The People’s Game
In difficult times like this, we often look to sports for an escape. Rugby League, more than most sports, remains at the centre of economic and social life for many towns across the north of England. And while we all acknowledge that our health must come first, there will be many people who now feel at a loss without the game.
If you have access to Sky Sports they are showing classic games over the next few weeks, starting with PSG V Sheffield from 1996. Wigan are offering a free months trial to Wigan TV, while Halifax are uploading old matches online . The OurLeague app has also opened up its archives.
In addition to this, I have put together a complete guide to the great documentaries, dramas and classic matches that are freely available on YouTube and other streaming services. I will keep adding to this over the next few months. Thanks to League historians – such as Wigan Rugby League Matches, Diddididi, NZRugbyLeagueVids– there is an extensive archive that we can now draw upon.
The next few months will be particularly tough for those who are older and socially isolated at home. Perhaps you could watch a classic match virtually with a parent/grandparent and discuss memories of it to keep them engaged.
So please share this list with family and friends and contact me for further book, video and podcast recommendations.
Hopefully, we can be back on the terraces – fit and healthy – soon.
Another Bloody Sunday (1981)
A unique insight into running the world’s worst rugby league team. Set in Doncaster as Thatcher took control of British industry, this documentary remains the gold standard for the sport
‘A stony-faced Tom Morton, General Manager of Doncaster Rugby League team, has just received a copy of the Guinness Book of Records. His team now has an entry for most games without a win. What follows in Barry Cockcroft’s wonderful portrait of the club’s last four fixtures of the 1981 season is a mixture of the bleak, the poignant and the hilarious’
League v Union: The Game That Got Away (1969)
‘Filmmaker Roger Mills 1969 documentary captures the spirit of rugby league in the North of England and how the sport broke away from Rugby Union’
Rugby League: Up or Under? (1987)
A fascinating investigation into the future of Rugby League on the eve of the 1987 Challenge Cup Final. Harry Gration opens with an assessment:
‘A season of mixed fortunes for the game. Many of the top clubs have prospered but for those at the bottom it has been a fight for survival with strong predictions that some will go to the wall’.
Features debates on expansion, the need to modernise and make the sport economically viable. Interview with Maurice Lindsay who calls for the smaller clubs – such as the near-bankrupt Huffersfiedl – to match his ambitions.
Well worth a re-visit (although depressing that the arguments have not changed in over thirty years)
Time of Our Lives (2010)
Ellery. Chariots. Edwards. United again to discuss the great Wigan side of the late 80/90s that changed the sporting landscape.
A unique insight into their winning edge during the period.
Rugby League Raw (2001)
Before Amazon discovered Man City, Rugby League pioneered the fly on the wall sports documentary. In the early 2000s, a magazine show called Rugby League Raw was broadcast on the BBC
Fortunately, some old Rugby League Raw footage can still be found on YouTube.
Up and Under (1991)
A rare documentary on the great Wigan side of the early 1990s.
Featuring Maurice Lindsay in his pomp as he seeks to finalise a deal for Martin Offiah. Another great ‘fly on the wall’ documentary.
Up and Over
Legendary journalist Dave Hadfield takes a trek through the heartland of Rugby League.
101 Great Rugby League Tries (and a kick)
A classic video from the late 1980s that many League kids were brought up on. Features the greatest try’s from Billy Boston, Tom Van Vollenhoven, MalMeninga, Joe Lydon, Martin Offiah, Ellery Hanley, and Green Vigo….
The First Kangaroos (1988)
A drama of the Australian Rugby League’s first visit to England.
‘State Of Hate’: The story of the 1985 State Of Origin Series
Follow DanMarsky for his documentaries on numerous State Of Origin series.
Jimmy McGovern’s Moving On (2020)
A former rugby league legend is blackmailed by his ex-wife, who threatens to reveal a big secret if he doesn’t come up with the money to help her jailbird boyfriend.
Slamming Sam: The Sam Burgess Story
Classic Test Matches
Below is a list of classic test matches between Great Britain and Australia. Strong recommendation for people to re-visit the epic battles between 1982 and 1994.
Australia vs Great Britain (1957)
Great Britain v Australia (1960)
Great Britain v Australia (1967)
Australia v Great Britain (1968)
Great Britain v Australia (1972)
Australia vs Great Britain Games 1 2 3 1978
The Invincibles Tour (1982)
Great Britain v New Zealand (1980)
Great Britain v New Zealand (1985)
Great Britain v Australia (1986)
Australia v Great Britain (1988)
The 1990 Test Series
Great Britain vs Australia 1st Test 1990
2nd Test 1990
3rd Test 1990
Australia vs Wigan 1990 Kangaroo Tour
Australia v Great Britain (1992 – Melbourne)
RLWC Final 1992
Great Britain vs Australia 1st Test 1994
Wigan vs Australia 1994
England v Australia 1995
Great Britain v Australia 2003
Australia v Great Britain 2006
Australia v England (2017 World Cup Final)
Historic Challenge Cup Finals
Rugby League’s ‘Big Day Out’ has produced some of the greatest shocks in sporting history.
Below are some of the epic battles that are available online in full:
Highlights from the CC Finals of 1929 to 1946
1954 to 1959 highlights
Hunslet v Wigan 1965
Featherstone v Barrow 1967
Castleford v Salford 1969
Leigh v Leeds 1971
Leeds v St Helens 1972
Widnes v St Helens 1976
Featherstone v Hull 1982
Wigan v Hull 1985
Wigan v Halifax 1988
Wigan v Castleford 1992
Sheffield v Wigan 1998
Bradford v Leeds 2003
Hull v Leeds 2005
Old School Cup Comps
1968 Yorkshire Cup Final – Castleford v Leeds
1982 Yorkshire Cup Final – Bradford v Hull
1994 Regal Cup Trophy Castleford v Wigan
1996 Wigan v Bath Cross-Code Challenge
World Club Challenge
Wigan v Manly (1987)
Brisbane Broncos v Wigan (1994)