Signed from the local juniors, Willis Fawley made his debut in March 1951. He was immediately marked out as a very useful player as, allied to his necessary ball winning skills in the scrum and his exceptional strength, he was a quite speedy player in the loose, capable of causing havoc in the opposition defence. His major rival for the number nine shirt was veteran Bill Bradshaw, and a battle royale developed between the two throughout our Wembley season of 1951/52. In the end, it was the old head Bradshaw who got the nod at Wembley. From the following year Fawley established himself as first choice and went on to have one of the longest careers in Rovers’ history.
He was first choice hooker for Featherstone for ten years, seeing off the challenge of a number of talented youngsters, including Peter Barraclough and Dennis Morgan. Veteran Stan Moyser had a shot, but Willis was invincible. In 1959/60 he scored 17 tries, an unheard of haul for a number nine, showing his value in the loose, especially a good understanding with clever ball-handling loose forward Cliff Lambert.
It was his benefit year in 1960/61, and Fawley was still at his best. When Walter Ward gained favour in 1962, Willis became captain of the A team, still playing his same consistent game. It was not until Rovers signed Milan Kosanovic in early 1964 that the writing was on the wall for Fawley’s career. He continued to play on, offering sterling service to the reserves in the twilight of his career. Just before Rovers went to Wembley 1967, the soon-to-be-retired Willis played his symbolic final match on 5th of April, now aged 37 years old. In total, he played 372 games for Featherstone and scored 59 tries.
There can be no doubt that to play for Featherstone Rovers for seventeen straight years you have to be a hard man. Nothing typifies this aspect of Willis Fawley’s character more than Boxing Day 1954 and a game against Castleford. Fawley’s head collided with the goal posts with such ferocity that a crack rang out around the stadium and the crowd fell silent fearing the worst. The posts continued to reverberate as Fawley was stretchered off and his stricken colleagues continued playing (no subs in those days). Incredibly after about fifteen minutes, the unstoppable hooker came back out onto the field to rapturous applause and battled on to help Rovers to an 8-all draw. A true Rovers legend.