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

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Steve Quinn. 1951 to 2016. Rest in Peace.

One of the most prolific rugby league points scorers of all-time, Steve Quinn, has died at the age of 64. He was one of Featherstone Rovers’ greatest ever players, a hall of fame member and popular man who has a permanent place in the hearts of all Rovers fans for his exploits in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1983.
Stephen Quinn was born at York on 30th November 1951 and as a youngster played at Tang Hall junior school, and later Heworth ARLFC. As a teenager he signed for his hometown club York in October 1970. At 6ft tall and a playing weight of 13 ½ stones, he fit ideally into the centre role, and in his second season quickly given the goal kicking duties, he established himself as a first teamer at York. After five seasons and a spell out of the game between April 1975 and February 1976, Featherstone made a move for Quinn and he came to Post Office Road in 1976 in a straight swop for Barry Hollis. He then set about breaking every single club goal and points record over the next 13 seasons in a blue and white shirt. In a team full of local lads, Quinn was often the ‘outsider’ based all his life at York, but such was his dedication that he would always be the first at training.
His first match for Featherstone was Wakefield at home in the Challenge Cup 15th of February 1976, he kicked 4 goals and Rovers won 23-9.
He won a Championship medal in 1977.
He won a Second division Championship medal and The Second Division Player of the Year in 1980
He played in the Yorkshire Cup Final of 1977.
He won six Yorkshire county caps.
In his Featherstone Career he played 391 games, scored 75 tries, kicked 1,200 goals and 10 drop-goals and scored 2,656 points.
In his Rugby League Career he played 516 games, scored 92 tries, kicked 1,568 goals and 10 drop-goals and scored 3,438 points.
His greatest moment came in the Challenge Cup final in May 1983 at Wembley when his late penalty (his 4th goal of the game) won the Cup for Featherstone against Hull 14-12.
He was granted a Testimonial season in 1986/87
His final starting match was Widnes away on 13th of November 1988 and his final appearance was Leeds away on 11th of December 1988.
He was an inaugural member of the Featherstone Rovers Hall of Fame established in 1992.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Three Musketeers from Keighley

When Peter Fox brought Rovers out of the old second division in 1988, he recognised we needed a few reinforcements to survive in the top flight. Nowadays, this involves ramming your squad full of the maximum quota of overseas imports. Back then, it was possible to cast a discerning eye over the lower division and pick up some talented players capable of taking the step up. Rovers had previously successfully done this with the likes of Karl Harrison (Bramley) and Graham Steadman (York), two players signed from the second division who went on to enjoy international careers.

Terry Manning
 Hoping to emulate this transfer market success, Rovers went on a little shopping expedition to Lawkholme Lane as it was then called and came back with Terry Manning. Terry had started his rugby career at Elland, turning professional in 1987. He played 61 games for Keighley, scoring 29 tries and had the kind of bustling style that Fox saw as the perfect foil to Paul Newlove in our centres. He signed for Featherstone in October 1989 and cost £40,000. Difficult to tackle, with good upper body strength, Terry’s style was not classical but very effective. He formed an integral part of a three-quarter line of Butt-Manning-Newlove-Simpson that was as good as any that the club has put together.

So happy were we with Manning that in a couple of months we were back at Keighley and acquired second-rower Gary Rose. To be honest, none of the typical cliché descriptions of rugby league forwards, “rugged”, “pugnacious”, “tough”, would be quite enough to explain Gary Rose’s impact on a rugby league field. He had been at Keighley for two years, signing from Yew Tree ARLC, and had played 46 games for Keighley. He slotted straight into the Rovers team, and just as quickly into the hearts of Rovers fans. Once his eccentric ball-carrying style had been corrected, he turned into a strong runner and very willing defender, making sure Rovers pack was never intimidated out of any encounter.

