When Rovers were demoted in 1995, we immediately lost a number of players, including popular wingman Ikram Butt to the London Broncos. To fill that gap we turned to Nairobi, via Dewsbury.
In our final season in the top flight with Owen Simpson out injured, Rovers had signed young French star Freddie Banquet from Carcassonne. He joined fellow countryman Danny Divet at the club. Fred had a very good season at Featherstone, scoring 15 tries in 20 games, but left to join Paris St.Germain, and indeed scored the first ever super league try in 1996. His replacement came from even further afield.
Eddie Rombo had made a name for himself playing rugby union in his home country Kenya, and he came over to the UK in 1990 to study at Leeds University and had trials at Headingley. He did well enough to be signed on by Leeds, but played only nine first team games before moving to Dewsbury. He had four productive seasons at Dewsbury where he was a regular try-scorer. Rovers signed him in time for the centenary season in 1995/96. Playing on the opposite wing to Owen Simpson, this was arguably the fastest pair of wingers the club ever had. Underused in that centenary season, Rombo scored some spectacular long range tries in the first summer season of 1996.
Towards the end of the 1997 season, Rombo left Featherstone and had a short spell with Morley rugby union before heading home to Kenya. He had scored 26 tries in 55 games. Coupled with the retirement of Owen Simpson, Rovers had some holes to plug. In came local youngsters Darren Hughes and Karl Pratt. Both players had played junior rugby for Leeds, but when Darren moved to Featherstone in 1993 he started to get the occasional first team chance on the wing and at centre. In 1996 and 1997 he was a first team regular, and picked up a decent haul of tries too, but a knee injury saw him drift out of the game and his career finished prematurely.
Karl Pratt started out as a stand-off, but coach Steve Sims moved him out to the wing for the 1998, and what a masterstroke that proved as Karl had a prolific season, grabbing 25 tries which helped outsiders Rovers to go all the way to the Grand Final and within a whisker of super league. It was of course Karl’s infamous disallowed try that denied us that night and, headhunted by Leeds, it proved to be his last match for Featherstone. He appeared on the wing for Great Britain in 2002 whilst at Leeds, and later transformed himself into a hooker at Bradford before a shoulder injury finished his career prematurely too.