Whilst it is quite common to see recently retired players publishing their autobiographies, as far as rugby league is concerned this is a relatively new phenomenon. Until the late 1990s very few stars of our game had their memoirs printed. Hence the market now for retrospective studies of the game’s former greats. Ron Bailey followed up his trilogy of history books on Featherstone Rovers by choosing Don Fox to be the subject of his fourth book. Undoubtedly one of the greatest players our club has ever produced, Don Fox signed for Featherstone Rovers in 1953 and served the club with distinction before leaving for Wakefield in September 1965. He stopped playing in 1970, but it wasn’t until 2007 that his story was finally put down in print. Ron Bailey was in an ideal position to write this book, having been closely involved with the Rovers as club secretary whilst Fox was starring in the first team.
We are given a short introduction on life in Sharlston and its close association with rugby league. Don’s childhood neighbour was the great Joe Mullaney and there is a touching tribute to his halfback partner from Joe, a man who surely deserves a biography of his own. Don was the second of Tom Fox’s three rugby playing sons, and the story begins in earnest once he had signed for Featherstone.
Don Fox’s professional life is divided into five chapters, the longest three of which cover his time with Featherstone. This of course was a golden period for Featherstone rugby, and Don’s career highlights included lifting the Yorkshire Cup, representing Great Britain and beating Australia. The text is filled out with a lot of photos, many of them team groups. Considering the length and profile of his career there are precious few good action shots of Don Fox that survive to date. There is coverage of his time at Wakefield when he made the unusual transition from scrum half to prop forward. Inevitably the 1968 Cup final features, when Don won the Lance Todd trophy but was remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Oddly, there are separate chapters on Don’s famous brothers Peter and Neil. This is fair enough in some respects as their careers often coincided (they once all played in the same game, Wakefield v Batley in 1965), but both Peter and Neil have their own books anyway, making these sections slightly redundant. After the infamous 68 final, the rest of Don’s career, his coaching experience and the rest of his life are very quickly summarised in just three pages. I felt like that I would’ve liked to have found out more about that period of his life.
On the whole, as a dip into Rovers’ rich past and looking at the life of one of our favourite sons, this book offers a lot of pleasurable memories.