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

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Owen Simpson

Rovers had signed both centre Terry Manning and prop Gary Rose from Keighley in 1989/90 and so when they went back to Lawkholme Lane the following season for winger Owen Simpson the hope was that he would provide the same level of service to Featherstone as Terry and Gary had done. 

Two things that became very clear from the outset were firstly that Owen Simpson had pace to burn and secondly that he would enjoy playing outside Paul Newlove very much indeed. He started as he meant to carry on, scoring a try on his debut in November 1990 against Castleford and never looked back. That first year Owen ended with 12 tries from 23 games, and he went onto enjoy a long unbroken run in the first team, free from injury and free-scoring. He played in 113 of Featherstone’s next 118 games over three seasons.  
With Ikram Butt and Terry Manning, all muscle and bustle, operating together down the right flank, Owen teamed up with Paul Newlove down the left and regularly ripped sides apart. Newlove’s pace and power combined with Simpson’s finishing skills proved a lethal partnership in the top flight. In 1993 in the Second Division though, they were virtually unstoppable. That amazing Championship winning year was undoubtedly their peak season when both players broke Cyril Woolford’s long-standing tries in a season record. Simpson ended with 34, still the club record for a winger and Newlove 48 for an astonishing total of 82 tries between them. It was a great time for Rovers fans and coincided with the popularity of John Hill’s video commentaries to Terry Mullaney’s ground-breaking “Tries of the Season” videos. On the 1992/93 video, time and time again John’s inimitable voice rose to fever pitch as Newlove made yet another break, to be finished in style by Simpson. Wonderful memories.

At the end of that record-breaking season Newlove moved on to Bradford and Simpson had a new centre partner in kiwi Iva Ropati. Back in the First Division, Owen managed 14 tries from 28 games. The following year though he was hampered by a serious knee injury for the first time in his career and managed only five games, but fought back to play most of the first summer season of 1996 before retiring. His career total stands alongside any of our most prolific wingmen, 98 tries in 158 games, just short of his century. In retrospect, Owen’s career represented the end of an era. He was an old-fashioned finisher, fast and elusive, whose contribution to the team consisted almost entirely of scoring tries and whose defence or capability under the high ball was never really questioned. From that time on, the game changed and wingers started to take on a new role.

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