The long and rich history of Featherstone Rovers Rugby League Football Club

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Rugby League: Back o’ t’ Wall by Graham Chalkley

 Recently we looked at the autobiography of Don Fox, who was born and bred in Sharlston. Until you read this book it’s difficult to believe just how many other top rugby league stars came from the same place. The story of rugby league in Sharlston is an incredible one, and this well-researched book by former player Graham Chalkley does justice to its proud record of player production. Chalkley plots the history of the Sharlston Rovers club, starting from the earliest days of organised rugby in the 1880s and 1890s. In those days Sharlston had as rivals other local teams such as Streethouse, Outwood, Normanton and later of course near neighbours Featherstone Rovers. The accounts of some of those early matches make fascinating reading. It’s clear that there was no love lost between these fiercely competitive local rivals, and after one game Rovers president and founder Councillor George Johnson took a swipe at Sharlston’s rough play tactics in his post-match speech. When Sharlston threatened to cancel the following fixture with a large crowd already assembled, Mr. Johnson was obliged to apologise before the game could take place.

Featherstone Rovers left the junior leagues in 1921, but Sharlston have continued there to this day in a run broken only by a short time in the fifties when they had no open-age side. As a club, their major achievements were twice winning the Yorkshire Cup, as well as famous victories over professional teams in the Challenge Cup, against Workington (in 1946) and Dewsbury (in 2004). The book was published in 2006 which coincided with one of the club’s most successful periods in terms of silverware. As an interesting history of a successful amateur club, the book is very thorough.

However, what makes the Sharlston club special, and what makes this book a remarkable read is the astonishing number of top quality players have been produced by a village with a population of just under 2,500 people. Given its geographical location, the main beneficiaries of this production line have been Featherstone Rovers and Wakefield Trinity. Two of the original nine members of the Rugby League Hall of Fame, Jonty Parkin and Neil Fox, started at Sharlston. As did Lance Todd trophy winners Carl Dooler and Don Fox, as well as England internationals Herbert Goodfellow (Wakefield) and Joe Mullaney (Featherstone), not forgetting Great Britain and Featherstone coach Peter Fox. The long list goes on to include Rovers favourites such as Tommy Smales, Vaughan Thomas, Steve Hankin, and more recently Martin Pearson and Steve Dooler. There are so many Doolers and Lingards who played the games professionally it’s hard to keep count. All in all, this book is a cracking read for local rugby league fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment