Saturday, April 29, 2017

All Blacks story shortlisted for prestigious Cross Book Awards in the UK

A unique account of the All Blacks story has been shortlisted for the prestigious Cross Book Awards in the UK.

Behind the Silver Fern —The Players Speak is the work of prominent sports writer Lynn McConnell and SKY rugby commentator Tony Johnson, and tells the history of the iconic team through the recollections of over 150 notable players, dating back to the late 1800s.

The book is a finalist in the rugby section of the Cross Awards, where it is up against biographies of former Lions forwards Donal Lenihan and Paul O’Connell, and is a contender for the overall award which also features the life stories of Formula One star Damon Hill, footballers Joey Barton and Ian Wright, and cricketer Jonathan Trott.

“That’s pretty illustrious company”, says Tony Johnson, “we’re happy just to be featured amongst those names.”

“We got some good reviews in the British press when it was released last year, which can’t have hurt.”

The book was praised not only for the forthright contributions of the modern day All Blacks, but as noted in The Rugby Paper, owes much to the “prolific literary efforts of the pioneer All Blacks, who were dab hands at writing books, newspaper columns and letters”.

“The response of the players we approached was exceptional,” says Johnson, and we were also fortunate to be able to draw on some fantastic material in Taonga, the New Zealand Sound Archive, which included interviews and talks by players dating back to the great 1905 Originals. I think it was that very old material that gave us an extra dimension compared to similar publications in the UK and Ireland.”

The book also revealed new versions of some of the more controversial episodes from the 1972-73 tour, including the events leading up to the banishment of All Black prop Keith Murdoch, and a letter received by first-five Bob Burgess, while in troubled Belfast.

The letter was signed by prominent members of the IRA, and although there were denials from the IRA when the book was published, Burgess has always been convinced of its authenticity.

Behind the Silver Fern — The Players Speak was commissioned and published in the UK by Polaris Publishing, and published in New Zealand by Mower.

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