NEW BOOK | SEAN FAGAN
Posted: 21.11.2013 – “THE FIRST LIONS OF RUGBY” – [See all books]
“The tour and the treatment of the players, many of whom were from clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire, was the trigger that opened a rift so wide, that it led to the founding of rugby league.”
The first British Lions & their barnstorming rugby & Aussie rules playing tour of Australia of 1888.
“The First Lions of Rugby”
To purchase at the discounted price of $25 & free postage (Australia) at checkout enter code: BritishLions
“With a captain from one of rugby league’s founding clubs, a majority of Northern Englishmen in the team, and a reputation for being rebels, the 1888 British touring side deserves to be remembered as the forerunner of the famous Great Britain rugby league tourists.”
— Tony Collins, English RL historian/author
“A magnificent read.”
— John Gibbs, 2UE Sports Today
THE captivating story of the first British Lions and their history-making tour of Australia and New Zealand. An epic eight month, 54-games expedition of high drama and adventure in the era of Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne and Jack the Ripper.
Unsanctioned, organised by private speculators, the team assembled in the face of draconian rules against professionalism and zealous officials determined to throttle the playing career of anyone preparing to take part (and, in one cruel case, doing exactly that).
The tour and the treatment of the players, many of whom were from clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire, was the trigger that opened a rift so wide, that it led to the founding of rugby league – 14 of the 22 players were from the Northern rugby clubs that began the new code, names well-familiar to any rugby league fan, including Swinton, Salford, Rochdale, Batley, Halifax and Dewsbury.
Travelling by steam-powered ships and trains, horse-drawn carriages accompanied by brass bands and vast crowds, feted and banqueted at every turn; they were 22 young footballers who knew how to enjoy life, and who could handle a horse and shoot a rifle as well as they played rugby.
In often torrid battles they met the best rugby teams of NSW, Queensland and New Zealand. Claims the team were involved in match-fixing and excessive drinking were raised in newspapers.
They then turned their prodigious football talents to Australian Rules, taking on the top clubs of Melbourne & Adelaide (including five now AFL clubs), and stepping into the middle of a ‘code war’ for national ascendancy. Could they master the Australian game?
Amidst it all the first Lions were to suffer personal torment and sorrow. Two of the party later committed suicide, another died alone, a victim of alcoholism; sad postscripts in the wake of a shocking tragedy during the tour – so cataclysmic and so heartbreaking, it is a wonder the men could go on at all.
But they did…and in time gained pride of place as having been both trail-blazers and visionaries, a stoic lot who overcame adversity to lay down the foundation of a wonderful sporting tradition in both rugby codes – the rare but special event of a British Lions tour.
Renowned historian Sean Fagan tells a thrilling story in these pages – one that is based on hundreds of hours of research of archives in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, during which he meticulously uncovered the lost tale of a band of rugby missionaries of so long ago.
“Superbly written and brilliantly researched, ‘The First Lions of Rugby’ is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of rugby, rugby league and AFL. It is simply the best book about a football tour ever-written.” — Tony Collins, English RL historian/author
“A fascinating account and vital historical record.” — Forty-20 magazine
“Fagan has a reputation for doing meticulous research and then presenting it in an entertaining style.” —The Daily Telegraph
30% OFF + FREE DELIVERY!!!
To purchase at the discounted price of $25 & free postage (Australia) visit the publisher’s page & just below the book cover click on the shopping cart symbol. In the checkout enter code: BritishLions
Postage costs from Australia are unfortunately high – best price (book + overseas shipping) we have seen is ABC Shop UK£32; US$49.
Sean Fagan media interviews (June/July 2013) discussing “The First Lions of Rugby” included Fox Sports News Ch513, ABC tv News 24 (Breakfast), 2UE Sports Today with Gibbsy & Brandy, Grandstand Breakfast ABC digital [listen], ABC Grandstand (NSW), 4BC Sports Today [listen].
In print: The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, Guardian (UK), Courier Mail, Herald Sun, The Age, ESPNScrum, AFL Record and The Roar.
Media updates page: facebook.com/Lions1888