As Rovers emerged from the Second World War in 1945, results were not as good as hoped and it was time for a change in the backroom staff. After two seasons in charge, former player Bill Sherwood gave way to a new coach, and the committee decided to go for a big name, which turned out to be Stan Smith. Smith had excellent credentials, having enjoyed an illustrious playing career at the highest level. In terms of pedigree, his stock couldn’t have been better. If rugby league players were racehorses, here would be one pure thoroughbred. His uncle was the great Billy Batten, and he was therefore cousin to fellow international winger Eric Batten, who would also become Featherstone coach. Stan Smith was also the son-in-law of Rovers 1900s fullback Jimmy Metcalfe, and therefore uncle of our 1950s centre Don Metcalfe.
Smith was one of the top wingers in the game in the 1930s and he toured Australia twice in 1932 and 1936, playing a total of eleven games for Great Britain and scoring nine tries. He had some highly memorable moments in a GB shirt. In the closely fought 1929 series Great Britain and Australia had drawn the three match series 1-1 with one 0-0 draw, and the officials organised an unprecedented fourth test. A tense game at Rochdale in January 1930 seemed to be heading for another 0-0 draw, when Smith dashed away for the only try of the game to clinch a series win. On the 1932 tour he had his finest moment, scoring a hatrick against Australia to win the Ashes for Great Britain in Sydney. At this stage he played for Leeds, after having started his career at Wakefield. His transfer in 1929 set a world record transfer fee of £1,075, showing just what a highly rated talent he was.
When he arrived at Featherstone in 1947, Stan Smith had retired as a player and he inherited a young team which was largely out of its depth. With no money for team strengthening, it was a question of what Smith could do with the home-grown talent available. Rovers made a bright start and won their opening three fixtures, including a narrow 11-8 success over Castleford. Despite the emergence of Jimmy Russell at scrum-half, Rovers badly missed iconic forward Frank Hemmingway who had a broken leg. After beating Batley in November, Rovers lost 24 straight games and won only once more in the rest of the season, by which time Stan Smith had left the club. He was replaced by Bill Sherwood who re-assumed the coaching role having made way for Smith the previous season. Sherwood was in charge for three more seasons until 1951. Fortunately, the Rovers committee were not too disheartened by the lack of success of appointing Stan Smith as coach, as they made a very similar move for that other international winger Eric Batten in the summer of 1951, with very different results.
Stanley Smith’s coaching record:
1947/8: Won 6, Lost 34= 15%