|Vic Darlison played for Bradford in the 1948 Challenge Cup final|
As Rovers’ depressing battle for survival continued throughout the 1930s and 40s, what kept the club alive was their ability to attract sufficiently talented local juniors, showcase them by giving them first team rugby at the earliest opportunity, then selling them to the highest bidder. Of course, the impact on the first team squad was devastating and Rovers were often bottom or thereabouts of the whole league. But the money from transfer fees was quite simply the lifeline that kept the club alive.
From the late twenties Rovers had been well served by a rough and ready prop forward by the name of Oliver Darlison. After 120 games in the first team he was sold on to Huddersfield. A few years later Oliver’s younger brother Vic was given his first run out at loose forward towards the end of another poor season in 1935/36, when Rovers sell-sell-sell policy was really taking its toll on the playing field. Vic Darlison’s true position was hooker and though it appeared that Percy Morris had a mortgage on the number nine shirt it wasn’t long before young Darlison had ousted the old-timer and made it his. His Rovers career was all too brief spanning just 51 games, before a deal was done at the beginning of 1938/39. Rovers swopped Darlison for veteran Joe Golby from Wigan.
Although Darlison was a class player to lose, it was a decent bit of business as Golby gave Featherstone Rovers very good service in the twilight of his career. Despite having played much of his career at Dewsbury and then Wigan, Joe was originally from Streethouse and so was ‘coming home’ at the end of a notable career. He was hooker for Rovers in the 1940 Yorkshire Cup final, and was up against, oddly enough, Vic Darlison! Despite being a Wigan player, Vic occasionally guested for Wakefield Trinity during the war. There was obviously no love lost between the rival number nines as both men were sent off together in the second half, but Golby had the last laugh, picking up his winner’s medal.
Such was Golby’s form that although Rovers had initially signed Jim Bowden from York as Darlison’s replacement, he couldn’t get in the team. Golby’s consistency mirrored that of the everlasting Percy Morris, playing 118 games in four seasons. Eventually time caught up with him, and Joe Golby moved to Batley to finish his career. Bowden now finally got his chance and he served the club well, playing 88 games in 6 seasons as well as kicking a creditable 46 goals. Rovers have not had too many goal-kicking hookers over the years.
Meanwhile, Vic Darlison had left Wigan for Bradford Northern who reached the war-time Challenge Cup finals of 1944 and 1945 where Vic played alongside Eric Batten. Vic had time in February 1945 to pop back to Featherstone to play a cheeky game for Rovers as a war-time guest player. He brought his mate Eric Batten with him who played on the wing and scored a try as Rovers beat Huddersfield 14-7. Two months later they were both running out for Bradford in the Cup final against Huddersfield. So the seeds had been sown in 1945 for Eric Batten to come back to Featherstone more permanently after the war. Vic Darlison (and Eric) went to Wembley with Bradford three years running from 1947 to 1949, giving him a total of five Cup final appearances.