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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK
Book review: Stevo, Looking Back
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As he acknowledges in the book, Mike Stephenson accepts many people simply regard him as the "annoying bald-headed bloke off the telly".

Book front cover

And it's true, the outspoken rugby league commentator is one of those individuals you either love or hate.

Stevo regularly nails his colours to the mast prior to games only to change his mind several times during the next 80 minutes.

For example, he has often started a broadcast with a well-prepared sermon decrying violence in the game but then been hardly able to contain his excitement when fisticuffs do break out.

It's usually when Great Britain are doing the pummelling that he gets excited.

When the roles are reversed and the Lions are on the receiving end, Stevo again casts down judgment from his perch up on high in the gantry.

The beauty of Stevo, if such a word can be used to describe a man who has had his nose broken 14 times, is that he does not worry too much about the odd gaffe, he just keeps on going.

I was watching a match recently and he used the word "elephantitis" to describe a prop forward with a long memory.

The list of Stevoisms is almost endless - "he's one tough hombre", "it's getting tasty out there", "it looks like that guy is in Disneyland", "the merry whistle blower is at it again..."

The beauty of Stevo is that he does not worry too much about the odd gaffe, he just keeps on going

Yet, as he illustrates in his highly entertaining book, there is a lot more to Mike Stephenson than his current incarnation as one half of 'Eddie & Stevo'.

Stevo was a world-class hooker who won the World Cup with Great Britain in 1972, defeating a brutal but ungracious Australian side twice in the tournament.

The second occasion came in the final, after which, so Stevo claims, the defeated Kangaroos refused to shake hands, choosing to spit at him instead.

Reading Stevo's book, you are left in doubt as to the sheer, uncompromising nature of rugby league in the 1960s and 1970s.

One of Stevo's fellow GB front rowers, Terry Clawson, apparently smiled whenever he threw a punch, which seems to have been most of the time.

After a massive free-for-all against Australia, he quipped to a stunned Stevo: "Bit hot in there, ain't it?"

A level of violence and thuggery existed that would no doubt result in a series of season-long suspensions and civil actions in the modern game.

Unlike most modern players, who live a cloistered life of discipline and temperance, Stevo firmly mixed business with pleasure

But that is precisely what makes this book so fascinating. It shows how much the game has changed in the last five decades.

And unlike most modern players, who live a cloistered life of discipline and temperance, Stevo firmly mixed business with pleasure.

His has clearly been a remarkable life, with plenty of scrapes, adventures and encounters.

He recounts a lot of them in his book but never bores the reader with too much detail.

It falls away a little towards the end when Stevo gets a little carried away with his tributes to the team at Sky, but otherwise I found it a highly-enjoyable read.

And when Stevo reveals what he used to bet on at the end of every working week, your jaw will hit the floor as though the great man himself had caught you flush with a right hander.

Rating:

Nine stars

BBC Sport's Paul Fletcher



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