Jimmy Metcalfe played for Featherstone Rugby Club in the early 1890s before the Northern Union clubs broke away from the RFU. He was born in Cumbria and migrated to Barnsley, then Featherstone. He was, without doubt, one of the first ever stars of Featherstone rugby. He won county honours for Yorkshire, and was also selected for an international trial match, so he must have come pretty close to being Featherstone’s first international rugby player, at rugby union! In the summer of 1898 he signed for Wakefield Trinity and switched to the Northern Union (Rugby League). Incidentally the Featherstone club members also voted that same summer to stop playing the 15-a-side game and to adopt the new Northern Union game. Jimmy Metcalfe had a long and successful career at Wakefield, culminating in a Challenge Cup final appearance in 1909. He was a prodigious goal-kicker and a master of positional play.
Jimmy Metcalfe’s son, Jimmy Jnr. also played for Wakefield from 1928 to 1931. Jimmy’s grandson Donald Metcalfe signed for Featherstone Rovers in late 1951. He made his debut on 2nd February 1952 against Hull KR, notched his first try in that game, and kept his place in the team. A week later the club embarked on that magical run which led to our first ever Cup final. At Wembley Don played centre to Eric Batten. Incredibly this was only the 11th game of his career. He also won England U21 honours that debut season. He was Featherstone skipper during the 1955/56 season, and was also selected as captain of Yorkshire. He went on to play a total of 149 games for Featherstone, scoring 55 tries, before (inevitably, if you consider his family history) he too signed for Wakefield Trinity in 1957. Jimmy Metcalfe Snr. was Wakefield’ s full-back in the 1910 Yorkshire Cup final. Exactly 50 years later his grandson Don was Trinity’s full-back in the Yorkshire Cup final against Huddersfield in 1960.
Just to show how steeped in rugby some families can be, here are some more facts. Jimmy Metcalfe’s daughter married George Whittaker, a notable centre with Featherstone Rovers in the early 1930s, who won county honours before being sold to Swinton to ease financial worries. Another of Jimmy’s daughters married the Leeds winger Stanley Smith. Both Whittaker and Smith therefore are Don Metcalfe’s uncles. Don Metcalfe’s other grandfather was Ernest Bennett, a winger who also played for Wakefield, and his father Thomas Oliver Bennett (Don Metcalfe’s great-grandfather ) played for Wakefield Trinity in their first ever match in 1873. Four generations of players, what a family.