Owen Simpson
Within the year, Rovers snaffled up Owen Simpson, the archetypal flying wingman who had been a professional at Keighley just over a year, scoring 32 tries in 38 games. A try on his debut against Castleford gave us an immediate taste of things to come. His lethal combination with Paul Newlove down the left flank was so prolific that the try scoring records soon tumbled.
These three players had cost a total of £110,000, and what tremendous value for money they gave to Featherstone. Terry Manning’s career spanned five highly consistent seasons, chalking up 159 appearances, and managing 46 tries. After Rovers, he served both Doncaster and Hull. Gary Rose was with Rovers four years, and with his swashbuckling style he played 106 games and notched 5 tries. Improbably enough he then signed for Leeds, his uncompromising style never seemed cut out for the game’s snobbiest club. However, he won his spurs at Headingley, and later played for Hull. Owen Simpson graced the Featherstone wing over seven seasons though serious injury curtailed the latter part of his career. In 158 games, he scored 98 tries, finishing just short of that magical ton.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Featherstone's Great Britain Tourists

1966 Tourist Carl Dooler

From 1910 until 1996 Great Britain regularly toured Australia and New Zealand, customarily playing a three test series against both nations, as well as a large number of other games against regional, representative and club sides. Making a Great Britain tour was considered, alongside playing at Wembley, as the pinnacle of any player’s career. They earned the right to be called Great Britain Lions. Featherstone Rovers have supplied 14 such players. Three of these players, Cooper, Dooler and Smales didn’t play in a test match, so never became full internationals.
A further five players, namely Terry Clawson, Arnie Morgan, Mal Dixon, Gary Jordan and Peter Smith won Great Britain caps, but never toured. Morgan and Smith however, as well as Keith Bridges, Jimmy Thompson and Steve Nash, did “tour” with Great Britain in World Cup Tournaments.

 The official list of Featherstone Rovers’ Great Britain Lions is:

1.  Tommy Askin 1928
2.  Gary Cooper 1962 (not capped)
3.  Don Fox 1962
4.  Carl Dooler 1966 (not capped)
5.  Jimmy Thompson 1970, 1974
6.  Keith Bridges 1974
7.  Steve Nash 1974
8.  Steve Evans 1979
9.  David Hobbs 1984
10.         Chris Bibb 1990
11.         Deryck Fox 1990, 1992
12.         Ian Smales 1990 (not capped)
13.         Paul Newlove 1992
14.         Steve Molloy 1996

Featherstone's Great Britain Caps

Jimmy Thompson
Up until about 2007, playing for Great Britain was the pinnacle of a rugby league player's representative career. Here’s an impressive looking list of international footballers, all but one of whom started their professional career at Post Office Road. Steve Molloy is the odd man out. It can also be seen that seven Rovers players went on to gain more caps with other clubs after leaving Featherstone. Tommy Smales (scrum-half), Karl Pratt and Vince Farrar are among the very few players who left Rovers and then went on to win their first cap. There are also a number of players including Jeff Grayshon, Carl Gibson and Roy Powell who won GB caps before joining Featherstone.

1.   Jimmy Thompson: 20 Caps (Out of 21 in his career)
2.   Steve Nash: 16 Caps (Out of 24 in his career)
3.   Deryck Fox: 13 Caps (Out of 14 in his career)
4.   Paul Newlove: 10 Caps (Out of 20 in his career)
5.   David Hobbs: 8 Caps (Out of 12 in his career)
6.   Steve Evans: 8 Caps (Out of 10 in his career)
7.   Tommy Askin: 6 Caps
8.   Peter Smith: 6 Caps
9.   Arnie Morgan: 4 Caps
10.        Steve Molloy: 3 Caps (Out of 4 in his career)
11.        Keith Bridges: 3 Caps
12.        Malcolm Dixon: 2 Caps
13.        Gary Jordan: 2 Caps
14.        Terry Clawson: 2 Caps (Out of 14 in his career)
15.        Don Fox: 1 Cap
16.        Chris Bibb: 1 Cap

