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

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Laurie Gant 1966 to 1970.

When he picked up the coaching reins at Featherstone Rovers, it proved that, in rugby league terms, Laurie Gant really was a jack of all trades. He started out as a player, and a very good one at that, a second-row forward for his local team, Wakefield. Decorated during World War Two, he signed for Featherstone Rovers in 1948 and joined what was in all honesty a very poor team in the middle of a terrible run of defeats. His experience gradually began to have an effect, and Gant was an integral part of the Batten-led revolution at Featherstone. His proudest moment as a player was the 1952 Cup final where he played alongside Cliff Lambert and Fred Hulme in the back-row. After finishing playing in 1954 after more than 100 appearances, Gant turned to refereeing and soon made the top grade. He then turned his hand to coaching, and took over from Johnny Malpass as Rovers coach in the summer of 1966. By the end of his first season in charge Rovers had won the Cup at Wembley.

Marvellous though it was, the Wembley success masked what had been a pretty disappointing league campaign that had seen Rovers finish in a lowly 20th position. The following season saw only a slight improvement to 18th, without any Cup joy. Gant then began to bring on the next generation of Rovers youngsters. That year both Steve Nash and Vince Farrar began to make their marks. In 1968/69 the side finally began to put together some consistent league form and finished 7th in the league, but again had no real impact in the Cup competitions. With a pack containing Tonks, Dixon, Farrar, Morgan, Smales and Thompson, it was clear this was a team capable of going places. 1969/70 saw Rovers finish 8th,  and reach the Yorkshire Cup final, only to be beaten by Hull. They went back to the final the following season, beaten this time by Leeds, but league form was dipping again and the coach sensed that it was perhaps time for a change.

Laurie Gant stepped down as Rovers coach in December 1970 and was replaced by Peter Fox. His career coaching record is very creditable, although the side may have been underachieving given the talent available. Regardless, he will be fondly remembered forever as the man who first brought the Cup to Featherstone.

He had previously worked at the RFL, running coaching clinics and summer courses for thousands of schoolchildren to encourage them to take up the game. After finishing at Featherstone he carried on working at headquarters on the National Coaching Scheme to raise coaching standards throughout the game. Later in life he was chairman of the Rovers Past Players Association. He remains one of only two Featherstone players awarded an MBE for his services to sport.

Laurie Gant’s coaching record:

66/7: Won 20-Drew 3-Lost 20
67/8: Won 18-Lost 20
68/9: Won 24-Drew 1-Lost 15
69/70: Won 26-Drew 1-Lost 14
70/1: Won12-Drew 2- Lost 5 (part season only)

Total: Won 100 -Drew 7-Lost 74= 57.18%

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