The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Andy Kain

       After losing promising local star Richard Whiting to Hull after only a handful of first team games, Rovers used youngster John Presley at stand-off for the 2004 campaign. He was more of a scrum-half but played at six quite capably before he moved onto a long and successful career at Sheffield, Keighley and then York. We also used Richard Blakeway, essentially a loose forward but with the distribution and kicking skills to do a good job for us in the halves. Australian import Josh Weedon arrived from Queanbeyan, staying with us for two seasons, and the much travelled Dom Brambani also played briefly at Rovers between spells for Dewsbury and Sheffield.

Andy Kain
      After our relegation into the third tier of rugby league for the first time ever in 2005, Rovers had Paul Handforth at scrum half organising and kicking, and needed a pacy livewire sort of player to complement him at stand-off. Castleford-born Andy Kain was playing for Widnes and he fit the bill perfectly. He slotted straight into Rovers team in June 2007 and scored some vital tries in our promotion push. With two tries on his debut in a defeat at Celtic Crusaders, Kain played all sixteen remaining games including the playoff final victory against Oldham at Headingley. Back in the Championship he was first choice stand-off throughout 2008, his pace and willingness to back up making him a regular scorer. For 2009 new coach Daryl Powell brought in both Kyle Briggs and Iestyn Harris as pivots, so Kain moved equally successfully to scrum-half, and notched a more than respectable seventeen tries that year playing essentially the same role he had in the number six shirt.

      When Rovers signed Liam Finn to partner Briggs for the 2010 season, Kain started most of that year on the bench, being used as interchange hooker where he adapted to the increased defensive duties of tackling in the middle of the park very well, whilst continuing his eye for the try-line. That year brought him twelve tries. When Briggs left for Bradford, Kain & Finn became a half-back fixture at Rovers throughout three very successful seasons, and Andy continued to rack up the tries at a phenomenal rate. His record of 30 tries in the 2012 season was in fact the fourth highest ever for Rovers by any player in a season, behind only Newlove (48) Simpson (34) and Woolford (31). After the departure of Liam Finn, Andy continued for one more year at Rovers partnering Gareth Moore at half-back throughout 2014. He reached his fourth Championship Grand final in five seasons, a record matched by only Ian Hardman and Tim Spears.

     At the end of the 2014 season after 210 first team matches and 128 career tries over eight seasons, Andy Kain moved first to Hunslet, then to Dewsbury. His try tally leaves him fourth on the all-time list behind Don Fox (162) John Newlove (147) and Jim Denton (129).

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Andy Bastow

Martin Pearson played the first full summer season with his home town team then left for a successful super league career and, as so often happens after Featherstone Rovers sell a star player, the club then simply had to do and make mend. At first, coach David Ward turned to Neil Summers signed from Bradford. Although lacking pace, he was a player who showed good skills at Championship level. As a former rugby union fly-half he also inevitably had a decent kicking game, always a useful attribute for a stand-off. Unable to claim a place at scrum-half due to veteran Deryck Fox, former Leeds junior Paddy Handley also played quite a bit of rugby at number six for Rovers. When David Ward left, he was replaced by Steve Sims, who was always ready to throw in any youngster who showed promise. Therefore, Leeds-trained Karl Pratt got an extended run in the halves towards the end of the 1997 season, before playing the following year on the wing. Pratt was an exciting talent with pace to burn at Championship level, but he moved back to Leeds in a big money transfer at the end of the year. What might have happened had his late try in the Championship final against Wakefield not been ruled out hardly bears thinking about. 

Andy Bastow
Handley continued to share the number six role over the next couple of seasons with first Jamie Coventry, signed from Castleford juniors and then with ex-Wakefield half-back Ryan Horsley. In 2000, after so much experimentation, new coach Peter Roe decided on a fixed half-back pairing that played side by side almost unbroken for three full seasons. At scrum-half was Jamie Rooney, and at stand-off former Wakefield junior Andy Bastow. Without being the most dynamic of players, Bastow offered a good foil to Rooney’s creative skills, solid on defence and a good link to the three-quarters. It was a system that worked well for a generally overachieving young Rovers team. Whilst he was never a prolific try scorer himself, Andy offered good distribution to a pacy three-quarter line which at that time contained some steady try scorers such as Richard Newloveand a young Danny Kirmond.

