After the heart-breaking disappointment of our grand final defeat, Steve Sims left Featherstone Rovers. It was left to assistant coach Kevin Hobbs to pick up the pieces, and what an unenviable task he faced. Kevin was well known at the club, having started out as a player in 1977 around the same time as his brother David. He played a total of 30 games for the first team before turning to coaching, joining the staff in 1994/95 to oversee the academy team with Bob Spurr. He coached the Alliance team in 1996, and filled in as caretaker coach between David Ward and Sims. He then spent time as Sims' assistant. In this way, being offered the head coach role at the end of 1998 was reward for a number of years spent on the backroom staff.
Hobbs’ first job was to try and lift his physically and emotionally shattered squad to take part in the post-season Treize Tournoi. A new concept and a decent idea, this tournament came at exactly the wrong time for Rovers, but nevertheless, Hobbs took advantage to have a look at a few fringe members of his squad. A young scrum-half called Jamie Rooney was handed his debut, as was long term loan signing Jamie Peacock. Other youngsters such as Jamie Stokes, Chris Spurr and Steve Dooler also received game time, though the results Rovers recorded were inevitably forgettable at the end of such a gruelling year.
At the beginning of the 1999 season a new side had to be built. Promising youngster Karl Pratt had been snatched up by Leeds, and from the Grand Final team of the previous September Rovers had lost captain Shaun Irwin, talented full-back Steve Collins, popular Australians Danny Baker and Ty Fallins, as well as Chico Jackson and Gary H Price. Kevin Hobbs did his best to plug those gaps. The capable Matt Bramald came in at full-back, our Aussie import was Wayne Simonds. Hobbs also signed Martin Law and Ryan Horsely. The pack was beefed up by Hitro Okesene , a former Kiwi international, and he was joined by veteran Brendon Tuuta, a Rovers’ legend playing in his farewell season. Together with young forwards such as Dickens, Lowe, Dooler and Evans, Rovers looked equipped for a good year.
A decent start saw Rovers win five straight league games, but then lose the next three. After defeat at Doncaster, Kevin Hobbs quit his post, citing verbal abuse his family had received from some ‘fans’ as the reason. However anyone feels about the attributes of the coach, this kind of thing is never acceptable, and so Rovers lost a dedicated and hardworking man who was popular with the players. It’s difficult to say how the season would have worked out had he stayed, but a disastrous result at home to Bramley after Hobbs’ departure left no doubt that the board had to move very quickly to rectify the situation.
Kevin Hobbs came back to Featherstone when he was appointed assistant coach to Gary Price, and then held the position of Football Manager, doing a lot of work in schools and the local community.
Kevin Hobbs’ coaching record:
1998: Won 1 Lost 3
1999: Won 8 Lost 6
Total: Won 9 Lost 9 = 50%