When Rovers played their first ever senior match in August 1921 at Bradford the fullback was Charlie Smith. There’s no record of how well he played, but within a couple of weeks the club were already trying out other players in that role. Bowen, Green, Burridge, and Gill all received chances in what turned out to be a problem position for the league’s new boys. Eventually the experienced Billy Seymour, who had started the season as first choice centre, moved to full-back and covered the slot ably. Given the wide variety of players tried, it seems odd that a young lad who played all that debut season on the wing without ever being given a go emerged the following year as first choice full-back. Not only did Sid Denton nail the number one shirt as his own, he kept it too, for a full decade.
Sid and his brother Jim Denton were mainstays of the Rovers’ back-line throughout the twenties and early thirties. Sid had made his Featherstone debut when the club was still playing in the junior leagues in 1919. He was an integral part of that all-conquering side that was so successful that the Northern Union had little option but to promote them to the senior league in 1921. Sid went on to make a massive total of 349 first-team games, but even that figure was dwarfed by his brother’s consistency, Jim played a record 440 games for Featherstone.
The role of full-back was in some ways very different to nowadays, but in other ways certain things haven’t changed. Linking up into the line on attack was not really a feature of full-back play in the twenties, hence Sid’s total of just 28 tries in those 349 matches. He was, of course, very capable on defence, which was often a lonely job standing as the last line between the opposition and the try line. He was adept at fielding all kinds of kicks, and his safe handling was a must in the days of unlimited tackles. Full-backs in those days would often be involved in kicking duels, vying for field position by immediately kicking the ball back over the head of the opposition full-back after catching it. Sid Denton held his own against the best of the day.
His finest hour was in 1928 when Featherstone qualified for the Top 4 Championship playoffs after finishing third in the league. Holding a slender lead against Leeds in the semi-final at Headingley, Denton intercepted a pass in his own 25, raced to half-way, chipped over his opposite number, hacked the ball ahead and dived on it for a famous score which helped Rovers to a stunning 15-12 success and their first ever Championship final. Sid Denton also represented Rovers at full-back in their first ever Yorkshire Cup final that same year. He eventually retired in 1932.