In the summer of 1956, Eric Batten must have been thinking he’d done enough to keep his job for the forthcoming season. Rovers had just finished an excellent sixth in the league and the young team that he had started to build at Featherstone in 1951 was beginning to make a real name for itself. However, the committee were somewhat surprisingly interested in looking for fresh coaching blood, and Batten was offered what was effectively a demotion to the position of trainer. He naturally refused, and left the club after grand service, going to coach Batley. In his place, Rovers appointed Bill Hudson. Hudson was a fast and resourceful back-row forward who began his career at Batley, before transferring to Wigan. He played for Wigan in the 1948 Challenge Cup Final, and for Great Britain against the 1948 Australian tourists (his only international cap). He then moved back to Yorkshire and finished his career at Wakefield. After retiring from the game in his mid thirties, he arrived at Featherstone for his first full coaching appointment aged 38. He brought with him Don Ward as assistant coach. The season began reasonably well with the side scoring plenty of points and Fox and Mullaney in particularly fluent form, and Cliff Lambert marshalling the forwards. Off-season investment in new players seemed to be paying off as Dennis Scholes and Frank Smith in the backs, and forwards Wyn Jones, Albert Fearnley and Norman Hockley all made their mark. On paper, results looked reasonable, with a satisfying win over high flying St. Helens being one of their most impressive displays. This was followed up days later with another famous win in an incredibly exciting game against Wakefield, 21-20.
There was, however, a sense of underachievement which led to Featherstone Rovers and Bill Hudson parting ways towards the end of the season in March. The explanation behind this sudden departure was not based on disappointing results(which would have been very harsh) but simply that Hudson could no longer commit himself to the job having moved out of the local area. Rovers decided against appointing a new coach mid-season (unthinkable nowadays) and assistant coach Don Ward took on some coaching responsibilities. and Albert Fearnley, as senior professional, looked after the forwards. In reality, this quick fix did not work, as the season fell away badly, with just three wins from the final 12 league fixtures after a first round Challenge Cup exit at Leigh. Fearnley had quit his position, as he felt it was negatively affecting his game. On balance then, it was a disappointing season for Rovers who won exactly half their 38 league fixtures to finish exactly half way up the league (15th out of 30 clubs).
After a series of high profile former international players as coaches from outside the area (Stan Smith, Eric Batten, Bill Hudson) Rovers looked nearer to home for their next appointment, a trend that was to serve them well during the sixties, seventies and eighties.
Bill Hudson’s coaching record (including games played after his departure):
56/7: Won 20- Lost 21= 48.78% success rate.