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

Friday, 11 December 2015

Neil Roebuck, Lee Whiteley, Mark Gibbon, Mark Wilson, Richard Gunn, Graham Southernwood, Andy Heptinstall

Neil Roebuck
With Rovers back in the second division in 1992, new coach Steve Martin just couldn’t make up his mind who his best hooker was. The departure of Trevor Clark (#656) to Bradford looked to have left the way clear for either Lee Whiteley (#671) or Mark Gibbon (#677) to stake a claim for the Featherstone Rovers number nine jersey, but it was two new faces that shared the role in the Championship winning year of 1992/93. Mark Wilson (#691) was signed from Bradford originally as a scrum-half. With Brett Daunt used as Deryck Fox’s replacement, Wilson slotted into the hooking role, as the two positions became evermore interchangeable as rugby league rules altered. Mark played about half the matches of that season as Rovers’ hooker. The other half Richard Gunn (#693) played. Richard had played all his junior rugby at Travellers Saints but had been a big money buy for Leeds as a teenager. He came home and enjoyed the best rugby of his career at Featherstone Rovers. Unusually, both Mark and Richard were named co-captains by their coach, a responsibility they shared throughout the year.

Mark Wilson and Richard Gunn
Back in the first division Wilson suffered a knee injury and was replaced by a signing from Castleford. Graham Southernwood (#706) staked his claim for the hooking role in a battle with Gunn. Southernwood eventually won, and was hooker throughout 1994/95 and played for Rovers in our last Challenge Cup semi-final in a front-row alongside Steve Molloy and Leo Casey. After our exclusion from Super League, Southernwood left to join Hunslet after 44 games for Rovers, and Richard Gunn was dogged by injury, finally retiring after 110 appearances. Graham’s son Cain Southernwood now plays stand-off for Batley.

It was around this time that Neil Roebuck (#696) began to emerge as a quality hooker. Neil had begun his career in the back row, and had been regarded as a utility forward. Perhaps his career had suffered as a result, but he now found a new lease of life in the middle of the front row and was our first choice throughout the 1996 season in a combination with Steve Molloy and Simon Tuffs. Credit for this transformation had to go to coach David Ward who had been a very fine hooker himself at Leeds in the seventies. In 1996 local youngster Andy Heptinstall (#737) started to make a name for himself in the reserves, but when Roebuck suffered a career-ending knee injury (having played 103 games) Rovers took on the experienced Colin Maskill (#744) to help out in the short term.

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