Once Were Lions scrums down onto iPlayer | Programming | News | Rapid TV News
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A new documentary about the Great Britain Rugby League Lions 2019 tour to the southern hemisphere is coming to the BBC iPlayer on 21 November.
Once were Lions 8 Nov 2020
With unprecedented and unfettered access to the GB Lions Rugby League team’s first tour in 12 years, Once Were Lions follows the as they tour New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. The film looks thoughtfully at a game of skill, strength and speed with a unique heritage and international popularity, and reflects on the GB Lions’ performance. The feature-length film also explores rugby league’s northern heartlands, as well as issues of masculinity, race, class, friendship, ambition and sacrifice, and looks ahead to the future of the sport, with the 2021 Rugby League World Cup due to be hosted in England.

“This gripping documentary film gives iPlayer viewers privileged access to the GB Lions squad on tour together with fascinating insights into Rugby League, its roots and its future,” remarked BBC iPlayer controller Dan McGolpin commenting on the film. “Whether you are new to the sport or already a fan, it’s an enjoyable and rewarding watch ahead of next year’s World Cup.”

The feature-length documentary was produced by UK-based independent production company Chalkboard Television and independent documentary production company Ad Hoc Films. Executive producers are Mike Benson from Chalkboard, Mat Hodgson and Daniel Glynn from Ad Hoc, and Mandy Chang and Jo Lapping from the BBC. International rights for the feature will be handled by RDA, a London-based sports media rights agency with a roster of leading clients in rugby union, rugby league, tennis, cricket, wrestling and MMA.

“Once Were Lions is about much more than a rugby league tour… it is about forgotten towns and teams, and a proud sport that’s in search of a future,” said Chalkboard executive producer Mike Benson. “Rugby League has always been tied to class, industry, stereotypes and politics – something it still struggles to escape and our film seeks to explore these themes.”

Ad Hoc Films’ Mat Hodgson added: “We are always drawn to high-end sporting stories that can provide a dramatic backdrop to wider issues. Rugby League is a multi-layered sport of extreme physical skill, intense camaraderie and mental demands, which embodies different communities and fosters a strong and deep-rooted sense of social identity. Exploring these issues via behind-the-scenes access to the GB Lions on tour – the bruises, the brutal blows, the band of brothers kinship – proves to be a compelling examination of the sport’s significance both on the pitch and far beyond.”