Tony Hannan will launch his eagerly awaited book “UNDERDOGS” in The Ron Earnshaw Lounge at the club on Wednesday 17th May……….

“Every tale needs characters and Batley RLFC has plenty. It was certainly that way in 2016, when I spent a remarkable year behind the scenes with the club, researching my new book Underdogs.

Having only narrowly escaped relegation the year before, the season was always likely to be eventful. No one could have predicted just how eventful, both for the Gallant Youths and the town itself.

Well, at last the book is written and published and hopefully about to rip into the world with the force of a Tom Lillycrop hit-up!

Launch night is Wednesday 17 May (kick off 7.00pm) – in Ron’s Lounge at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium – and everyone is welcome. Most if not all of the ‘underdogs’ will be there, including John Kear and Keegan Hirst, along with other rugby league media personalities.

We’ll have hardback copies of Underdogs available for sale (RRP £18.99) fresh off the press a day before anywhere else, or £20 will get you a signed copy, one free beer and a pie and pea supper. MC for the evening is chairman Kevin Nicholas (who else?), entry is free and it should be an enjoyable night. Hope to see you there.

Having spent around a quarter of a century in rugby league journalism, I’ve long wanted to write a book about the realities of life at Championship level. To get in and among the clubs who, once upon a time, may have been giants but who, since the advent of Super League, have struggled for crowds, profile and proper appreciation.

But which club to choose?

I grew up in Wibsey, Bradford, not far from Odsal stadium. I played amateur rugby at the same club Dom Brambani began at as a junior, although it was a different code in those days and, as wise and venerable as he is now, I’m not sure Dom was even born then.

So the Bulls would have been the obvious choice, yet somehow didn’t seem right. They weren’t your usual Championship club, were they? Although they are an excellent warning that being top of the tree today is no guarantee you’ll be there tomorrow.

No, it really had to be Batley. Initial members of the Northern Union – alphabetically the very first in fact; original winners of the Challenge Cup; one of four clubs still on their 1895 plot … and then a story of struggle, survival and occasional glory days since.

Batley has a fascinating history, but what about its present and, indeed, future? The club, I reckoned, would be an excellent ‘case study’ that might shed light on the current state of rugby league as a whole, especially with the arrival of the Super 8s and ‘new era’.

And that’s exactly what it did do, all those great characters such as chairman Kev (who ought to be in comedy), inspirational JK, celebrity skipper Keegs and a supporting cast including kit man Johnny Potts, touch-finding ace Ainy, crowd favourite Reitts, the inimitable James Brown, OAP ‘Breth’, physio Carl, Barbara, Nellie and loads of equally entertaining and impressive personalities peppering a rugby league book intended to read like no other.

The other well-known thing about Batley is what a welcoming place it is – I doubt I would have been given such open access at any other club in this or any other sport. Nowhere, apart from the pitch on matchday (thank goodness) was out of bounds … bench … team bus … changing room before, at half-time and after …

Yes, 2016 was an amazing year and a memorable campaign. It was a privilege to be there and record it all for posterity.”

Tony Hannan.