REVIEW: Robbie Rugby Warrior: The Autobiography, by Robbie Hunter-Paul

Robbie Hunter-Paul was always a little different. Part of his appeal was that you never knew – and often got the impression he didn’t either – what was coming next. In an era when Super League was establishing itself and part-time players were getting used to life as full-time professionals, Robbie was the fast-talking, hot-footed star who always did something, anything, to catch the eye.

Robbie Rugby Warrior follows the same mould. Not content with a traditional autobiography, the former Bradford scrum-half has, at the end of each chapter, included his guide to life as a professional athlete. Whether it’s a concept that works is going to differ from reader to reader. Younger readers, perhaps still dreaming of their own rugby league careers, will soak it up. Older readers might be forgiven for skipping to the start of the next chapter, where it’s back to the rugby and life as one of the sport’s leading figures.

And it’s there, in the thick of the action, where Robbie Rugby Warrior comes into its own. Hunter-Paul, or plain old simple Paul as he was back then, starts with a bang: the moment he claimed his place in rugby league history as the first man to score three tries in a Wembley Challenge Cup final.

“Get it down, just get the thing down. Brain’s whirring. I’m at full tilt. It’s for the hat-trick, I know that… I’m nearly there. Rather than slide and get grass burns, I roll. It’s as I come up, fist pumping, that it hits me with a blinding force. A wall of 30,000 Bradford Bulls fans losing their minds… for that one fleeting, glorious moment, I knew just how it felt to be a rock star.”

Hunter-Paul worked tirelessly with ghostwriter Chris Irvine of The Times to produce a book that is both energetic and considered. He had his scrapes, which he talks about in detail, but he will be remembered as Super League’s leading light during its formative years.

There are touching moments too, with a tale involving Bernard Dwyer highlighting Bradford’s determination to succeed at all costs. Dwyer had already injured one arm, before things got particularly difficult.

“He went into a tackle and tore the other bicep. Both his arms hung limp, but like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there was a staunch refusal in him to give up. Matty Elliott showed us the footage the following day… (he) put the video in slow motion mode, which showed the moment Bernard tore his other bicep. ‘Watch what he does,’ Matty said. ‘He gets back and launches at them with his head. The guy’s career has finished in that moment, but he didn’t come off until we got the ball back.’ For everyone who witnessed that footage it became the stuff of legend.”

This isn’t a Sean Long-style confessional, but it’s far from dry and there are plenty of hidden secrets, some of them dark, that Hunter-Paul does reveal. Robbie Rugby Warrior is a worthy addition to any rugby league bookshelf.

Robbie Rugby Warrior: The Autobiography, by Robbie Hunter-Paul, is available now. ISBN 978-1905080106, published by Great Northern Books. Buy now and save on the cover price. Kindle Edition also available by clicking here.

FEATURE: Five Bradford rugby league books

Iestyn Harris - There And Back

Iestyn Harris - There And Back

Bradford Bulls – or Bradford Northern, for readers of a certain age – is one of the most famous clubs in British rugby league.

Some of the game’s greatest players, including the likes of Ellery Hanley, have worn the red, white and black with distinction.

Two modern day Bulls have written autobiographies that are bound to be of interest for both Bradford fans and rugby league aficionados with a wider interest.

Iestyn Harris never reached his previous rugby league heights when he returned to Odsal from Welsh rugby union. Harris had been a superstar during his early years at Warrington and Leeds, and Bulls fans had big hopes for the talented stand-off.

But Harris’ timing was unfortunate, joining the club at the start of its recent decline. Nevertheless, while at the Bulls he won the Super League Grand Final in 2005, the World Club Challenge in 2006, and remained one of Bradford’s most reliable performers even when the efforts of his team-mates were not on the same level. His book, Iestyn Harris: There and Back, charts his cross-code career in revealing detail.

Odsal Odysseys - The History of Bradford Rugby League

Odsal Odysseys - The History of Bradford Rugby League

Terry Newton played alongside Harris at the Bulls. His book, Coming Clean, details his own career and subsequent fall from grace when he tested positive for human Growth Hormone (hGH) during his time at Wakefield. (See our full review of Coming Clean here.)

There’s also plenty out there for those looking for some Bradford nostalgia. Bradford Rugby League (Archive Photographs: Images of Sport) is 128 pages’ worth of fascinating photography, while Odsal Odysseys: The History of Bradford Rugby League brings the club’s history to life.

And no Bradford history would be complete without mention of Trevor Foster, arguably the club’s greatest ever servant. Trevor Foster: The Life of a Rugby League Legend would be a welcome addition to any rugby league bookshelf.

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…]