Sean Fagan of
has published three history books.


The First Lions of Rugby - visit publisher's page to purchase
The First Lions of Rugby – visit publisher’s page to purchase

The first British Lions & their barnstorming Rugby & Aussie rules playing tour of Australia of 1888.

“…a rare sporting story that holds interest for fans of rugby and fans of Australian football.”
The Age, Melbourne

“Superbly written and brilliantly researched, ‘The First Lions of Rugby’ is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of rugby, rugby league and AFL. It is simply the best book about a football tour ever-written.”
Tony Collins, rugby codes author & historian


THE captivating story of the first British Lions and their history-making tour of Australia and New Zealand. An epic eight month, 54-games expedition of high drama and adventure in the era of Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne and Jack the Ripper.

The First Lions of RugbyUnsanctioned, organised by private speculators, the team assembled in the face of draconian rules against professionalism and zealous officials determined to throttle the playing career of anyone preparing to take part (and, in one cruel case, doing exactly that).

The tour and the treatment of the players, many of whom were from clubs in Yorkshire and Lancashire, was the trigger that opened a rift so wide, that it led to the founding of rugby league.

Travelling by steam-powered ships and trains, horse-drawn carriages accompanied by brass bands and vast crowds, feted and banqueted at every turn; they were 22 young footballers who knew how to enjoy life, and who could handle a horse and shoot a rifle as well as they played rugby.

In often torrid battles they met the best rugby teams of NSW, Queensland and New Zealand. Claims the team were involved in match-fixing and excessive drinking were raised in newspapers.

They then turned their prodigious football talents to Australian Rules, taking on the top clubs of Melbourne & Adelaide (including five now AFL clubs), and stepping into the middle of a ‘code war’ for national ascendancy. Could they master the Australian game?

Amidst it all the first Lions were to suffer personal torment and sorrow. Two of the party later committed suicide, another died alone, a victim of alcoholism; sad postscripts in the wake of a shocking tragedy during the tour – so cataclysmic and so heartbreaking, it is a wonder the men could go on at all.

But they did…and in time gained pride of place as having been both trail-blazers and visionaries, a stoic lot who overcame adversity to lay down the foundation of a wonderful sporting tradition – the rare but special event of a British Lions tour.

Renowned rugby codes historian Sean Fagan tells a thrilling story in these pages – one that is based on hundreds of hours of research of archives in Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain, during which he meticulously uncovered the lost tale of a band of rugby missionaries of so long ago.

“Fagan’s book sheds light on a fascinating and controversial tour. It is entertaining, beautifully written & meticulously researched. You certainly won’t be disappointed.”
Lesley Smith, ‘The Yorker’ (Journal of the Melbourne Cricket Club Library)

“This new, enthralling and most complete account of the first rugby tour of Australia by a British team will entrance and enthrall … A rattling good yarn.”
Spiro Zavos, The Sydney Morning Herald


The First Lions of Rugby by Sean Fagan.
Paperback 304 pages plus 8 pages of glossy b&w photos/drawings; match results table, post tour timeline 1888-1914; 1888-written guides to playing rules of rugby & Aust rules.
Published by Slattery Media 2013. ISBN 978-0-9875002-7-4. Order from book shops/websites in Australia.
Download at Apple iTunes
Ordering from UK, North America or NZ try Abebooks
Ordering from New Zealand try The Nile


Click to buy 'The Rugby Rebellion' (aka Pioneers of Rugby League)...
Click to buy ‘The Rugby Rebellion’ (aka Pioneers of Rugby League)

“Its revelation is fascinating.”
The Sydney Morning Herald

“It is superbly researched and a very interesting read – in years to come it will be considered a classic.”
Peter Sharpham, author ‘The First Wallabies’

The Rugby Rebellion‘ (re-titled as ‘Pioneers of Rugby League‘) is now in its final print run – don’t miss out!

The Rugby Rebellion (first & second editions)

A now iconic book acclaimed by fans, media and historians of both rugby codes.

It is a history book, but the story it tells reads and unfolds with the pace and intrigue of a mystery and suspense novel.

In a revealing and entertaining way it retraces how rugby became so popular and successful in Australia, that the game itself came to be fought over in a dramatic and bitter battle on and off the field between League and Union for the loyalty of players and fans, culminating with revolutionary matches between the Kangaroos and the Wallabies.

Featuring original newspaper clippings from match reports, re-live game action from a century ago. This 2nd edition also includes bonus section with new articles, records and stats.

It is a thrilling tale – of an uprising by footy-playing working class blokes, dismayed they were not getting a `fair go’ from those who ran their game, and the outcome of that anger.

These stunning events of a century ago forever changed Australia’s sporting winters.

“Revelations of biblical proportions for rugby (league and union) tragics – continually springing surprises in the style of a real-life thriller.”
The Illawarra Mercury


The Rugby Rebellion by Sean Fagan.
Paperback 432 pages, b&w photos throughout, bonus statistics/tables & extra articles.
Pioneers of Rugby League (The Rugby Rebellion) is available to order via book shops Australia wide (distributed by Dennis Jones & Associates – refer ISBN 9780975756300).
Buy now for $14.95 via or QBD
In New Zealand try Ebay or The Nile  or MightyApe
UK published edition available via London League Publications


The Master - The Life and Times of Dally Messenger
The Master – The Life and Times of Dally Messenger

“A very worthwhile read.”
Inside Sport

Dally Messenger was an Australian sporting superstar in the early years of the 20th century – a rugby league immortal, rugby union champion, and the most popular sporting personality of his era.

The Master

He represented the Kangaroos in rugby league, the Wallabies in rugby union, and also played for New Zealand in the 13-man code.

Thousands of fans in Australia, England and Wales flocked to footy grounds when he was playing, and he his still revered as an icon in both codes to this very day.

The son of a professional rower, Messenger led the push for footballers to be allowed to fairly share in the financial profits of the game.

The Master is a popular and authoritative account of the life and times of a superlative sportsman, a tribute to a footballer without peer, and an inspiring story for all those who would marvel at this sporting excellence and outstanding achievements.

“An engrossing tale.”
The Daily Telegraph, Sydney

Paperback 396 pages, 8 page insert of glossy b&w photos, career statistics, longest drop & place kicks. Published by Hachette Australia 2007. ISBN: 9780733622007.
Order from book shops/websites in Australia, or download via Apple iTunes store or Amazon Kindle
Search at Abebooks for used copies.

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