The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Sunday, 3 June 2012

There and Back by Iestyn Harris

By the time he arrived at Featherstone, Iestyn Harris had already achieved world stardom in both Rugby League and Rugby Union, and had already written his autobiography. Most players wait until they retire before putting together their memoirs, but Harris had packed enough into his playing career by the time he was 29 to justify this book. Therefore, his successful spell as Featherstone Rovers’ stand-off last season doesn’t mention, so that will have to wait for an updated edition. This volume is largely concerned with his youthful days at Warrington, and then his big money transfer to Leeds. Then of course he switched to Union, and about a third of the book covers his days playing kick and clap for Cardiff and Wales. The book wraps up with his return to Bradford, from where he signed for Rovers.

So, as a read, is it any good? Yeah, it’s not bad actually. The first thing I was surprised to read about was the strength and depth of his Welsh roots. Having been born and bred in Oldham, albeit with a convincing sounding Welsh name, I’d assumed his qualification for the national side to be based around some long forgotten ancestral connection, but Norman Harris, Iestyn’s granddad had played for Ebbw Vale and Newbridge before going North and signing for Oldham, then Leigh and Rochdale. So although Saddleworth Rangers can take credit for Harris’s development as an RL star, he is undeniably of solid Welsh stock.

A feature of the book is Iestyn’s explanations and justifications of each of his transfers, all of which had a faint whiff of controversy about them, or in the case of his move to Bradford, an awful stink. He had to ‘stay away’ to get his move from Wire to Leeds courtesy of a huge transfer fee, and his cross-code move involved the usual cloak and dagger stuff. The tug of war between Leeds and Bradford over his return to League ended up in the courts, but Iestyn doesn’t go too deeply into that.

Every sports autobiography is always accompanied by the obligatory collection of photos, the professional shots and the family snaps. Iestyn’s wedding portraits are of a significantly higher quality given that his wedding was covered by ‘Hello’ magazine as a result of his celebrity status.

At 240 pages in my paperback edition it’s an easy enough read in a day, although as an incorrigible statistician I would have preferred the facts and figures of his career as an end-note. Perhaps in a future edition he’ll entertain us with the story of how he finished off his playing career in the best possible style at Post Office Road.

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