REVIEW: 20 Legends: Castleford Rugby League, by Phil Hodgson

Neil Barraclough

We’ve all got them, locked away in the back of our mind somewhere.

Those misty-eyed memories from way back when, catching the rugby league bug and watching open-mouthed as our childhood heroes produced something in the heat of battle that we’d never even imagined.

Twenty Legends: Castleford Rugby League is a celebration of a group of players who’ve had that effect for generations of Tigers fans.

Starting back in the 1930s with Challenge Cup winning captain Arthur Atkinson, and coming right through to the present day and a certain tattoo-loving member of the club’s current squad, author Phil Hodgson picks out 20 players he believes can be fairly labelled as Castleford legends.

Not all of them have won trophies with the club. Not all of them would be automatic picks if fans of other rugby league clubs had been asked to list their top 20 Castleford players. But Hodgson argues convincingly that all of them have left a lasting impression on a club that continues to be the beating heart of its local community.

A high-quality hardback, Hodgson’s hours of research reflect just as well as the production values that have gone into this must-read for any Tigers fan.

There are flashes that illuminate the human side of each of the players selected, like the nugget that Tawera Nikau “could regularly be seen rummaging around in charity shops in Castleford town centre as he adapted quickly to the mindset of residents of the homespun Yorkshire town”.

Then there are passages devoted entirely to the contribution and on-field achievements of the men highlighted.

On Dean Sampson, Hodgson writes:

“The barnstorming prop, at his peak, gave the impression of being close to unstoppable and while that was not quite the case, it invariably took a posse of defenders to halt his charge – leaving space out wide, at the subsequent play-the-ball, for the threequarters, which was invariably exploited to the full.”

Publishers Vertical Editions need praising for their decision to take on this title. They have been rewarded by Hodgson’s efforts with an exhaustive record of Castleford’s finest players that will stir up memories for some and leave younger readers wondering what they missed out on.

Twenty Legends: Castleford Rugby League, by Phil Hodgson, is out now. ISBN 978-1904091400, published by Vertical Editions. It is available to buy here.