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Scratching Shed Publishing

Rugby League Classics

Strike! The Tour That Died of Shame

 
By John Coffey
Strike! The Tour that Died of Shame is the sixth in Scratching Shed Publishing’s critically-acclaimed Rugby League Classics series.
The 1926-27 New Zealand ‘All Blacks’ rugby league tour of Great Britain was the most tempestuous sporting venture of all time and led to seven of the players being disqualified for life on their return home.
Set against the backdrop of a financially crippling miners’ strike, the ‘guilty’ tourists rebelled against their controversial coach, an Australian who himself was suspended for part of the tour by English authorities.
Nineteen loyal players were left to carry on bravely against overwhelming odds in the midst of a harsh English winter, some of them backing up for as many as fifteen consecutive matches.
Strike! The Tour that Died of Shame is that story. It is a tale of hardship and heroism, courage and cover-up, examined in depth for the very first time. It is an investigation of what went wrong with a tour that promised so much. It seeks to establish who – if anyone – was really to blame. And it is a fascinating slice of sporting social history whose reverberations continue to be felt to this day.
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John Coffey is New Zealand’s most experienced rugby league writer, having covered more than 100 Test matches during 44 years with The Press newspaper in Christchurch and as a touring New Zealand Press Association correspondent. His previous books have included Canterbury XIII (1987), Modern Rugby League Greats (1991), Being Frank, the Frank Endacott Story (2002), and major publications to mark the centenaries of the Kiwis (2007), New Zealand Maori Rugby League (2008) and Auckland Rugby League (2009).

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The Great Ones & Other Writings (1969)

By Eddie Waring
With a brand new introduction by Harry Edgar

Eddie Waring’s The Great Ones & Other Writings is the fifth book in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics range and a real eye-opener for those who think they know the one-time BBC rugby league commentator. First published in 1969, the original Great Ones has assumed almost mythical status among followers of the 13-a-side code. This updated edition also includes Waring’s rare 1946 Indomitables Tour diary, first published in 1947. This is a must-have volume for every fan of rugby league. Paperback, 320 pages.

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The fifth and latest book in Scratching Shed Publishing’s Rugby League Classics range is Eddie Waring’s The Great Ones and Other Writings. First published in 1969, the original Great Ones has assumed almost mythical status among followers of the 13-a-side football code thanks, in large part, to its rarity. The book is Waring’s personal take on some of the greatest rugby league players of all time, all of it written in his own idiosyncratic and entertaining style. Also included in this new edition is Waring’s highly readable account of the 1946 Indomitables Tour of Australia and New Zealand, along with assorted other writings from various publications which reveal that there was much more to this legendary broadcaster than met the eye – and ear! Rebranded as part of the Rugby League Classics range, this fifth book in a popular series also comes complete with a brand new introduction by esteemed rugby league writer Harry Edgar and an afterword by Eddie’s son, Tony Waring.

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XIII Winters, XIII Worlds (1994 & 1996)

By Dave Hadfield

The fourth in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics series and published in a single volume for the very first time, XIII Worlds, XIII Winters represents a high-water mark in the development of quality rugby league literature. The book comes complete with a brand new introduction, penned by its editor, the renowned rugby league writer, journalist and broadcaster Dave Hadfield. Paperback, 496 pages. Free postage & packing.

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The idea for XIII Winters, as its editor, Dave Hadfield, freely admitted upon its original publication, was pinched from Nick Hornby’s My Favourite Year – with which it had one contributor in common. Hornby’s tome was a collection of essays by writers and fans about a favourite year following their favourite football team. In XIII Winters, Dave Hadfield set out to do the very same thing with rugby league and succeeded absolutely. Published by Mainstream in association with Open Rugby magazine, XIII Winters boasted chapters by the likes of Harry Edgar, Martin and Simon Kelner, Huw Richards, and the soon-to-be Rugby Football League boss Neil Tunnicliffe, among others. Its writers may not have realised it at the time but, in the mid-1990s, when a switch to summer was just around the corner, rugby league’s long-standing association with the depths of the English winter would soon be lost, presumably forever. Indeed, such was the chord struck by XIII Winters that Hadfield & Co followed it up with XIII Worlds, an equally lively celebration of rugby league’s often maligned international dimension. Although not as big a seller as its predecessor, subsequent events and the passing of the years have rendered this entertaining, witty and often overlooked collection worthy of reappraisal. So here they are – brought together for the first time in a single volume as part of the Rugby League Classics series. Complete with a brand new introduction, penned by Dave Hadfield himself, XIII Worlds, XIII Winters represents a clear high-water mark in the development of quality rugby league literature.

