Until the number of competing sides was significantly increased in 1997, it was a comparative rarity to be drawn against amateur opposition in the Cup as very few clubs from outside the RFL were allowed to enter. One such fixture did turn up for Rovers and it was in 1964 where the luck of the draw paired us in the first round with Leeds district side Stanningley. Nearly fifty years later Stanningley currently find themselves in the National Conference Division One.
This Featherstone Rovers match programme, with the late great Don Fox in possession on the front cover, cost fourpence, for which the reader received a small ten page booklet. After the team lists, player statistics and a few adverts, there was space for only two articles, but they were both very well written by Ron Bailey and offered much food for thought. The opening piece of the programme welcomed the visitors, and outlined the history of the Stanningley club, as well as making reference to Rovers’ famous exploits in the Challenge Cup as a non-League side before 1921. The Stanningley club had been formed in 1955 but had already produced a number of players who had progressed to the professional ranks. Check out their website in 2012 to find out how that impressive list has grown since then.
The other article was a lengthy piece entitled “Analysing the present situation in Rugby League Football”, outlining many of the problems that bedevilled the game then, as they do now decades later. Falling attendances, spiralling costs, the lure of television, changing social habits. A prescient piece indeed. The two solutions offered were firstly a switch to summer rugby (yes, Featherstone Rovers were among the earliest advocates of the summer game), and secondly a return to one division, the split to two divisions having happened in 1962. The second wish was granted at the end of that year, but made no difference to the game’s problems and two divisions were eventually reintroduced in 1973. The first idea of course wasn’t adopted until 1996.
For the record Rovers won the game 60-4, the first time in their history they had passed 50 points in a game, and cover star Don Fox set a new club record of 12 goals in a match, a record that would stand for some 35 years.