At the end of the 2001 season, Roe left for Wakefield and Rooney followed him there. After 83 games in three seasons, Bastow was sold to Hunslet and new coach Andy Kelly had to go back to the drawing board in his search for half-backs. He began with Andy McNally, an old-style stand-off with acceleration and good distribution. Richard Agar was also used, although he was more of an organiser and tactical kicker. Agar helped guide his team around the park, a thinking man’s footballer who was always destined to go into coaching. For an all too brief period, Rovers enjoyed the talents of Richard Whiting playing for his home town time before moving to Hull FC after just a few months of first team football at Featherstone.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Martin Pearson

Following the controversial departure of Graham Steadman in the summer of 1989, Featherstone Rovers initially turned back to the reliable Alan Banks as their go-to man to cover stand-off. They also used youngster Ian Smales who was making a name for himself across the backline.  Another local youngster Tim Sharp also proved his utility value and regularly partnered Deryck Fox at half-back. 

Martin Pearson
With Smales equally at home in the three-quarters, the half backs or the back row, and with Sharp able to cover 6,7 and 13, Rovers then added another talented local youngster into the mixture. Sharlston bred Martin Pearson had joined Featherstone in 1989 and made his full debut (after some earlier games as a sub) at stand off against Sheffield in 1990. He marked his first start with eight goals in a close Rovers win and then landed a last minute match-winning touchline conversion against Leeds the week after. It was a sensational start and young Martin set about delivering on that early promise.

For the next two seasons Smales, Sharp and Pearson all seemed to swap around as coach Peter Fox was happy to mix and match. When Smales was at stand-off Martin would play on the wing, or cover for Chris Bibb at full-back. When Steve Martin arrived, Smales was settled into the back-row, Sharp lost favour and was transferred to York so Pearson got an extended run at stand-off. He rewarded his coach’s faith with a prolific season, grabbing 28 tries and 140 goals to smash Steve Quinn’s points in a season record.  When Chris Bibb got injured towards the end of the season Pearson switched to full-back where his pace and power were too much for second division defences.

To cover Pearson’s positional switch, Rovers picked up a bright young prospect from Leeds by the name of Francis Maloney. Short and stocky but with pace off the mark, Maloney enjoyed an influential spell until a knee injury ruled him out and Warrington came in with a big offer for his services. The coast was now clear for Pearson to enjoy an uninterrupted spell in the halves under new coach David Ward, but a serious knee injury cost him almost a complete season. Rovers covered that gap with two New Zealanders, both Mark Nixon and Brendon Tuuta partnering Mark Aston at half-back.

After the SKY revolution and enforced demotion, Rovers lost almost an entire first team squad, but Martin Pearson was one of the few players who stayed. He was a virtual ever present at stand-off during the Centenary season and in the first year of summer rugby. Both seasons he was top try scorer and top goal scorer. Inevitably Super League came calling and he served Halifax, Sheffield and Wakefield before trying his hand at rugby union in France. He played 166 games for Featherstone, 103 as starting stand-off. He scored 101 tries and kicked 470 goals. His 1338 points leaves him as our fifth greatest points scorer of all-time.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Graham Steadman

Throughout our long and proud history Featherstone Rovers have been justifiably well-known for producing outstanding local talent, and less well-known for big money signings. However, when large transfer fees started to become the fashion in the 1980s, Rovers were not afraid to ‘splash the cash’.
Graham Steadman
Graham Steadman was certainly one of those big money signings, as the club smashed its transfer-fee record to bring him to Featherstone for £55,000. Ironically he was also an outstanding local talent, but after occasionally playing for Rovers Under 17s side, a brief trial at Bradford that didn’t work out and even a spot of rugby union at Knottingley, he eventually turned professional for York. He enjoyed five outstanding seasons there and when he arrived at Post Office Road it was with a great sense of expectation that he would finally solve the problem of a fixed half-back partner for Great Britain international scrum-half Deryck Fox. Fox had previously played with Alan Banks and Andy Mackintosh.

