In the ruthless world of rugby league, the ferocious battles between Manly hitman Mark “Spudd” Carroll and Newcastle tormentor Paul “Chief” Harragon were unsurpassed.

Harnessing a hatred born out of desire; the colossal shoulder charges were as unrelenting as the posturing by the victor on the day.

Now almost 25 years on, vision of the crazed warhorses is YouTube box office.

In the new authorised biography Spudd: The Mark Carroll Story, journalist Adam Hawse taps into old wounds.

With a deep-seated rivalry that has since blossomed into a special bond, Hawse paired the former props exposing a tension that still simmers.

“When Spudd approached Chief about contributing he was more than happy to get on board. And what you read in the book is Paul Harrogan’s words, and it gives both sides of the story,” he told Central News.

“In particular the huge clash they had at Marathon Stadium. You get Spudd’s version, and you get Chief’s version, and I’ll say they don’t quite marry up, put it that way.”

Mark Carroll

Mark Carroll outside his Woolloomooloo gym Spudds. Photo: Adam Hawse

Egos aside, The Mark Carroll Story takes the reader on a journey with fast paced yarns riddled in lessons of honesty and unbridled loyalty.

From premiership highs to Kangaroo tours and Origin powder kegs. For diehard fans, the answers to long-held questions and insights into the game’s greats are all there.

“There’s lots of fun stories. It’s very punchy and easy to read. We go through his best grounds, his hated grounds,” says Hawse, who warmed to Carroll during his years at The Sunday Telegraph, Channel 10 and Fox Sports.

“He hands out Spudds, which are awards to the best player, toughest player. We tried to keep it engaging.”

Before quickly adding: “He’s fearless and left nothing on the field. He’s brutally honest and that’s why I interviewed him so much during my time. You knew you would always get something worth using.”

Carroll is now 54, and proudly operating Spudd’s Gym in Sydney’s Woolloomooloo. Of all the high-profile identities he’s re-shaped over the years, none contribute more to the Carroll story than actor Russell Crowe.

Had it not been for a return to the struggling Rabbitohs after four charmed seasons under Immortal Bob Fulton, there would be no relationship or gym. Or as Hawse prefers: “He met Russell at a Rabbitohs game, he was walking around the change room with Tom Cruise, and that’s where it all kicked off.”

Famed for his role as the Oscar winner’s long-term bodyguard, it was while filming the movie Cinderella Man, as Hawse explains, that Carroll’s chiselled features caught the eye of world-renowned director Ron Howard.

“Spudd was brought across because he was very much the same dimensions as the boxer that Crowe was playing, even the looks, he looks like James Braddock,” he says. “So, he was there, he hung out with Renee Zellweger. It was the time of his life really.”

There were weekly calls from his father that wouldn’t even start with ‘hello’. They’d be like, ‘hit this bloke, use your left shoulder, make your mark, smash him’ and that would be it. Then he would just hang up.

In a glowing endorsement, Crowe wrote the forward to the book. Fulton too, as a respected mentor penned a chapter that upon reflection, cut Carroll to the core.

“Mark was always looking to impress Bozo,” Hawse says, while reflecting on the time Spudd wanted out of Souths to win a title at Manly irrespective of what Fulton offered.

“The Bozo chapter is quite significant, considering we lost him only two months after he wrote it. No one knew he was in such a bad way. So that means a whole lot to Spudd that Bozo was able to put some words down.”

Away from the bright lights, the dark days in Carroll’s formative years proved critical to the evolution of a resilient mind.

Touching on Carroll’s frothing anxiety in the moments before battle, Hawse put it down to the banter of cheeky teammates and a passionate father.

Mark Carroll book

The Mark Carroll story is published by Penguin Books.

“There were weekly phone calls from his father Dave, that wouldn’t even start with ‘hello’,” he says. “They’d be like, ‘hit this bloke, use your left shoulder, make your mark, smash him’ and that would be it. Then he would just hang up.

“His biggest fear actually, the reason Spudd never stayed down if he copped a hit on the field was because he always worried about his dad jumping the fence – telling him to get up.”

Touching on the early days, the Penrith junior, with a long spiral pass, was far removed from the final product, but as Hawse notes, without Len Stacker’s tough love in 1987, Carroll would never have kicked on to 13 years in elite company.

“Spudd goes into detail about how he wanted to grab Stacker around the neck and choke him,” he says. “It was after the Panthers reserve grade coach kept starting him off the bench, telling him to stop throwing cut out passes and do some hard work.”

Several years later, a grateful Carroll boarded the plane with the 1990 Kangaroos. It’s a lesson he’ll never forget.

“He’s still very much connected with footy, he’s on all the panel shows which I think is a mark of respect to him,” Hawse concludes. “He’s never really got into any controversy, he’s just an old school footy player who has made the best with what he has got.”

Spudd: The Mark Carroll Story with Adam Hawse (Penguin Random House) is published on August 17.

Main image of Adam Hawse and Mark Carroll by Adam Hawse.