Before the start of the 1997 season coach David Ward made an unheralded signing from Sheffield when he snapped up their second choice hooker. Although he had started his professional career at the Eagles after signing from Dewsbury Moor, Richard Chapman (#748) was originally from Featherstone and his family had moved to Dewsbury as a youngster. Signing for Featherstone Rovers was therefore a homecoming and a great move for both parties. Although he was unusually tall for a hooker, Richard’s play-making skills, both handling and kicking, marked him out as one of the top performers at Championship level over a number of seasons. Many of Rovers attacking moves were based around his unorthodox creativity from acting half-back. He also had a penchant for try scoring and an eye for a gap in the defensive line. In short, a real handful for opposition defences.
Chapman’s impact on the first team was immediate. He took over from Colin Maskill (#744), and shared the hooking role throughout his debut season of 1997 with Paddy Handley (#752). The following year Rovers went all the way to the Grand final with Richard now an integral part of our attack and defence and with youngster Gavin Swinson (#764) as back up. In the final itself Chapman had an outstanding game and won the Man of the Match award as Rovers missed out on Super League by a whisker. The following season Swinson left for Rochdale and Andy Heptinstall (#737) took over as Chapman’s interchange partner. In 2002 Andy Kelly appointed Richard club captain, a role he proudly held for two years.
Richard’s durability and consistency brought him close to an historic milestone. Never in the history of the club had a hooker scored 100 tries in his Featherstone career. Chapman’s impressive season by season try-scoring returns of 9/18/11/15/19/19/10/3 saw him move towards three figures, more or less at the same time as winger Jamie Stokes also approached his ton. Chapman finally reached that total in July 2003 against Dewsbury, his 213th game for Featherstone. What an achievement.
During 2004 Paul Darley (#808) converted from a back-row forward into a hooker and he was preferred in the number nine shirt to Chapman. After eight seasons Richard was prematurely released and then gave good service to Dewsbury Rams. In total, he played 240 games for Featherstone Rovers and scored 104 tries as well as 128 goals, kicked mostly in 1998. His try scoring record leaves him in 13th position on our all-time list, the only forward who has scored more is Peter Smith (#518).
The sign of any class player is how difficult he is to replace, and for Featherstone Rovers replacing Richard Chapman was a tough job, which was offered to a number of players over the next few seasons.