At York, Steadman had basically been their only attacking weapon and everything went through him. At Featherstone, exactly how to use his obvious pace, tremendous sidestep and acceleration was more problematic. He also had an excellent short and long range kicking game which needed to be dovetailed with the work of Fox as main tactical kicker. Successive coaches struggled to harness Graham’s mercurial talents into our team pattern. Neither George Pieniazek nor Paul Daley ever managed to resolve this conundrum. Rovers even turned at one stage to veteran stand-off Johnny Crossley, shifting Steadman to the three quarters, which was a waste of his ability. 
When Peter Fox arrived, he immediately switched Steadman to full-back for the first time. However, this experiment lasted just two matches and the rest of his Featherstone career was at stand-off. This was understandable as Rovers had the excellent Chris Bibb at full-back, but it was a shame that the idea was cut short. Years later Daryl Van Der Velde tried the same thing and, with more patience and coaching, Steadman rapidly became a prolific try scoring phenomenon at full-back and was Great Britain’s number one choice in that position for a number of seasons.

After twelve tries in his first year and seventeen the following year as Rovers won promotion from the Second Division, Steadman started the 1988/89 season in outstanding fashion. Combining perfectly with Fox, he scored 14 tries and looked a much more potent attacking threat. This form only made his end of season transfer to our local rivals all the more unfortunate. The acrimonious nature of his departure to Castleford in the summer of 1989 somewhat overshadowed the fact that he served Rovers well for three seasons and that the club had made a handsome profit too. He played 96 games for Featherstone and scored 48 tries.

After retiring he coached at Castleford, and then, oddly enough for a player who was exciting with ball in hand but not as strong a tackler, he plied his trade in international rugby union as a defensive coach. He is a member of the Hall of Fame at both York and Castleford.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Alan Banks

John Newlove’s departure to Hull FC in 1978 left a big hole to fill in the Featherstone team. A number of quality players were tried in the position with varying degrees of success. Firstly, Rovers had to rely on the dependable skills of utility back Neil Tuffs. When an exciting young speedster by the name of Steve Evans came on the scene he had an extended run at six, before he found his more natural home in the three-quarters. In 1979/80, Paul Daley attempted to copy Peter Fox’s idea of converting a centre into a stand-off. It had worked for Fox with John Newlove and for one year at least it worked very well for Daley because erstwhile centre Steve Quinn had a superb season at stand-off. Quinn won the Second Division Player of the Year award, and shattered club records for goals and points in a season, as well as being leading try scorer. Back in the top flight both Quinn and Steve Evans alternated between stand-off and centre with neither player settling into a fixed role. In 1981/2 Rovers tried Paul Hayden and the year after signed Phil Johnson from Castleford. Still no-one could nail down this elusive yet important position.  

Alan Banks
 When Allan Agar took over as coach from Vince Farrar he had no hesitation in throwing in a local youngster who was just 17 years old. Alan Banks grabbed his chance with some confident displays and never looked back. He had an excellent rugby pedigree as both his brothers Keith and Barry played professionally. Nobody in their wildest dreams could have imagined that Banks’ debut season would end with him as one of the youngest ever players in a Challenge Cup final, but he took it all in his stride. Seeing him, apparently nerveless, being interviewed in the dressing room at Wembley pre-match gave everyone watching the feeling that here was a youngster who knew exactly what he and his team-mates were capable of that famous afternoon. That same summer Rovers signed Deryck Fox and the Banks & Fox half-back combination was a first team fixture for the next couple of years.

Alan offered solid no-nonsense consistency, and was a good tackler and strong runner who would never let you down. In 1985 Rovers signed a talented but injury prone half-back Andy Mackintosh from Leeds. Alan Banks moved into the centres, whilst Mackintosh showed some nice touches before injury struck again and forced him to retire. Banks resumed at stand-off but was destined to spend most of the rest of his career at centre. In total he played 233 games for Featherstone and scored 46 tries, despite having called it a day at a relatively young age.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

John Newlove

John Newlove’s career had started as a very talented three-quarter, alternating between centre and wing with ease. Signed from Ackworth as a teenager, he swiftly made his mark in the first team, and within months of turning professional helped Rovers win a Challenge Cup semi-final against Leigh. He failed to make the team for the 1967 final at Wembley but history shows his time would come. By the time the club got back to the final six years later, John was club skipper and a typically stylish display saw him grab two tries as Rovers romped home against Bradford. He also skippered the side at Wembley the following year as Rovers failed to reproduce their best form against Warrington.

John Newlove, Wembley 1973
It was between those two finals that coach Fox experimented with the possibility of moving Newlove to stand-off. Although he was initially reluctant to adapt to this new role within the team, John grew naturally into the stand-off position, half-back partner to first Peter Banner then Dale Fennell as Rovers became a real power within the game. His intelligence and ability to read the game allowed John to have much more of an influence over the team than was possible at centre, and his eye for a gap and penchant for interceptions became hallmarks of his game.

