After taking Featherstone out of the old Second Division in 1980, coach Paul Daley found the going tougher in the top flight. However, Rovers had won a creditable ten of their opening 16 fixtures and were mid-table when Daley resigned in January 1981 and in came Vince Farrar. Vince had finished a very distinguished playing career of more than 300 games at Featherstone when he joined Hull in 1977, shortly after captaining Rovers to the league title. He was capped for Great Britain in 1978, surely one of the oldest ever Great Britain debutants at 31 years old. Two years later he quit playing and came back home to start his coaching career. Such had been the turnover of players in the four years he had been away that only a few of Vince’s old team-mates remained at Featherstone.
His initial brief was to keep Featherstone in the top flight, and to try and break a losing run of matches. Despite taking Rovers to the Cup quarter-finals, the side didn’t win their first league fixture under Farrar until 29th of March against Salford. Featherstone did just enough to stay up in the end finishing just two points ahead of relegated Halifax. Vince had to deal with a considerable amount of player unrest in his first few months, with a variety of players submitting transfer requests, even stalwart Peter Smith was listed at a world record £80,000. Boardroom changes saw Bob Ashby became chairman and some stability was brought to the club for 1981/82. A more harmonious dressing room it may have been, but the side still struggled until a good run towards the end of the year saw Rovers finish 10th, despite winning only 12 of their 30 fixtures. Star player Steve Evans was sold to balance the books but with an experienced pack based around Gibbins, Handscombe, Siddall, Smith and Bell Rovers had the makings of a decent team.
1982/83 started with high hopes but mediocre league form. Rovers won just four of their opening 12 fixtures and the feeling was, not for the first time, that here was a relatively talented bunch of players underperforming. Inevitably it is the coach who pays the price in these circumstances and after a heavy 45-0 defeat at Wigan Vince Farrar was sacked in November 1982. Within a few months the side he coached would go on to prove just how well they could play on Rugby League’s biggest stage.
For Vince himself, there came the surprising move of taking up playing again when the brand new Sheffield Eagles team was formed in the summer of 1984. Rovers turned out to be good friends to this new club, Alan Rhodes as coach and Billy Harris joining Vince in a veteran front-row. Farrar proved what a genuine rugby league man he is by playing 22 games that year and making a lot of new friends at the fledgling club with his whole-hearted attitude.
Vince Farrar’s coaching record:
80/81: Won 4 Lost 10.
81/82: Won 13 Drew 1 Lost 20.
82/83: Won 6 Drew 1 Lost 10.
Total: Won 23 Drew 2 Lost 40 = 36.92%