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

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Don Fox

Among the many distinguished players who have graced the number seven shirt, inevitably some names stand out above others. Don Fox achieved enough during his career at Featherstone to have a whole book about him, written by former club secretary Ron Bailey. As such, it would be difficult to do justice to his glittering career in one short article. By the time he left Post Office Road for Wakefield in 1965 Don was the club’s leading try, goal and points scorer. Over forty five years later, his try scoring record still stands today, and his points-scoring has been beaten only by Steve Quinn and Stuart Dickens.

Out of the wealth of scrum-half talent that Rovers produced at the beginning of the 1950s it was no surprise that Don Fox was to have the longest lasting impact on the club, given the amount of natural talent he was blessed with. He quickly struck up a famous partnership with Joe Mullaney, and the period in which they reigned supreme as Rovers’ half-backs was one of unparalleled and consistent success for the club. The great mystery was, of course, how that Harold-Moxon-coached team missed out on major honours, managing to lose an incredible five Challenge Cup semi-finals without ever reaching Wembley. Within three years of signing for Wakefield, Don achieved this dream, by which time he was no longer a scrum half, but had converted himself into a wily front-row forward, the most unlikely of positional switches, it has to be said.

Fox’s outstanding talent is not reflected in the representative honours he won. He was capped three times by Yorkshire, played twice for Great Britain in unofficial tests against France, but otherwise he was unluckily overlooked throughout the fifties, with club politics among the selection committee perhaps playing a part in his exclusion. Finally he was rewarded with a place on the 1962 Great Britain tour of Australia. Competing for the scrum-half berth with Alex Murphy, Fox was impressive enough in the warm-up games for the tour managers to consider putting Murphy to stand-off and starting with Don at seven. In the last match before the first Test, Fox injured his shoulder, missed the Test, and after another injury came home early, having played just five matches. It was to be another year before Don Fox made his belated Great Britain debut against the 1963 Australian tourists, in a dead rubber third Test of a series that Britain had already lost. Ironically Don was selected at loose-forward with the scrum-half slot going to another Featherstone lad, Tommy Smales, who had left Rovers some eight years earlier, having been unable to shift Don from the Rovers first team. Tommy and Don inspired Britain to victory that day, but it was to be Don's one and only test cap.

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