When push comes to shove

I’m sitting here watching Sky‘s coverage of what is currently called the Co-operative Championship. It’s from Barrow – in many ways the ultimate rugby league ‘destination’.

Barrow these days are called Barrow Raiders – a hangover from when they ‘merged’ with Carlisle Border Raiders in the mid 90s during rugby league’s darkest days. A time of mergers, closures and the second rugby schism caused by Super League (the first schism, in 1895, led to the split with rugby union). The “amateur” code was going pro just as Super League was tearing the thirteen man game apart.

And as I sit here I’ve just dug out a book from 1993 – When Push Comes to Shove. It has the subtitle: Rugby League – The People’s Game.

It’s been years since I looked at it but I’m pleased to see that my memory hasn’t played me false. This is a wonderful book – the text is occasionally a bit trite but it’s always heartfelt. It’s the pictures though – grainy black and white in the British tradition – that make the book.

Warm, tough and uncompromising. They reflect both the game and the people who are devoted to it. Castleford players walk off in harsh contrast presumably following a defeat, two fans look out of place in startled conversation at Wembley Park, a referee tries to look convincing as he gives a call, an old man cheers at the front of the crowd — maybe we’re moving into stereotypes but this is a book well worth discovering.

It’s out of print I believe but the ISBN is 094778098x.

Find it. Love it.

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