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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

George Johnson and George Johnson Jr.

Without the efforts of George Johnson there would be no Featherstone Rovers. It was this man, who at the age of 28 got together a new rugby league club in Featherstone, called it Featherstone Rovers and made a ground in Post Office Road. The year was 1902, and George Johnson was working for Mr. Umpleby in the Railway Hotel in Station Lane, where early meetings of the Rovers were held and where the legend was born. Four years later, when George Johnson moved to Pontefract, the club collapsed and died, such was the impact and control that the club chairman had over the club. It wasn’t until Boxing Day 1908 that the club was resurrected, playing a friendly game against Hunslet Albion. By then, George Johnson had moved back to Featherstone to open a grocery store. He was to remain the club’s chairman and president throughout its formative years, its acceptance into the senior league and beyond. It must have been a proud moment for him to see his club gain entry into the senior league in 1921. He retired in 1937, leaving the club in the capable hands of Abraham Bullock.

The chairman’s son, also called George, signed for Rovers in 1931, and it must have been a bit tricky for him to be in the team and the son of the boss. George Johnson Jnr. was good enough to dispel any hint of favouritism. On the field Rovers had a pretty grim time of it in the 1930s, but Johnson did his best to lighten the gloom with some classy touches from full-back and also stand-off. He played 103 games for Rovers, managing six tries and 50 goals. Ten of those goals came improbably enough all on the same day against Bradford in October 1931. That record tally stood 33 years until Don Fox beat it. In January 1935 George Johnson became one of the first players ever to play rugby league in France when he was involved in a series of exhibition games playing for a British Empire XIII. As club captain in 1935 his portrait appeared on Ogden’s cigarette cards that year, a real sign of fame in those days! Inevitably Rovers’ financial problems led him to be sold to a richer club, Hunslet, where he linked up with former Rovers team-mates Ernie Winter and Cyril Plenderleith.

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