Back in 1933 Featherstone Rovers had signed a promising young centre called Johnny Malpass, but the financial constraints under which the club operated at that time forced his sale to Wakefield Trinity. He played 92 games for Rovers over four seasons and scored 12 tries. Just as his career at Trinity was taking off, the Second World War broke out and he was sent to the Middle East. He played for the Army at rugby and cricket where he served as a PT instructor. Once the war was over, his playing career was unfortunately finished by a knee injury and he turned to training and coaching. He gained qualifications in physiotherapy and worked at Pinderfield’s hospital. He was the club trainer and physical conditioner at Wakefield during their heyday in the early 1960s and when the chance came he took over as coach of the Rovers in August 1963.
Johnny Malpass inherited a very good team from Harold Moxon, but one perhaps that was coming to the end of an era. Players such as Mullaney, Fennell, Fawley and Lambert were now approaching the veteran stage or had retired, but there was plenty of up and coming talent to work with. In his first season, Malpass steered Rovers to fourth in the table, some way behind champions Swinton, but still a very creditable show indeed. Other highlights that year included beating the Australian tourists for a second successive time. In front of nearly 8,000 fans Don Fox starred as Rovers triumphed 23-17. The club also reached the Yorkshire Cup Final for fourth time, only to be beaten disappointingly 10-0 by Halifax. Under the tuition of Malpass, the next generation of players such as Carl Dooler, Arnie Morgan, Ivor Lingard and Gary Cooper were emerging. Don Fox enjoyed a new lease of life when he was switched from scrum-half to loose forward.
The following season failed to live up to expectations as Rovers finished a lowly 15th in the table, and despite winning a tremendous game at second-placed Wigan in the first round of the Championship playoffs, they failed to make much of an impression in the knockout competitions, losing in the early rounds of the Yorkshire Cup (to Wakefield) and the Challenge Cup (to Swinton). The next year, 1965/66 was another transitional season, as the iconic Don Fox left Rovers after thirteen years service and Rovers signed the influential Tommy Smales as loose forward. Rovers managed a identical league finish to the previous season, 15th, but a heavy first round playoff exit at St. Helens heralded the end of Johnny Malpass’s reign as Rovers coach. After leaving the Rovers in the summer of 1966 he took up the physio position at Castleford, and then later worked with Batley and York. He was also a member of the backroom staff for the Welsh national team at the 1975 World Cup.
Johnny Malpass’s coaching record:
63/4: Won 27-Drew 2-Lost 16
64/5: Won 21-Lost 19
65/6: Won 18-Lost 20
Total: Won 66-Drew 2-Lost 55= 54.47%