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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Eric Batten

In the same way as Bill Shankley at Liverpool, Matt Busby at Manchester United and Hebert Chapman at Arsenal heralded a change in fortunes for those great football clubs, so too did the arrival of Eric Batten at Featherstone Rovers. Aided by a committee determined to hold on to their best players as much as possible, a fitter and more competitive side emerged. The foundations for the success of the late 50s and early 60s under Harold Moxon were undoubtedly built by Batten.

Apart from his impressive change in club culture thanks to his coaching ability, Eric was still a very good winger in his own right despite his advancing years. Quick off the mark, with a wiry build and a low centre of gravity, he had an unerring sense of where the line was and his ability to get the ball down from close range was unparalleled. His strength and bravery saw him get over the line regularly, often diving low among a forest of legs to score. His try scoring feats soon rewrote the record books at Rovers. In his first year he played 32 games, scored 17 tries, and …. oh yes, took his team to the Cup final at Wembley for the first time ever. At the twin towers Batten scored a trademark try, grounding the ball in the corner from a seemingly impossible situation that the defence looked to have covered. On the opposite wing that day at Wembley was Norman Mitchell, one of a couple of local young wingers that Batten helped to bring on. Mitchell played 85 games in the early fifties, mostly on the opposite wing to Batten, a role he shared with Ray Cording who played 122 games in the same period.

The following year, 1953, Batten broke Jack Hirst’s tries in a season record, raising it to 26. With 17 tries the year after, now aged 39, he had scored 62 tries in 105 games for Featherstone. He then retired to concentrate on his coaching. In all, he had scored an astonishing 443 tries during a twenty one year career that covered Wakefield, Hunslet and Bradford as well as the Rovers. After five good years in charge of first team coaching, Eric was controversially released from his duties in the summer of 1956. The revolution in the club’s fortunes that had been set in place was continued by his successors. Quite simply, Eric Batten left Featherstone a much better club than he had joined.

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