“I’ve had to mature a bit and I’ve got some more work to do with that still! But it’s just the sort of person I am.”
He’s a stalwart of a London Broncos side that stunned the Rugby League world by winning promotion last season, and he’s also famous for the speed at which he can scoff a sandwich.
Ever heard the story about the farmer who left his herd of Buffalo in Penistone to try his hand at rugby in Villeneuve and London?
No? Well here is the story of Eddie Battye, London Broncos’ sandwich-scoffing, try-scoring, unlikely social media star.
Few would have tipped the Broncos’ big, burly prop forward to become one of the standout poster boys of Super League, but from the moment he crammed that cheese sandwich in his gob, he was made.
Views were in their hundreds of thousands and the media requests came in their bucket droves.
“Going into shooting it I had absolutely no idea what to do,” he told Rugby League World.
“I watched the lads and they were all doing stupid stuff and I knew I needed to come up with something on the spot.
“So I asked our media bloke, Neil, if he had any food on him. He had a cheese sandwich with him for his lunch so I told him I’d be having that. I went up and it was one take and out, and that was that.
“But to be fair, I never expected it to see the light of day. During my entire career I think I’ve barely got into double figures, so we weren’t sure if it would ever be seen because I don’t score many.
“But I got over for a double on the first game of the season and that was it, it blew up.
“It got some interest, it got on talkSport and what not. It allowed us to shout about the club on national radio and that was good for the club. We do a lot of good things down here that aren’t recognised so it was a good opportunity to shout out about that.”
35 mins :- The ball is in to Eddie Battye and the big man is over for the TRY pic.twitter.com/m8yIVIjQ8X
— London Broncos (@LondonBroncosRL) February 3, 2019
In many ways, he was the anti-hero. Super League’s new re-brand wasn’t particularly drawn around the Eddie Battyes of the competition, nor did it expect its opening weekend’s headlines to be about a buffalo farmer. But that proved to be the case.
The 27-year-old spent his childhood on the family farmland in Penistone.
“When I was younger my mum and dad were dairy farmers,” he explained.
“They came out of that and it was a couple of years of not doing that. My dad was doing a bit of HGV driving on a farm, but we decided to buy some buffalo and decided to diversify into that. They go to farmers markets and food festivals selling these water buffalo.
“That’s what they do at the minute. I didn’t work on the farm full time. I helped out when I could in between rugby and stuff. It’s certainly different but that’s how it is in my world. Loads of people ask me about it. The boys love their meat so I try look out for them.”
But Battye was determined to go against the typical farmer stereotype. He wanted to see the world.
Rugby League was his opportunity to do that.
“I never actually played the game until secondary school.
“I started late compared to a lot of people. It was actually Ian Swire, who was the chairman at Sheffield, who pulled me in. I went to school with his son, who played for the Hillsborough Hawks. I went down there and I loved it. I was there from under 13’s and I ended up signing a scholarship at Doncaster.
“I didn’t get signed, but I got picked up by Sheffield and played for their reserve grade when I was 17. I was there up until I was 20, and I went to France for a year to play for Villeneuve.
“I did a season there because I was on the fringes of the first team at Sheffield at the time, it was 2012 when Eagles won the Championship Grand Final, I only played a couple of games that year and I wanted to play some rugby really because their season was opposite, they played in the winter.
“It was great out there. I was 20, I didn’t know a word of French and had just played the odd few games with Sheffield. But it let me play against grown men really. It was better than reserve grade but not as good as Championship in terms of the standard, but that was good for me as it was pretty much my level.
“Back then in France there were quite a lot of overseas players. There were some Aussies, Kiwis, Samoans and Fijians. There wasn’t a cap over there at the time for them. So the likes of Toulouse were spending a lot of money. It was really good money.
“I fitted in quite well really, I played every game for them that season, there was the assistant coach, he was an Aussie so he spoke English which helped. I lived with Rhys Curran, who is at Toulouse now, and another Aussie guy who has gone home. We stuck together and it was enjoyable. The French can speak a bit of English anyway. It was a good experience to live away from home too and learn a bit as a person.
“They’re very laid back out there and don’t have a care in the world, that was different to what I knew.”
It was a move that proved to be the making of him. Upon his return to the Eagles, he became a regular.
“When I came back I think I played every game and we won the Championship Grand Final again. I stayed there for a few years. Then Andrew Henderson got in touch, he’d been at the Eagles as a player and on the coaching staff while I was there. He said he wanted to sign me for London.
“When I started playing my aspirations were to play at the highest level I could. I always thought I could get Super League. We played in the Super 8s and I held my own in that. I wanted to test myself at this level every week. That’s why I came to London because I knew it was an ambitious club wanting to come to Super League and had been here not long before I signed. That’s why I came down here. It was a bit of a journey, getting the club to Super League. To get back up and competing at this level. I’ve seen the players come and go that we’ve had but a few others have been here since the start and it means a lot to play at this level.
“There are a lot of blokes I know from back home in Penistone asking what London’s like and they’d hate it. I enjoy something different, that’s all it is, a bit of a challenge. You’ve got to adapt and move with the times. I’m willing to adapt and accept the challenge. I’ve moved down here and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s been a real good ride so far.”
Like many of his team-mates, Battye attributed their promotion success to their solidarity, a unity built by their shared experiences.
“We’re proud of the club and what we stand for. It’s a hardworking group of lads who knuckle down and that’s what has got us to where we are. We weren’t given a chance of promotion to start with but here we are. We need to hold on to that. The powers that be are very clever and make sure they sign the right people. If they don’t fit in straight away they soon get the picture. We’re all really close and good mates really. Everyone lives together. Nobody is travelling from here, there and everywhere, we’re all pretty much next door to each other. I think it does mean something.”
It also allows Battye to be his usual, jovial self day in, day out. Albeit, he insists that while his team-mates may regard him as the team idiot, that’s not specifically the case.
“I don’t mean to do it, it’s just how I am.
“I’m one of the more senior lads in this team despite being 27. I’ve not had to rein it in as such but become more mature. When I came here at 23 I was a young lad but I’m one of the more experienced players. I’ve had to mature a bit and I’ve got some more work to do with that still! But it’s just the sort of person I am.”
Last year’s Million Pound Game triumph over Toronto was the pinnacle of London’s rebirth so far.
That said, they’ve got their sights on an accomplishment far greater.
Halfway through the season, the Broncos are in the midst of a relegation battle nobody thought they would be in. But not because they expected them to be higher up the league, more that they expected them to be completely cast adrift.
Yet the Broncos are right in the mix with Leeds and Hull KR at the halfway stage, and everything still to play for.
“It’s down to us and nobody else, we keep telling ourselves that.
“It’s in our own hands and we’re not counting the results. If we play to our potential we can beat anyone on our day. There’s been a couple of games this season where we’ve been blown away but we’ve been in most games we’ve played. We believe we can do it. We don’t really care what other people think. It’s nice that it might be a good story for you guys at the end of it, but we just want to get on with the job.”
While Battye might be keen to downplay the magnitude of what London could achieve, don’t expect there to be anything lowkey if the sandwich scoffing emerges on social media again.
This feature first appeared in Rugby League World magazine, issue 458 (June 2019).