Tony Hannan’s Underdogs is the inspirational true story of a group of part-time rugby league players punching above their weight.
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Having only narrowly avoided the disaster of relegation in 2015, expectations were suitably subdued as the Batley Bulldogs approached the new Kingstone Press Championship campaign.
One of the founder clubs of the Rugby League but with a barren recent history, their dream was to match and beat professional opponents, but their reality was a battle to survive as an amateur team – rugby league is a punishing sport, but especially so when you’ve just come off a building site.
Yet what followed for everyone associated with the Bulldogs was the most incredible season ever, and a year that would leave an indelible mark on the West Yorkshire mill town.
Led by their inspirational captain Keegan Hirst – himself the centre of a media story as the only active rugby league player to have come out as gay – brilliant coach John Kear and straight-talking chairman Kevin Nicholas, Batley set out to prove that they had both bark and bite.
Underdogs author Tony Hannan was given unprecedented access to every square inch of the club. From each punishing training sessions, changing room huddle, raw action and brutal post-match analysis to the personal struggles of players and staff both on and off the field, he takes readers to the very heart of the unglamorous and gritty world of part-time sport.
Yet Underdogs is not just a book about Batley, or about rugby league. In a year that saw the tragic murder of local MP Jo Cox, a great supporter of the club and the game, it is also the story of northern working-class culture, of community and pride, and a report from the front line of a society trying to find its identity in an ever-changing world.