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Glory In The Centre Spot (1966)

By Eric Ashton
With a new introduction by BBC commentator Ray French

Eric Ashton was the epitome of a rugby league hero. Had he bestridden the American Wild West rather than the mean Lancastrian streets of Wigan and St Helens – those deadly rival towns whom he managed otherwise to unite in mutual respect for his sporting prowess – the lean, tall and taciturn Ashton would have made the ideal gunslinger. Glory In The Centre Spot is his autobiography, first published in 1966 and until now long out of print, rebranded as the third book in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics series. Paperback, 216 pages.

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A gentleman to his bootstraps, Eric Ashton was renowned for fighting fair and with flair. Blessed with matinee idol looks, he despatched opponents with consumate and deadly skill; in his case via a perfectly-judged hand-off or bewildering scissor-move pass. In Glory In The Centre Spot, his autobiography, first published in 1966 and until now long out of print, the man himself reveals how, after being turned down by his beloved hometown Saints, he went on to form a devastating threequarter partnership with Welsh wing wizard Billy Boston at Wigan’s Central Park. After arriving in 1955, Ashton would captain Wigan for twelve seasons – and win three Challenge Cups among a host of other domestic honours. He captained Great Britain and earned twenty-six caps in an era when the Lions were a powerful international force. Indeed, he led Great Britain to World Cup victory in 1960 and went on the victorious 1958 and 1962 tours of Australia, latterly as captain. Here, in the third in a series of republished Rugby League Classics, his story is retold, accompanied this time by a brand new introduction from BBC commentator Ray French, Ashton’s long-time friend and colleague. An array of photographs and assorted appendices are also included, along with an afterword in which a successful future coaching career and fifteen subsequent years on the board of St Helens are outlined. Eric Ashton MBE died, aged 73, in March 2008. Glory In The Centre Spot is a fitting monument to a man who brought style and grace to the toughest team sport on the planet.

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Rugby Renegade (1958)

by Gus Risman
with a new introduction by Tony Collins

“Many people in Wales refuse to recognise the right of any man to capitalise his talents. To hear them talk you would think that as young Augustus John Risman played in the streets of Tiger Bay, Cardiff, he was dreaming of turning professional…” Such were the words of Welsh rugby legend Gus Risman in this, the first rugby league autobiography ever written and, appropriately enough, the first book in Scratching Shed’s Rugby League Classics series. Paperback, 256 pages.

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“Many people in Wales refuse to recognise the right of any man to capitalise his talents. To hear them talk you would think that as young Augustus John Risman played in the streets of Tiger Bay, Cardiff, he was dreaming of turning professional…” So begins Rugby Renegade, one of the very first autobiographies of any Rugby League star ever written. First published in 1958, Gus Risman’s seminal sporting work long ago went out of print, until rescued by Scratching Shed Publishing Limited as the ideal book with which to open our new series of Rugby League Classics. At the time of writing, Gus Risman’s legendary playing days with Salford, Workington and Great Britain were well behind him. As player-manager of Workington Town, he had led the Cumbrian outpost club to Championship and Challenge Cup glory, and was now embarked upon a new management career at the Willows. In Rugby Renegade, Risman relates a never less than eventful personal story while, in the process, sharing his lively opinions on the current state of rugby league in the late 1950s, and the direction in which he saw the game headed. Along with the original text, this updated edition of Rugby Renegade also contains a brand new introduction written by esteemed rugby league academic Professor Tony Collins; a bonus reprint of How To Play Rugby League Football, Risman’s contribution to the Foulsham’s Sports Library series published in 1938, nowadays almost impossible to find; and the modern-day recollections of Gus’s son, John Risman.

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