Underdogs - Keegan Hirst, Batley and a Year in the Life of a Rugby League Town Book

Underdogs - Keegan Hirst, Batley and a Year in the Life of a Rugby League Town Book

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**Shortlisted for the 2018 General Outstanding Sports Book of the Year**

One of the founder members in 1895 of what became the Rugby League, Batley was once a thriving centre of commerce, one of the bustling mill towns in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire. More than 120 years on, times have changed, even if the town's Victorian buildings remain, but one constant is the importance of the club as the centre of the community. And in 2016, the Batley Bulldogs brought more than their fair share of pride to the town. They were Underdogs, but gave their professional Super League rivals a run for their money in a season that surpassed all expectations.

Given unprecedented access to the team - players, staff and fans - Tony Hannan charts a fascinating year in the life of a lower-league club, of labourers spilling blood and guts on to Batley's notorious sloping pitch before getting bruised bodies up for work on a Monday morning, of hand-to-mouth existence at the unglamorous and gritty end of British sport. And at their centre is the Bulldogs captain Keegan Hirst, the first rugby league player to come out as gay, and inspirational coach John Kear, just two men in the most colourful cast of characters. It was also a year when the town was plunged into tragedy by the brutal murder of local MP Jo Cox, a great supporter of the club.

Underdogs is more than just a book about Batley though. It is the story of northern working-class culture, past and present, and a report from the front-line of a society struggling to find its identity in a changing world.
Recounting a year with Batley, Hannan's aim was to evoke a venerable, small-'scale sporting institution in relation to the town around it... but its appeal should extend well beyond league fans. Groundbreaking'
Guardian's best books of 2017

'A compelling story... Underdogs is a fascinating account of life outside of the rugby league spotlight and gets beneath the skin of the club, town and sport in a way that's not been done before. Readers won't need to be a fan of Batley or even rugby league to enjoy this. It is a must-read.'
Yorkshire Evening Post

'Tremendous. I felt I was there, battling with the underdogs against the Championship's big-hitters. It's like Friday Night Lights in West Riding rather than west Texas. Underdogs is a social study of a town as much as a sports book, George Orwell meets George Williams.'
Gavin Willacy ― The Guardian

Author Tony Hannan
Format Paperback
Pages 432
ISBN 9780857503534

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