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 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.