When the going gets tough, the tough get tougher.
The ranks of rugby league around the world have been liberally peppered with hardmen. With violence that would never be tolerated off the footy field, the game has always been rough, tough and dangerous. Stiff-arm tackles, headbutts, spear tackles - all aimed at maiming the opposition players - were once just part of the game. But while the thuggery of old has been cleaned up, the modern game of huge hits at breakneck speed is definitely no place for the faint-hearted.
Fans in pubs and clubs have always talked about the courage of their favourite sons - men who never took a backward step, like legendary South Sydney captain John Sattler, who played through the 1970 Premiership grand final with his jaw broken in three places, and 'Bumper' Farrell, who was accused of biting off the ear of an opponent as he simultaneously gouged his eyes. In more recent times Andrew Johns orchestrated Newcastle's 1997 grand final success with a punctured lung and three broken ribs, and pint-sized Gold Coast star Preston Campbell picked up a broken jaw early in the game but hid it from team-mates until the final whistle.
But Hardmen is much more than a collection of bone-crunching collisions and wild confrontations. As Malcolm Andrews' vivid profiles of the most courageous and colourful dramatically unfold - from those who played on with broken legs in early times to the fast and furious high impact of today - we see both the fascinating evolution of the game and the fiercely resolute qualities that have steadfastly remained at its heart. Simply put, Hardmen captures the unique spirit of rugby league with the greatest collection of ripping yarns ever published in a single volume.
I always enjoyed the game more when there was a body or two lying about. It made my job a bit more interesting. - Vince Karalius
It was a real bloodbath. John O'Neill got 16 stitches in one of his shins. It was huge gaping wound with blood everywhere. But he still couldn't keep the grin off his face. Father John Cootes