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

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Jimmy Russell

Shortly after the end of World War Two, Rovers lost a pair of fine scrum-halves in Harold Moxon and Jack Higgins. The former retired after being badly affected by a fatal accident to an opposing player, and the latter could no longer continue after being plagued by injuries. As so often seemed to happen though, a ready-made replacement was waiting in the wings. Larger than life, cocky and irrepressible, a slightly comic figure with his bow-legged gait, Jimmy Russell had all the ingredients that a scrum-half needs, and a cracking hairstyle to boot. Jimmy actually started out at the Rovers around the same time as both Moxon and Higgins. He made his debut in April 1939 but within months the war had started and his nascent career was put on hold for a full six years when he joined the Army. Once the war was over, Moxon and Higgins were well established at half-back and it was 1948 before Jimmy got an extended run in the first team. He made the number seven shirt his own for five years, despite a strong challenge from another talented scrum-half Cyril Gilbertson. He helped the team through a couple of very difficult seasons, with Rovers near the bottom of the league. The arrival of Eric Batten in the summer of 1951 changed the club’s fortunes, but it also proved to be the beginning of the end for Jimmy Russell. It was in fact Jimmy’s benefit year, an honour he shared with Jack Blackburn. Batten began to transform a team of also-rans into a very useful unit, and Russell started most games in the early part of the season. As the year wore on, Batten turned to an up and coming youngster fresh out of national service by the name of Ray Evans. It was Evans who got the nod on Rovers’ run to Wembley, and when he deputised for Evans in a midweek game before the final, Jimmy Russell was playing his final game for Featherstone Rovers.
As a player Jimmy was never afraid of trying something different and would often make individual plays capable of bamboozling both opponents and team-mates alike. With his unpredictability, great leg strength and unique running style he was a real handful for defences. His 128 games yielded a respectable return of 28 tries.

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