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

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Gary Siddall

So short-handed for props were Featherstone Rovers in the late 70s that they had to recruit Mick Morgan as stop-gap cover. What the club really needed was another local youngster to come along and nail down a first team spot. There was no shortage of candidates ready to step into the breach to replace Morgan, with Kevin Anderson and Alan Bence most prominent among them. During 1977/78 Rovers had a handy young ball-handling prop training with the team when he was on leave from the Royal Navy. Gary Siddall then took the decision to quit the Navy, and dedicate himself to rugby. He made his debut in September 1978 against Widnes which was his only game that year as he had to finish his duties in the forces. His front-row adversary that day was experienced international Dougie Laughton. Some baptism!  His progress at the club was steady, as he managed just 15 games in his first three years, but good props always mature more slowly. By 1981 Gary had established himself as first choice prop alongside Mick Gibbins. Over the next five years, his work-rate and his ability to slip the ball from a tackle were regular features of Rovers’ team. The highlight of his career was undoubtedly our Wembley run in 1983. After being in the starting line up for both the quarter and semi-finals, Gary had been struggling for fitness in the lead-up to the final with an ankle injury. At Wembley Allan Agar played Steve Hankins at prop and Tim Slatter in the second-row although there was still a place for the popular ‘Big Sid’, who played his part off the bench after replacing Slatter in the second half. An abiding memory of that game was at the final whistle as Gary leapt into the air with delight as the celebrations began.

          Just as he was coming into his prime as a prop, Siddall suffered a terrible spine injury against Halifax in October 1985. Two bones in his back were broken by an opponent dropping his knees into him as he lay on the ground, and he faced a long and slow recuperation process. Rovers plugged the gap in their front row by signing Karl Harrison from Bramley, and Gary had almost two years out of the game. Typical of the man, he made his way back into the first team to help the club to promotion in 1987/88 under coach Peter Fox. The following season Gary was granted a benefit season for ten years’ service, and despite losing his first team spot he continued to loyally serve the A team as captain. After eleven seasons, 187 games and 25 tries for Featherstone, he went to Huddersfield to finish his career in 1989.

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