Sky’s brothers in Rugby League

With Rugby League about to hit the screens on Sky again with Thursday night’s big kick-off from St Helens‘ newly named Totally Wicked Stadium, League Express editor  MARTYN SADLER pays tribute to the departed Stevo by reprising his book review that came out last year about the most famous bromance in Rugby League. The initial version of this article first appeared in League Express in October 2016.

It’s Grand and its Final By Eddie Hemmings and Mike Stephenson

Published by Vertical Editions RRP: £16.99 (hardback) 207 pages

Eddie and Stevo! We’ve known them for the last 27 years, since they first started commentating for the former BSB satellite broadcaster back in 1990.

That was right at the start of the satellite revolution in broadcasting, and Eddie and Stevo came together just at the right time to begin a fun-filled adventure that took them both to Saturday’s Grand Final, when Stevo finally called time on his broadcasting career.

It will seem strange to have Super League on our screens this year without Stevo’s numerous catchphrases, but we’re going to have go to get used to it.

In the meantime, if you really can’t bear to be parted from Rugby League’s most famous duo you could do far worse than to buy this book to read about the background to some of the big games they’ve covered and the adventures they’ve had while doing it.

From that you’ll gather that’s it’s written in a light hearted style, with the pair taking every opportunity to take the mickey out of each other with plenty of affectionate name calling.

Their main targets are Stevo’s alleged tightfistedness and Eddie’s alleged hair dyeing, neither of which is actually true.

But that doesn’t mean it only covers light hearted subjects. For example, Eddie writes about the horrors of being in the Heysel Stadium in Belgium the night many football fans died in 1988, while he also writes about the shock of being told he was suffering from cancer a few years ago.

Stevo reveals the truth about some of his health problems over the years, although even then, and despite him going through some hairy moments, you get the feeling that he refuses to allow something as trivial as dodgy health to cramp his style.

There are 25 chapters, and each of them is written by one or the other. You can therefore often read about the same incident from two very different points of view.

That can be quite hilarious, and my favourite story is the one about them going to the New South Wales country town of Parkes to cover a game there many years ago, while Stevo had fixed up accommodation at a local hotel run by one of his old buddies.

You only have to look at Eddie to realise that roughing it in a very basic hotel full of creepy crawlies and various other examples of Australian animal life isn’t likely to hold much appeal for him, and it’s quite gratifying to see that their friendship and professional relationship survived incidents like that and grew stronger over the years.

I have no doubt that their friendship will carry on, but their professional partnership is now over. As Eddie writes about his mate: “He has his critics – there are many of them – but once Stevo hangs up the microphone for good, believe me, there will be thousands of people who quite rightly will say that things will never be the same again.”

There will certainly never be another Stevo, but I would happily recommend this book as a fun read and one you’ll find difficult to put down, particularly if, like me, you remember all the topics it covers. It really is the end of an era.

Wherever Stevo is now, probably somewhere on the northern beaches of Sydney enjoying the summer, I’d like wish him all the best while his old mate has to contend without him on what will most likely be a cold night in St Helens. But I’m sure that Saints and the Rhinos will soon warm all of us up quite nicely.