Although he was a natural leader, John gave up the captaincy in 1975 and handed over the responsibility to Vince Farrar, believing it was negatively affecting his game. When it came to Rovers’ Championship year in 1977, it was a great disappointment that Newlove suffered an injury which kept him out of the side in the run in to securing the title. The following season John then enjoyed a well-earned benefit year, but soon after that he was recruited by a free-spending Hull FC side who were beginning to rebuild. He joined ex-Rovers Charlie Stone, Vince Farrar and Graham Bray at the Boulevard. With Jimmy Thompson and Keith Bridges having left for Bradford, this represented an enormous talent exodus from Post Office Road. It came as little surprise that Rovers were relegated the season Newlove left in 1979.

John Newlove played twelve seasons in the first team at Featherstone covering a mammoth 381 games, 124 of them at stand-off, and the rest as a three-quarter. His 147 tries still makes him Rovers’ second highest try scorer ever after Don Fox. His contribution to the club’s cause was not at an end however, as all three of his sons, Shaun, Paul and Richard all went on to represent Featherstone Rovers. Between them, father and sons, they played 650 games and scored 341 tries. Some record.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Mel Mason

Mick Smith  had been Rovers’ first choice stand-off for five successful seasons when coach Laurie Gant decided to give young Dave Kellett a run at stand-off. Kellett was a quality player who looked a good all-round package, but his promising career was cut short by a knee injury. For his part, Mick Smith switched to the wing to great effect and spent most of the rest of his playing days in the three-quarters. Then Chris Harding signed from Otley Rugby Union and he showed some classy touches without really settling. Rovers then came up with another option as half-back partner for mercurial scrum-half Steve Nash.
Mel Mason with Peter Fox
Melvyn Mason made his debut October 1970 as a teenager at Headingley against Leeds. Rovers were hammered and the young debutant went straight back to the A team. There was to be no doubt as to the absolute class of this youngster though and before the end of that season he had a more extended run in the first team. From that point, Mason developed his game quickly and over the next three seasons, which were some of the most successful in the club’s history, he was first choice stand-off. Quick and elusive, he was capable of breaking the line with his side-step and body-swerve and he also had the handling skills to link with his three-quarter line. 
Playing alongside Nash and behind a formidable pack of forwards, Mason had the platform to show the fans the full range of his silky skills, no better evidenced than in the 1973 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. Nash picked up the Lance Todd Trophy for a superb display, but he was aided by Mason’s constant probings, which cut Bradford up that famous afternoon
Although never a prolific try scorer, he enjoyed his best afternoon in February 1973 with five tries in a match against Bramley. Disappointingly, the following year niggling injuries led to him being interchanged at number six with erstwhile centre and club skipper John Newlove. Although he started 25 games that season Mason missed out on many big fixtures, including the Wembley final, despite having played in the semi-final against Leigh. By the start of the 1974/75 season he was first choice again but when Peter Fox turned definitively to Newlove as his number one stand-off, Mel knew that his Featherstone days were numbered. The first club who came in for his services was Leeds and he signed for them for £6,000 in January 1975.  In total he played 121 games and scored 34 tries for Rovers. 
Within four months Mel had proved his worth once more, winning the prestigious Harry Sunderland medal for a man of the match performance in the 1975 Premiership final for Leeds against St. Helens. Injury interrupted his progress at Headingley and in 1977 he moved to Barrow. His six years at Barrow brought him county honours with Cumbria, and he finished his playing career with a couple of season at Whitehaven.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Mick Smith

