It's pre World War I and rugby union is the predominant sport in Lithgow, but William John 'Pummy' Mantle wants to play rugby league.
Sydney-based writer Peter Baker has captured the story in his self-published book 'Side-Stepping Shrapnel', of how Pummy and his mates defied the odds to grow one of Australia's most loved sports today.
"It's a book on a number of levels but it's basically about Pummy who was a machinist and a miner, a footballer and an original Anzac," Mr Baker said.
"He defied the union establishment and played rugby league in the Western Suburbs with three mates in 1910," he said.
Mr Baker said while there were other winter sports like soccer, union was "the" Winter sport in Lithgow.
"There was just this conflict between the union people and these young people who wanted to play rugby league.
"League started in 1908 in Sydney but didn't start in Lithgow til 1913. The first clubs were formed mainly through the Small Arms Factory which started in 1912 - so that was a catalyst," he said.
Mr Baker said his book is a tale of Pummy's life before and after the war, his love life and working life.
"It follows his problems with injury and disability that he had as a result of war but it is also a story about the rise of rugby league before the first world war in Lithgow," he said.
He said he has concentrated on the thread of Pummy's life but there are also snippets of other men who went to the first world war and formed the Lithgow Diggers Team.
"There's 23 of them, I've done players, administrators, trainers, that's an addendum to the book and also a social history of Lithgow pre and post war," he said.
"These league pioneers turned from warriors on the playing field to soldiers in a war of horrors."
Mr Baker said the process of writing and researching the book had been fascinating.
"Just reading about the conflicts between Pummy and the rise of rugby league and the personalities, how they all reacted to what was happening.
"Amateurism and professionalism, that was the conflict between union and league," he said.
Why did Peter write the book?
Mr Baker said he first became interested in the 1920/21 Lithgow Diggers team while researching an Aboriginal solider, Douglas Grant in the early 1990s.
"I wrote to the Lithgow Advocate, now known as the Lithgow Mercury, and asked if they could ask people to contact me if they knew Douglas Grant and I got correspondence from people," he said.
He said one of the people who wrote to him was a woman - Thelma Ryan.
"She said she knew Douglas Grant from when she was a kid, her father Fred played league with him. Thelma also provided me with photographs of the team."
Mr Baker said he was quite intrigued by the photograph which he had to get printed by a professional as there was no internet back then.
"I was really intrigued by this team photograph it was a sharp print and each player, trainer and administrator oozed character and the names of all the players were printed on the photograph," he said.
But as life happens, Mr Baker put the book on hold as he got married and raised five children.
"And then 20 years later I found the time to revisit my research, I resurrected it about four years ago and did further researching and writing," he said.
He sought assistance from Lithgow City Library, Small Arms Factory Museum and the Lithgow and District Family History Society.
"Jan Saundercock was particularly helpful, really helpful. She was always answering my queries which was very helpful especially with me not living locally and also the Small Arms Factory Museum's Donna White and Kay Shirt at Lithgow Library."
'Side-Stepping Shrapnel' was printed and bound in April by Industrial Printing Co Lithgow.
"I have self-published the book and the company in Lithgow did it and they were really good," Mr Baker said.
He said people who purchase the book can expect a good read.
"Hopefully it stimulates them to wonder a bit more, I mean it's not a story about every rugby league player, in Lithgow or every team but it's something that I haven't seen written in other books yet," he said.
He said books on the rugby league industry were generally about hot shot players and teams in big cities.
"You don't read much at all about the growth of the game in the country, and back in 1908 more people lived in the country than in the city. I don't think enough has been done on the history of sport in the country," Mr Baker said.
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