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

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Billy Batten and Eric Batten.

Although he never played for Featherstone, Billy Batten was quite simply one of the greatest three-quarters of all time. Born into mining stock at Kinsey, he became one of the first big stars of the Northern Union alongside such names as Albert Goldthorpe and Harold Wagstaff. Batten signed for Hunslet in 1906, and within two years had won every honour in the game. He was capped by Great Britain in the first ever Test series in 1908 as rugby league was being established in New Zealand and Australia, the very birth of international football. At the height of his powers Batten was a fearsome competitor, and a ferocious tackler who knew no fear. He was also an accomplished ball-handler and break-maker at centre, and a lethal finisher on the wing. Among his many talents was his trademark of hurdling over would-be tacklers. Well aware of his own worth, he was involved in the game’s first high profile transfer when he left Hunslet for Hull in 1913 for a record £600. Despite World War One interrupting his career, he won ten Great Britain caps, before playing out his days at Wakefield, then Castleford in 1927. He was an automatic entrant in the RFL’s Hall of Fame. His brothers Jim and Eddie also played the game.

Billy’s three sons, Eric, Bob, and Billy Jnr. all played RL professionally, but by far the most successful was Eric Batten. He signed professionally for Wakefield Trinity in 1933, and enjoyed fame and honours at Hunslet and Bradford, before in 1951 the Featherstone committee had the great foresight to appoint this thirty-six year old as player-coach. He nothing short of revolutionised the club. Previously Rovers had struggled along in the early post-war years in much the same way they had throughout the 1930s. Batten brought about a change in fortunes that would last well beyond the six years he spent as head coach. He was a fitness fanatic who quickly knocked a keen young Rovers team into shape. His finest hour at Featherstone was of course playing, and scoring a well-taken try, in the 1952 Challenge Cup final. It was incredibly the eighth cup final of Eric’s illustrious career, but  Featherstone’s first. Batten played a total of 101 games for Featherstone, notching a prolific 60 tries, setting the tries in a season record in 1953. His career total of 443 tries has been bettered by only four men in the whole history of the sport (Brian Bevan, Billy Boston, Martin Offiah and Alf Ellaby). His name lived on at Post Office Road for many years in the form of the Eric Batten Suite in the clubhouse.

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