Ivor Lingard's surprising departure to Parramatta in Australia created another hole in the Rovers team. They found his successor in an unlikely place. A quick look at the number six shirt in the months following Lingard’s departure was a picture of a team who just didn’t know who to play there. Centres Jim Hunt, Peter Bell and Keith Cotton, as well as scrum-halves Carl Dooler and Colin Bates were all tried there. Rovers even had to turn to bringing legend Joe Mullaney out of semi-retirement to cover some games. Eventually the club went to Rossington near Doncaster, and plucked an eighteen year old out of the amateur game and threw him straight into the first team at Wigan in October 1964. Mick Smith’s Featherstone Rovers career was off and running. He held a mortgage on the stand-off position for the next five years, before switching equally successfully to the three-quarters. He struck up a good half-back partnership with first Carl Dooler and then a young Steve Nash.
Mick Smith
Any stand-off worth his salt will have great pace off the mark and a good sidestep. How good was Mick Smith’s? Well, the whole country used to get a weekly reminder as Mick scored a blinding try in the 1973 Cup final at Wembley and for years afterwards Grandstand used the clip of that try in its opening credits sequence. The sight of the diminutive Smith backing up Mel Mason’s break, stepping through the flat-footed Bradford defence and weaving his way over before jumping for joy remains one the iconic moments in Featherstone Rovers’ history.
That 73 final was the second of three Challenge Cup finals Mick Smith played for Rovers, having been stand-off in the 67 final and then centre in 74 against Warrington. He also added three Yorkshire Cup finals to his medal tally. Coupled with his steady defence, competitive spirit and infectious enthusiasm it’s easy to see just how Smith’s career took off. In 1968 he was given a short run on the wing and promptly shattered the club try scoring record by scoring six tries in a match against Doncaster. Although matched by Chris Bibb 21 years later, that record has never been beaten.
When Rovers wanted to try promising new half-back Dave Kellett in partnership with Steve Nash, Mick simply switched to centre as if he had been playing there all his life. His career total includes 129 games at centre, and a further 48 on the wing. Oddly enough his final game for Featherstone came at full-back in September 1976 filling in for Harold Box. After that, his eleven season spell at Post Office Road came to a close and he finished his career at Huddersfield. In total, Mick Smith played a colossal 373 games for Featherstone, which puts him 9th on our all-time list. His record of 114 tries puts him in 11th  position on the all-time try charts.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Ivor Lingard

Where could Featherstone Rovers look for a replacement for the incomparable Joe Mullaney in the number six jersey? The very same village that had produced Joe also produced his successor. Sharlston born Ivor Lingard was signed by Rovers in early 1961. Ivor was immediately faced with the same tough task as a number of talented half-backs had faced at Post Office Road since the early 1950s. How could he break into a Rovers team where Don Fox and Joe Mullaney had a mortgage on those all-important positions for years? The answer was slowly, but surely.

Ivor Lingard
Ivor made his debut within three months of signing for Featherstone, getting three matches to show his worth towards the end of the 1961/2 season as Mullaney was rested. He wasn’t the only player with his eye on that coveted stand-off spot. Roy Bell was another talented youngster hoping for a chance. The following year Lingard picked up more and more games as injuries took a toll on Mullaney’s magnificent career. Roy Bell was sold to Wakefield and by April 1962 Ivor was first choice at stand-off partnering Don Fox at half-back and was part of a team that went to within a whisker of Wembley, losing a tight semi-final to Wakefield. As Ivor had replaced Joe at stand-off, so Carl Dooler gradually replaced Don at scrum-half. Thus those two great Sharlston-born half-backs had been finally replaced by two great Sharlston-born half-backs. They seemed set to take Rovers forward throughout the sixties under new coach Johnny Malpass.
However, after three successful seasons, Ivor took the unprecedented step of emigrating to Australia in January 1964. Then, as in modern day rugby, only the biggest names in the British game could hope to make it at the top level in Australia. For example, James Graham, Sam Burgess, Gareth Ellis and Adrian Morley all made the grade. Plenty more very good British players didn’t make it. Ivor Lingard, some fifty years ago, was an unqualified success. He signed for Parramatta Eels in the NSW Premiership where he spent the rest of his career. In many ways Ivor was ahead of his time as it became very trendy during the 1970s for Aussie clubs to import British talent, with such as Mal Reilly, Tommy Bishop and Mick “Stevo” Stephenson heading out to Sydney.
During his six years in the first team, Ivor was a model of consistency, appearing in 90 games for Parramatta, scoring 20 tries. He was noted down under for his perfect execution of the “Cumberland Throw” tackle, a common enough technique in England, but quite unusual in Australia, the art of using the leg to simultaneously trip and wrestle a bigger opponent to the floor. In 1970 he was an ever present in the first team, playing all 22 games, but by 1972 had retired and started to coach the junior teams at Parramatta. He got as far as head coach for the U23s side in 1975.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Dick Allman

The thirties were a desperate time for Featherstone Rovers, no two ways about it. Despite the impressive conveyor belt of talent continuing to roll out players, this talent was sold on almost as quickly as it was produced. After Wilf Evans and George Johnson were sold, Allen Ward, Ray Hamer, Bill Hughes, George Morgan, Harold Moxon, Nelson Tennant and Cyril Pawson were all tried out at stand-off. When World War Two started, the RFL decided to abandon the Championship and set up a War Emergency League. Some clubs found the going so tough they packed in playing. Each year there were fewer and fewer teams and at the end of the war only 17 clubs were active.  Featherstone Rovers found the wherewithal to continue playing right through. The tenacity shown for decades in the face of financial strife had equipped the club well for difficult times. Perhaps Rovers were also lucky in that many players were, of course, coal-miners. Workers in essential services such as mining were not called up as frequently as was the case with other jobs, and so the disruption to the club’s personnel may not have been as great as other clubs. However, a considerable number of Rovers players did serve King and Country and throughout the period the club was regularly having players called-up for service. At least one former player, Matt Killingbeck, lost his life in the six year conflict.
Dick Allman
In September 1941 a local lad called Dick Allman made his debut against Keighley and bagged a try in his first game. He followed that with two more in the next game at Halifax and two more in the next at Bramley. If he had kept that rate up, he’d have been Rovers most prolific try scorer ever. As it was, he went on to become a very useful member of the Rovers backline for the next eight years. Originally signed as a centre, Allman played in the three-quarters that first year but the following season he had a run-out at stand-off. By the beginning of the 1943/4 year Dick was installed as first choice stand-off where he shone for the next five seasons, despite missing half a year injured in 1945/6. He made a total 164 games, 113 at stand-off and scored 32 tries. A serious ankle injury finally forced him to quit in 1949. Cyril Gilbertson had been signed from Dewsbury with a view to taking over from Allman, but he had to wait for an extended run in the team. After Dick’s retirement a number of players were tried at six, including Fred Church, Ken Brookes, Bob Jarvis, Stan Shaw and Ray Cording. The latter two both played stand-off in our Wembley year of 1951/2, Shaw in favour before Christmas, and converted winger Cording picked throughout our famous Cup run and in the final itself. The following year Johnny Heritage looked a very promising prospect before injury struck.

George Johnson, Wilf Evans, Ray Hamer

Billy Stott was sold to keep the club alive financially and Rovers had to find more local talent to fill the gaps in their rapidly depleting team. One youngster who stepped forward was Wilf Evans, the oldest of three brothers who started a family dynasty at Post Office Road. Wilf was a talented back who played mainly at stand-off but also at scrum-half during a productive eight year career spanning a total of 199 senior games with 29 tries. He formed notable halfback partnerships with Billy Hayes, Allen Ward and Ray Hamer. Wilf’s younger brother Joe was a scrum-half who made his debut in 1932 and went on to play 22 games over three seasons, most of them partnering his brother in the halves. Their youngest brother was another half-back. Ray Evans signed for Rovers in 1951 and played 73 games in four seasons before being sold to Rochdale. Ray’s son Barry also played as a scrum-half in the early seventies and Barry’s son Danny had a long career as a loose-forward at Featherstone and of course is our assistant coach today. 

George Johnson Junior
Another player who featured in the thirties was the son of Rovers’ founding father and club president. Despite his father controlling the club, George Johnson junior had to battle his way into the team the same as any other player. Fortunately he was good enough to dispel any hint of favouritism. On the field Rovers had a pretty grim time of it throughout the thirties, but Johnson did his best to lighten the gloom with some classy touches from stand-off. He played 103 games for Rovers, managing six tries and 50 goals. Ten of those goals came on the same day against Bradford in October 1931. That record tally stood 33 years until Don Fox beat it. In January 1935 George Johnson became one of the first British players to play rugby league in France when he was involved in a series of exhibition games playing for a British Empire XIII. As club captain in 1935 his portrait appeared on Ogden’s cigarette cards that year, a mark of fame in those days. Inevitably Rovers’ financial problems led him to be sold, and Hunslet came in with an offer where Johnson linked up with former Rovers team-mates Ernie Winter and Cyril Plenderleith.

Once Johnson had left, and Wilf Evans’ career with Featherstone was coming to an end, Rovers used Ray Hamer at stand-off as well as Bill Hughes and George Morgan. The latter, one of many players with that famous surname who have played for Featherstone over the years, actually played 42 games for us at stand-off but left very little trace in the history books. For a couple of seasons after the outbreak of the Second World War Hamer and future head coach Harold Moxon became a relatively stable half-back combination.