When Featherstone Rovers joined the R.F.L. in 1921 it was on the back of some sensational form the club had produced as a junior club. This was no surprise given the quality of the footballers the club had immediately after World War One. The pick of a talented bunch of lads who took Featherstone into the senior league was perhaps star wingman Jim Denton. Born in 1900, Jim had started playing for Rovers in 1918, alongside his younger brother Sid. Entrusted with the goal-kicking in an age where not many tries were scored in rugby league, Jim quickly became an integral part of the team and made his name as Rovers’ first prolific points scorer. Indeed, of Rovers first twelve seasons as member of the RFL from 1921 to 1933 Jim Denton was top of the goal charts and points charts a total of ten times. He was also top try scorer in 1925 (18 tries), 1927 (17 tries), 1933 (12 tries) and 1934 (incredibly with four tries!!). The figures may look modest by today’s standards, but you have to remember that for example in that 1934 season, Rovers scored just 47 tries all year long.
The highlight of Jim’s professional career was undoubtedly leading the team to the 1928 Championship final. This was an unbelievable effort but such a new club, and showed how far the club could go by nurturing local talent. Jim won two Yorkshire caps but missed out on international honours which were tremendously hard to achieve when playing for a perceived unfashionable team like Featherstone. Although he considered himself to be an out-and-out wingman he was versatile enough to fill in from time to time at centre or stand-off as well as in his brother customary position of full-back. Once he retired, Denton’s career totals of 1,141 points and 377 goals were not overhauled for over 30 years. His record of 440 games for Featherstone still stands today, although Stuart Dickens came mightily close to that tally recently.
When the football season was over, Jim and Sid Denton would regularly make the headlines in the Pontefract and Castleford Express on the cricket pages with their exploits for Featherstone Cricket Club. Their uncle, David Denton was one of Yorkshire’s greatest ever cricketers.
Unfortunately after Jim retired, as the economic reality of the 1930s took hold, Rovers had to sell any marketable player they produced just to survive.