Back in the 1980s Open Rugby magazine used to organise an annual programme competition to judge who had the best matchday publication. It had the effect of generally improving the standard of programmes which had been pretty low throughout the 70s, and the Featherstone Rovers issue always did very well in the ratings. Programmes started to have many more articles to read and the cover was changed annually. This particularly striking cover was chosen for the Rovers programme in 1987/88, a year we spent in the Second Division despite having a first team squad which included Chris Bibb, Graham Steadman, Deryck Fox, Karl Harrison and Peter Smith.
In recent seasons Sheffield have been familiar visitors to Post Office Road. Hard to believe then that this game was in fact Featherstone’s first ever opportunity to play against the then babes of rugby league, who had been formed just three years previously. Rovers were on a roll by the time this fixture was played (13th March 1988) having not lost since the previous October, and comfortably won 40-10 with a Paul Lyman hatrick.
The programme itself cost 60 pence and had 36 pages. Club chairman Richard Evans had a column, pointing out that although we were on course for promotion, the title was out of our hands and it was up to Wakefield and Oldham to slip up. In the event Wakefield did, but Oldham didn’t. Coach Peter Fox had surprisingly declined the opportunity to have a page in the programme addressing the fans. There were pen pictures of the Eagles, then coached by Gary Hetherington, and a quick look at their team line up reveals a number of names synonymous with the early years of the development of rugby league in Sheffield, not least their young stand-off and Rovers’ current first team boss Daryl Powell.
Elsewhere in the programme, Ian Clayton contributed three separate articles, one charting the history of RL in general, another on previous meetings between the clubs (a bit thin that page given the circumstances!) and an “alternative” humour column. John Hill was writing a series of interesting articles entitled “Who’s the Greatest?”. This week he looked at loose forwards and after much deliberation plumped for Johnny Raper as the answer to his question. Donald Hunt had a nostalgic piece looking at former players, this week featuring Dave Hartley. There was space for plenty of full page photos taken by Eric Lorriman, and this issue had a couple of nice action shots of second rowers Paul Hughes and John Bastian.
Finally in the news round up we learned that Deryck Fox’s wife had a baby daughter and Steve Quinn had passed yet another goal kicking milestone.