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

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Jamie Rooney

When we talk about players ‘coming through the ranks’, few players could have served a longer apprenticeship that Jamie Rooney. Match reports from Under 7s, Under 9s and Under11s featuring his name began to appear in Rovers match programmes from the early 1990s, and it was no surprise when he signed for his hometown club as a teenager. He was blooded in the post-season Treize Tournoi at the end of the 1998 season, and coach Kevin Hobbs had seen enough to know that young Jamie was capable of holding down a first team spot at 18 years old.

He made his league debut on 16th of May at Doncaster 1999, but he still had to dislodge the incumbent Paddy Handley from the number seven shirt. The arrival of Peter Roe saw Handley switch to stand-off, Rooney stayed at seven and what’s more took over the goal kicking from Stuart Dickens. He ended that first year with 9 tries and 72 goals from just 17 starts, a sign of things to come as far as his points scoring exploits were concerned. Jamie’s strengths lay in his distribution and kicking game, standing mostly at first receiver. He also knew when to drop the shoulder and ghost through the defensive line, as his try scoring record shows. In 2000 he racked up an impressive 331 points,  followed that with 311 the year after,  before leaving the best till last. In the 2002 season a long standing goal kicking record held by Steve Quinn was finally broken by Rooney who kicked 165 goals in the year. His 429 points was also a record, eclipsing Martin Pearson’s previous high of 391. In 118 Featherstone games he scored 66 tries, kicked 510 goals (4th on the all-time list) and 1,247 points (5th on the all-time list).
As one of the top talents at the club, indeed the whole league, his time with Rovers was regularly punctuated by speculation of interest from richer clubs. A proposed move to Widnes fell through, a trial spell at Castleford in 2001 was badly managed by coach Graham Steadman. He finally got a super league chance when he signed for Wakefield before the start of the 2003 season. He spent seven years at Belle Vue, racking up some impressive statistics and gaining international honours when he was selected for England to play France in 2003, and then again in 2006. From Wakefield he moved to Barrow, then Whitehaven, and very briefly back to Featherstone in 2014 before retiring.

Brett Daunt

Filling the shoes of a great player who has recently departed is never an easy task. The weight of expectation and onerous comparisons are inevitable, but Rovers had to face up to just that problem at the start of the 1992/93 season, and filled the void left by Deryck Fox with their first notable imported half-back.  Rovers found themselves back in the second division without their star scrum-half and captain, and without a coach either. Unusually for our club both vacancies were filled by Australians, as Steve Martin (ex-North Sydney) took over as coach and the club signed Brett Daunt from Brisbane Valleys (now Fortitude Valley Diehards) in the Queensland competition. The Valleys club most famous son was Wally Lewis, but Daunt arrived in England as a relatively unknown quantity.

Operating at a lower level gave him a gentler introduction than he could’ve expected in the top flight. Regardless of this,  it obviously took the side some time to adjust to life without Fox. Brett made his debut on 27th of September in a win against Carlisle. In the same game, Rovers other import that year Wayne Taeketa also debuted. Despite the previous year’s relegation, Rovers had a phenomenal team, with Bibb at the back, and a three-quarter line of Butt, Manning, Newlove and Simpson, which made mincemeat of opposition defences. From November to march Brett was part of a team which won a club record 14 consecutive league games. He didn’t lead the line in the way Fox did, but was an intelligent distributor and had a good short kicking game. He also had pace off the mark and backed up well, which brought him a number of tries. He first partnered Brendon Tuuta, then Martin Pearson, then Francis Maloney at half-back in his first year. By the time Rovers won the Championship Daunt had solidified his place in the team in his quiet unassuming manner. The year finished in tremendous fashion with Rovers winning the Premiership Trophy in front of a large crowd at Old Trafford.
Rovers enjoyed a reasonably successful return to the top flight, as the season started with Daunt and Maloney in cracking form as Wigan were crushed in an early league fixture. When Maloney was sold to Warrington, Daunt paired up again with the prolific Martin Pearson, and the Aussie must have been reasonably satisfied with his year’s work. But the sale of Paul Newlove had given Rovers the funds for big-money signings and in the summer of 1994 Daunt’s contract was not renewed and the scrum-half shirt went to Mark Aston, newly signed from Sheffield. Daunt went back to Queensland with the best wishes of the club for two years creditable work. He played a total of 61 games and scored 18 tries.

Deryck Fox

Before he’d even played a game, he was described by that sage observer Keith Goulding as a “Nash-Millward-Agar all rolled into one” and the truth is that Deryck Fox’s glittering career lived up to expectations. Whilst Rovers were basking in Wembley glory in the summer of 1983, Fox was part of an astonishingly successful BARLA Youth team that toured New Zealand under the coaching of Ken Everson. In that tour squad alongside Fox were Garry Schofield, Mike Ford, Roy Powell, Gary Divorty (Ross’s dad) among others. Deryck came off that tour and went virtually straight into the Rovers line-up. He quickly became a model of consistency, in both attack and defence,  and missed very few games in next nine seasons at the club. In only his second year as a professional he won his first Great Britain cap against France, and later played the full series against the 1985 Kiwis and 1986 Kangaroos.
For Rovers, he was our attacking lynchpin, with nearly all of the team’s distribution and kicking done through him. He innovated a number of moves, and perfected the art of the reverse cross-field grubber. He was also a phenomenal tackler, regularly top of the count alongside much bigger front-row forwards. He may have lacked a little pace, but he was a fitness fanatic which helped his all round contribution. He spent the summer of 1986 guesting for Western Suburbs in Australia and despite persistent rumours of richer clubs trying to sign him, he stuck with Rovers, even during relegation in 1987. He was inexplicably missed off the 1988 tour down under, but won a belated place on the 1992 tour. That year Rovers had been relegated again, and Fox finally decided to move on and he made a big money move to Bradford where we won back his international jersey and enjoyed three successful seasons. By the end of his career he had won 14 caps, as well as a number of starring roles for Yorkshire in the ‘War of the Roses’.
With the advent of super league, Fox moved back to Featherstone and his organisation and vision helped the club through a difficult transition phase from 1995 to 1997, though by then he was at the veteran stage. After being released by Rovers he had a spell as player-coach at Rochdale before finishing back where he started in the amateur game at Shaw Cross Sharks and Thornhill Trojans.
In total Fox played 353 games for Rovers (14th on the all-time list), managed 84 tries and kicked 436 goals (10th on the all-time list) for a grand total of 1,145 points (7th on the all-time list). In 2010 Deryck became the fourth scrum-half in our history to be elected to the Hall of Fame, following Don Fox, Steve Nash and Carl Dooler.