Perhaps more than any other position on the field, it is the role of the hooker that has changed most in rugby league over the years. Back in the day when the scrum was a vital battle for possession and unlimited tackles meant a side could hold onto the ball indefinitely, the hooker had a loud and clear primary function. To hook the ball. Without the ball from the scrum, a team was going nowhere and, as with other specialist positions in rugby league, the Featherstone area became adept at producing hookers of the highest quality.
When Rovers joined the Northern Union in 1921 it was on the back of some sensational form the club had produced as a junior club. Our hooker for the very first senior match we played was a popular character by the name of Charlie Hepworth, known to fans and his team-mates as Pep. He played his junior rugby at Sharlston, his home town and signed for Featherstone Rovers, then the biggest junior club in the district, at the end of World War One when competitive rugby started again. In his first season he shared the hooking duties with another Sharlston-born player Harry Dooler, but by the end of that first year the number nine jersey belonged to Pep. He held that position during our first four seasons as a senior club and he went on to make 163 first team appearances.
Wise observers know that every hooker worth his salt needs a couple of handy props to help him out in the front row battle against the opposition. Pep was well blessed in the support he received from two Rovers stalwarts. In the early twenties Ernie Barraclough was a promising young open side prop and John Willie Higson was a wily veteran who packed down at blindside prop. It made for a formidable and highly consistent front row formation.
After an injury to Pep Hepworth in 1926, he was challenged for his place by Charlie Flaherty (35 games), and also Joe Hall (31 games), who played in the 1928 Championship final team. Then Arthur Lorriman (81 games) became first choice hooker until the emergence of Percy Morris. Pep Hepworth played his last game on the 6th April 1929 in defeat at Bramley, and then retired.