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.
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.