Today Featherstone Rovers have a new trophy in the cabinet. It remains to be seen how famous the European Club Champions tag becomes, or how long the history of the Anglo-French Challenge lasts.The sport is full of competitions and cups which never really took off. This programme is from the short-lived Captain Morgan Trophy, which was a funny old competition introduced into an already crowded fixture list. As you can see from the front cover of the match programme it had an impressive looking trophy. Played in a straight knockout format, Featherstone and Warrington made it through to the first (and last as it turned out) final. It took place on a Saturday afternoon in January at Salford, and the programme would have cost you 10p for a twenty page issue. After the line ups, pen pictures including players’ occupations, and other statistics, there was not much left to read. There was a full page portrait of a young looking Queen Elizabeth II if that’s your type of thing. There’s also a spectacular action shot of an airborne Paul Coventry diving in for a try in Rovers’ semi-final versus Workington. Checking out the team photo, no less five of the Rovers team sport impressive moustaches (Hartley, Smith, Box, Ken Kellett and Nash) whereas Barry Hollis goes for the full beard and Cyril Kellett still has those trademark sideburns. Hirsute days indeed.
In the potted club history of Rovers there are a number of inaccuracies (Rovers listed as having been formed in 1898 rather than 1902), reflecting the fact that in those days the early history of many RL clubs was hazy. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a new generation of historians did better research into the roots of the game. On the RFL’s information page, among news about referee’s courses and coaching clinics was an offer for 1974 Challenge Cup final tickets (standing room only) at the princely sum of £1.00. Of course, knowing that the same two teams who were playing the Captain Morgan Trophy Final were going to appear a few months later at Wembley would have won you a bob or two at the local bookies.
For the record, the Trophy final was a dour game, Warrington winning 4-0 with two penalty goals from Derek Whitehead. The tournament was then dropped from the fixture listPerhaps that imposing trophy is still on the sideboard at Warrington nearly 40 years later.