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

Saturday, 12 January 2013

George Johnson Jr.

The 1930s were a period of real struggle for the Rovers. The retirement of stalwart Sid Denton in 1932 left a hole in the fabric of the team. Throughout the following decade no player managed to make a strong and lasting impact at full-back in the way that Denton had, as the club constantly battled against a difficult financial situation.

1932 George Johnson
The fact that no-one came to call the number one shirt his own for more than a couple of seasons was not a reflection of the junior talent the club produced. It was simply that the club’s policy of ‘sell to survive’  meant that any useful player who established himself had a market price, and sooner or later, the club was forced to cash in. A prime example of this was today’s featured full-back. Although he was the son of Rovers’ founding father and club president, George Johnson junior had to battle his way into the team the same as any other player. He was a useful goal kicker and solid defender who had a good ability to read a game. With the retirement of Denton he was first choice full-back for a couple of years before switching to stand-off to accommodate Ben Lockwood. Johnson was sold to Hunslet in 1935 after playing 108 games.   

In Lockwood, Rovers had found an able replacement and he accomplished the then rare feat of playing in every single game in a season (1934/5), the first time a full-back had done that. His 55 goals that year may seem modest by today’s standards, but was in fact a club record at the time, beating any season’s best by the previous record holder Jim Denton. When Lockwood was sold, Tommy Dennis took over and made 86 appearances for the club. Then Jack Pollitt had some success, playing 75 games over two seasons before the second world war broke out. All clubs were obviously disrupted at that time, as players were called up for military service, and the strict registration rules were relaxed to allow clubs to put out a team more easily. After many years of unrelenting lack of success, the start of the war brought Featherstone their first ever piece of silverware when the won the 1940 Yorkshire Cup final against Wakefield at Odsal. Full-back that day in the absence of Pollitt and emerging youngster Walt Parkin was Jack Haley. He only played nine games for the club in his whole career, but was in the right place at the right time to pick up a winner’s medal. Or he would have done if it hadn’t been for the war. The Yorkshire County committee decided not to award medals, and the players received a canteen of cutlery instead. Club chairman Abraham Bullock was reported to have dipped into his pocket at a later date to make sure the players finally got a medal as a keepsake of the event.

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