disabled access at the Stade Gilbert Brutus? Check. Fancy a pint at Workington, a visit to the club shop at York or the best bus to get to Hull KR? It’s all here, packed into 120 pages of anorak heaven.

There are also sections covering World Cup venues, the National Conference, Armed Services – and even a brief look at Australia’s NRL grounds.

Miles writes: “The aim of this book is simple. It is to provide the travelling rugby league fan access to all the information they need to get the maximum out of their rugby travels.” Mission accomplished.

Buy Now

Heading For The Line
, by Michael Miles, is available now. ISBN 978-1903659670, published by London League Publications. Buy now and save on the cover price. This title is also available in Kindle edition.


REVIEW: In Full Bloem, by Jamie Bloem and Andrew Hardcastle

Jamie BloemJamie Bloem is standing in a corridor in the bowels of the Halliwell Jones Stadium, coffee in hand, preparing to commentate on one of the coldest matches Super League has ever witnessed.

Twenty years ago, he had not heard of rugby league. Now, after a rollercoaster career, he is a former international player, a current BBC pundit and a Championship One referee – and that’s without touching on any of the controversies.

As a player, Bloem was a polarising figure. But with the release of Andrew Hardcastle’s biography In Full Bloem, the public is being given a chance to see Bloem in a different light.

“London League Publications got hold of me, said they wanted to do a book on me and asked if I’d be interested,” he explains. “We’d already done a book in the past with Steve Deane, but that wasn’t really what I wanted it to be. Peter put me in touch with Andrew Hardcastle, and we met every Monday for 14 or 15 months.

“I wanted to be part of it. I wanted it to be about me, not about what people think about me. The way I was on the field is not the way I am off the field. I’m a family man and I wanted that to be put across – and I’m really pleased with the end result. It’s everything I wanted it to be.”

In Full Bloem is not a long book, but his story is utterly remarkable. Say his name on the terraces at most rugby league grounds across the country and even now, 19 years on, there are two words that are likely to come back: drugs cheat.

“I don’t regret anything I’ve done in my life. Every part of your life, no matter how good or bad it is, makes you the person you are today. My daughter’s nine and my son’s 15, and I’ve made them read the book. They needed to read every single part of it. They never knew about the steroid stuff – it was way before they were born – so I’ve made them read the book and ask me questions.

“When I got banned in 1994 my wife and I had only just met. I said to her then if she wanted to go, she could go – but she stuck by me. For two years the only salary we had was hers, which was £580 a month. That’s all we had. We had to pay rent and live off that. When you do that, you learn the value of money and the value of your relationship.

“We became so close over those two years that our bond became stronger than anything else. Do I regret taking steroids? No I don’t, because if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have been with my wife right now. I’d have probably been one of the idiots running about like other rugby players do, doing stupid things.

“Instead I became very grounded and when I got signed on at Widnes 18 months into my ban, I really appreciated what I’d got. People often say, ‘do you regret it?’ I don’t regret it one bit.”

Bloem is clearly at peace with his past. One of the book’s more remarkable tales is his flirtation with American Football while banned from rugby league, with only his determination to succeed in the 13-man game preventing a professional career.

“London Monarchs offered me a contract after about three or four weeks of playing with London Olympians. It was £500 a week, and £5,000 a game, which was a lot of money for me. I was quite keen, but they wanted me to move to London so I could train most days.

“It’s a totally different game; it looks like it’s slow, but the collisions are a lot more strenuous, especially on your knees. They use their helmets to dive at your knees, instead of tackling you, and I could just imagine my career not lasting very long. One hit on the side of your knee, and it’s gone.

“My wife and I sat down and sat ourselves some goals. I wanted to come back to rugby and prove to people I wasn’t the player I was because of steroids. I wanted to play international rugby again. I wanted to play Super League. In doing all of that, I couldn’t afford to get injured playing American Football – even though the money would have been great.”

He now runs a landscaping business alongside his refereeing and commentating commitments. “I’m doing Championship One games this year and I’m hoping to progress through that. I’m really happy. I’m not refereeing for money, I’m refereeing because I enjoy it.

“I could have done media work and earned the same money as I do from refereeing, but I chose to referee and I do it because I enjoy it. I don’t mind going to Hemel, Gloucester, Oxford or Gateshead – I just love being part of it and giving a little bit back.”

Buy Now


In Full Bloem, by Jamie Bloem and Andrew Hardcastle, is available now. ISBN 978-1903659656, published by London League Publications. Buy now and save on the cover price.

This review first appeared in the April 2013 issue of Forty-20 magazine.

NEWS: Chisnall brothers story set for emotional Langtree Park launch

Balls Gloves and GloryEric Chisnall, Mike Rush and boxer Martin Murray are among the guests set to celebrate the launch of Andrew Quirke’s new book, Balls, Gloves and Glory, on Saturday 2 March.

The book tells the tale of the four Chisnall brothers – Eric, Dave, Les and John – and is Quirke’s first biography, having previously worked on the autobiographies of Paul Loughlin, Graeme West and Doug Laughton.

Dave, who died aged 64 in January 2013, was best known for his spells at Warrington, Leigh and St Helens.

Les won the Challenge Cup with Leigh, while John, who died in 2005, was a professional boxer before becoming a boxing trainer who helped develop Murray during his early days.

Eric is a member of St Helens’ Hall of Fame, having been with the club for 45 years in playing, coaching and development roles.

Quirke said: “We’re starting at 11am in the Red Vee cafe at Langtree Park. Eric will say a few words and then sign any books.

“It’s a more poignant day because of Dave’s recent passing, but hopefully the book is something for his children and grandchildren. He’ll never be forgotten – hopefully this will help to keep his memory alive.”

Quirke added: “It was a challenge trying to tell four people’s stories and not make it too confusing for the reader, but hopefully we’ve cracked it.

“I’m really proud of how it’s turned out. I’ve got a lot of emotion attached to the book and I’m looking forward to celebrating it on Saturday.”

Order Balls, Gloves and Glory online here