For some, the Swinging Sixties meant The Beatles and The Stones, flower power and hippies, flared trousers and mini-skirts. At Featherstone Rovers, with Gary Jordan speeding down one wing and Vaughan Thomas on the other flank, we had a very stylish backline indeed.
Although his name sounds Welsh, Vaughan Thomas was of pure local stock, Sharlston born and bred, the cousin of scrum-half Carl Dooler. Rovers signed Vaughan in 1963 and he got some first team chances in his debut season thanks to an unfortunate injury to Gary Waterworth. From the following season he was a first team regular, forming a very popular three-quarter line with Ken Greatorex, Keith Cotton and Gary Jordan. Although his try returns were more modest than the prolific Jordan, Thomas had the pace to finish any chances offered him, and his tackling style, whilst not copybook, proved effective. In his second full season he won representative honours when he was selected for Great Britain’s Under 24 side against France.
Doubtless, Vaughan’s finest hour was the Challenge Cup final at Wembley in 1967. His place in the line-up had been far from certain, having played in only two of the four previous rounds, missing the semi-final against Leeds. He got the nod from Laurie Gant though, and in the wide open spaces at the Twin Towers he made his mark. Rovers had to work tremendously hard to get ahead in a close encounter against Barrow, finding themselves 7-2 down in the first half. Thomas thought he had scored in the corner but was ruled to have had a foot in touch. After the break, and with Rovers having edged 9-7 ahead, the game’s crucial moment arrived. A crash tackle by Cotton on Barrow’s Smith saw the ball fly out and Vaughan Thomas scooped up the loose ball. With only daylight between him and the Barrow line he sprinted clear to gleefully score under the posts. It swung the Cup Featherstone’s way, a fact only confirmed by Tommy Smales’s later try. Our photo shows the unadulterated joy the whole team felt at their efforts, as Thomas and Les Tonks paraded the Cup around the ground afterwards.
With the emergence of young John Newlove the following season Thomas missed out on first team selection more frequently and he asked for a transfer. He was eventually sold to Bradford in 1968, but a knee injury saw him give up the game just a year later. In all Vaughan Thomas played 108 games for Featherstone scoring 35 tries, but for Rovers fans he will always be racing under the posts in the Cup final at Wembley…..