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Andy Ellis, Ben Kaye

Ben Kaye
After using Joe McLocklan (#905) and Jack Lee (#918) as his main hookers during his first year in charge, Daryl Powell decided to ring the changes for the 2010 season. At the start of that year Powell signed Liam Finn (#867) and gave him the number nine shirt, which was a clear indication of how he saw Liam’s role in the Rovers team developing. After just a couple of games that experiment was abandoned, and Finn returned to his natural scrum-half berth. Although there are a lot of similarities nowadays between the roles for seven and nine, with some players successfully interchanging between the two, it does not necessarily mean that this will always work. For Finn it didn’t. However, another player who did manage to shine in both roles was Andy Kain (#901), who was equally at home as a half-back and as interchange hooker, coming on to find the gaps in a tiring defence. 

With Finn at scrum-half, Powell took on loan former Leeds junior Ben Kaye (#945) who had been playing with London Broncos to complement Kain’s attacking prowess. With his solid tackling and infectious enthusiasm Ben’s work-rate offered something different and balanced out Rovers side nicely. His loan period was extended and then he signed for the Rovers permanently, finishing his first year with a Grand final appearance.

Andy Ellis
Ellis signed on a permanent basis at the end of 2012, so he and Ben shared the hooking role the following year, with Jack Bussey (#968) also playing a few games as acting half-back. At the end of the year Ben left to join rivals Halifax having played a total of 98 games for Featherstone Rovers. When Kaye left, Rovers signed George Flanagan (#989) from Batley to share the hooking role with Andy Ellis in 2014. Unfortunately, a broken leg ended George’s time at Featherstone prematurely. Later in the season there were also opportunities for both Jack Bussey and Luke Teasdale (#996). The following year Ellis (#973) completed his fourth season with the club and scored his 100th career try. He was assisted by Luke Teasdale (#996), Sam Irwin (#1012), Sam Day (#1027) and Remy Marginet (#1015) who all covered the acting halfback role in 2015.

I think it’s fair to say that the position of hooker is the one that has undergone the most radical change in rugby league over the decades. In the 1920s, 30s and 40s, such hookers as Percy Morris (#85), Charlie Flaherty (#27) and Pep Hepworth (#7) were in the team for one main reason: to work with their scrum-half and open side prop to ensure the maximum amount of ball possible from the scrums. When not in possession, the hooker simply did as much tackling as he could in the middle of the park. Hookers developed good backing up skills too, but it was always his ball-winning ability on which he was judged. Past master at this was Rovers first representative hooker, the England international Arthur Wood (#286) who started at Featherstone in 1948.

Luke Teasdale
From there, the game developed through the 50s, 60s and 70s where the scrums were still of upmost importance, but hookers started to develop other aspects of their play. For example, the evergreen Willis Fawley (#323), Croatian import Milan Kosanovic (#434), and then perhaps the best hooker Rovers have ever produced, the Great Britain international Keith Bridges (#497). Even up to the time of Ray Handscombe (#553) and Bob Spurr (#587), two masters of the scrummaging arts who offered contrasting styles, the scrums for and against statistics were as keenly kept as the score itself as far as the hookers themselves were concerned.

The handover rule introduced in 1983 reduced at the stroke the quantity of scrums in the game and was the beginning of the radical transformation of the hooker into the modern athlete he has become. As successive laws aimed at speeding up the game by cleaning up the pay-the-ball area were introduced, the hooker’s role as ball winner from the scrum now became obsolete, and his new role was as distributor of possession at acting halfback, a vital pivot in any side to give his team momentum direction and attacking options.

George Flanagan
Thus mobile and lively players such as New Zealander Trevor Clark (#656) emerged and he was followed by Richard Gunn (#693) and Graham Southernwood (#706). Then we saw the emergence of out and out play-makers in the number nine shirt such as the influential Richard Chapman (#748) who orchestrated Rovers’ attacking moves. Since then we have seen a variety of styles, from the more conservative and defensively solid Ben Kaye (#945) to the more direct running style of converted half-back Andy Kain (#901).