Rugby League: Books for Christmas: Heretics roast old chestnuts: Dave Hadfield finds old battles still being disputed among the pages of this year's rugby league reading

THERE is little doubt which book the zealots of the traditional school of rugby league history will be roasting their chestnuts upon this year.

The Rugby League Myth by Michael Latham and Tom Mather (Mike RL Publications, pounds 8.99) is a prime candidate for book-burning because of the heretical frontal assault it makes on the game's assumptions about its origins.

In the course of researching a work that was intended to be about the minor clubs that split from the Union and, in most cases, died around the turn of the century, the authors unearthed evidence that the old chestnut about honest working men setting up their own game because the effete Southerners would not allow broken-time payments is just an attractive folk- tale.

The way they tell it, the breakaway clubs merely wanted more autonomy from their county unions and never intended to resign from the Rugby Union as such.

I predict that this version - part accident, part 'stuff you' pragmatism in the mould of football's Premier League - will never displace the heroic revolt model.

The histories of the largely doomed clubs which joined the split are fascinating, though, and full of contemporary resonances.

The first volume of Trevor Delaney's major work on the same subject, Rugby Disunion, is actually entitled Broken Time ( pounds 14.95, self- published). Although I have not had time for a detailed reading, it is clear that he sees such payments as a key issue, certainly in the events leading up to the split.

The sport's most successful book of the year must be When Push Comes to Shove (Yorkshire Arts Circus, pounds 9.95) and deservedly so.

This collection of atmospheric photographs and pungent anecdotes is the British game's first out- and-out coffee-table book.

For the first couple of months of dipping and browsing, I was inclined to regard it as an unmixed blessing; now the diet of unrelenting fundamentalist cloth-cappery has started to pall just a little. Don't try to convince any of this book's prime movers that the game owes its existence to a mistake, for heaven's sake.

The Stones Bitter Rugby League Yearbook (Hamlyn, pounds 9.99) is not only a very good read, it also produced by far the best pre-publication adventures. After being printed in Spain, it was loaded into a lorry to be driven to England, only for it to be intercepted by irate French farmers who thought that it could be a heavily disguised cargo of cut-price Spanish lamb.

I've checked my copy for the pitchfork marks that would authenticate this story, but there are no holes in the format. Expanded from its previous incarnation under the British Coal banner, it now includes a section on each club and a series of retrospectives on 10 memorable matches of last season, as well as the usual essays on each competition and each international aspect of the game.

The Rothmans Rugby League Yearbook (Headline, pounds 14.99) was not attacked by rioting French peasants, but its genesis this year must have been equally fraught with problems, if only because it chose to delve into one of the darkest recesses of the game.

As well as a timely section on South Africa, the authors tried, for the first time, to include dates of birth of all active - and some relatively inactive - players. This is the sort of information players have traditionally taken to the grave - or to Headingley - with them, but, in all but a few cases, the truth has been wheedled out.

If anyone can put a date to Alan Kimaingatau or Adrian Why of London Crusaders first seeing the light of day, the careful compilers, Raymond Fletcher and David Howes, are waiting for a postcard from you.

Garry Schofield (born 1 July 1965) has produced a yearbook of his own. It is his fortune and misfortune that Garry Schofield's Season's Diary 1992-93 (Pemtland Press, pounds 8.99) deals with what, in many ways, must have been the most frustrating season of his career.

It is as revealing as can reasonably be expected on the personality clashes that frequently make Leeds a more entertaining club off the field than on it, even if there is sometimes a hint of whitewash in the air.

It is tempting to describe Offiah: A Blaze of Glory by David Lawrenson (Methuen, pounds 12.99) as a quick read. Certainly, it makes little attempt to probe the psyche of a rather complicated person; Offiah reveals as much about himself as he chooses to, no more.

Still, the basic story is good enough to carry a book and Lawrenson's following of the trail to school in Suffolk and to early rugby union days in London is thorough and readable.

Elsewhere in the player biography section of the industry, it is the Australians who have kept the wheels turning. Three recent luminaries - Benny Elias, Michael O'Connor and Brett Kenny - tell their stories or have them told for them in Balmain Benny (Ironbark), The Best of Both Worlds by Bret Harris (Sun) and The Natural (Ironbark, all pounds 13.95 from Open Rugby).

Elias has the most scandal to recount, O'Connor throws light on the bitterness that can still follow a change of codes - his own father hardly spoke to him for years - and Kenny is full of good advice on being laid-back.

Sadly, the most intriguing biog of the lot - Thomas Keneally's on Des Hasler - appears to be out of print already. A reprint is being considered and it would be engrossing to see how a Booker Prize winning novelist - for Schindler's Ark in 1982, just as Hasler was starting out with Keneally's beloved Penrith - handles an often-derided literary form.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable