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

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Three Musketeers from Keighley

When Peter Fox brought Rovers out of the old second division in 1988, he recognised we needed a few reinforcements to survive in the top flight. Nowadays, this involves ramming your squad full of the maximum quota of overseas imports. Back then, it was possible to cast a discerning eye over the lower division and pick up some talented players capable of taking the step up. Rovers had previously successfully done this with the likes of Karl Harrison (Bramley) and Graham Steadman (York), two players signed from the second division who went on to enjoy international careers.

Terry Manning
 Hoping to emulate this transfer market success, Rovers went on a little shopping expedition to Lawkholme Lane as it was then called and came back with Terry Manning. Terry had started his rugby career at Elland, turning professional in 1987. He played 61 games for Keighley, scoring 29 tries and had the kind of bustling style that Fox saw as the perfect foil to Paul Newlove in our centres. He signed for Featherstone in October 1989 and cost £40,000. Difficult to tackle, with good upper body strength, Terry’s style was not classical but very effective. He formed an integral part of a three-quarter line of Butt-Manning-Newlove-Simpson that was as good as any that the club has put together.

So happy were we with Manning that in a couple of months we were back at Keighley and acquired second-rower Gary Rose. To be honest, none of the typical cliché descriptions of rugby league forwards, “rugged”, “pugnacious”, “tough”, would be quite enough to explain Gary Rose’s impact on a rugby league field. He had been at Keighley for two years, signing from Yew Tree ARLC, and had played 46 games for Keighley. He slotted straight into the Rovers team, and just as quickly into the hearts of Rovers fans. Once his eccentric ball-carrying style had been corrected, he turned into a strong runner and very willing defender, making sure Rovers pack was never intimidated out of any encounter.

Owen Simpson
Within the year, Rovers snaffled up Owen Simpson, the archetypal flying wingman who had been a professional at Keighley just over a year, scoring 32 tries in 38 games. A try on his debut against Castleford gave us an immediate taste of things to come. His lethal combination with Paul Newlove down the left flank was so prolific that the try scoring records soon tumbled.
These three players had cost a total of £110,000, and what tremendous value for money they gave to Featherstone. Terry Manning’s career spanned five highly consistent seasons, chalking up 159 appearances, and managing 46 tries. After Rovers, he served both Doncaster and Hull. Gary Rose was with Rovers four years, and with his swashbuckling style he played 106 games and notched 5 tries. Improbably enough he then signed for Leeds, his uncompromising style never seemed cut out for the game’s snobbiest club. However, he won his spurs at Headingley, and later played for Hull. Owen Simpson graced the Featherstone wing over seven seasons though serious injury curtailed the latter part of his career. In 158 games, he scored 98 tries, finishing just short of that magical ton.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Featherstone's Great Britain Tourists

1966 Tourist Carl Dooler

From 1910 until 1996 Great Britain regularly toured Australia and New Zealand, customarily playing a three test series against both nations, as well as a large number of other games against regional, representative and club sides. Making a Great Britain tour was considered, alongside playing at Wembley, as the pinnacle of any player’s career. They earned the right to be called Great Britain Lions. Featherstone Rovers have supplied 14 such players. Three of these players, Cooper, Dooler and Smales didn’t play in a test match, so never became full internationals.
A further five players, namely Terry Clawson, Arnie Morgan, Mal Dixon, Gary Jordan and Peter Smith won Great Britain caps, but never toured. Morgan and Smith however, as well as Keith Bridges, Jimmy Thompson and Steve Nash, did “tour” with Great Britain in World Cup Tournaments.

 The official list of Featherstone Rovers’ Great Britain Lions is:

1.  Tommy Askin 1928
2.  Gary Cooper 1962 (not capped)
3.  Don Fox 1962
4.  Carl Dooler 1966 (not capped)
5.  Jimmy Thompson 1970, 1974
6.  Keith Bridges 1974
7.  Steve Nash 1974
8.  Steve Evans 1979
9.  David Hobbs 1984
10.         Chris Bibb 1990
11.         Deryck Fox 1990, 1992
12.         Ian Smales 1990 (not capped)
13.         Paul Newlove 1992
14.         Steve Molloy 1996

Featherstone's Great Britain Caps

Jimmy Thompson
Up until about 2007, playing for Great Britain was the pinnacle of a rugby league player's representative career. Here’s an impressive looking list of international footballers, all but one of whom started their professional career at Post Office Road. Steve Molloy is the odd man out. It can also be seen that seven Rovers players went on to gain more caps with other clubs after leaving Featherstone. Tommy Smales (scrum-half), Karl Pratt and Vince Farrar are among the very few players who left Rovers and then went on to win their first cap. There are also a number of players including Jeff Grayshon, Carl Gibson and Roy Powell who won GB caps before joining Featherstone.

1.   Jimmy Thompson: 20 Caps (Out of 21 in his career)
2.   Steve Nash: 16 Caps (Out of 24 in his career)
3.   Deryck Fox: 13 Caps (Out of 14 in his career)
4.   Paul Newlove: 10 Caps (Out of 20 in his career)
5.   David Hobbs: 8 Caps (Out of 12 in his career)
6.   Steve Evans: 8 Caps (Out of 10 in his career)
7.   Tommy Askin: 6 Caps
8.   Peter Smith: 6 Caps
9.   Arnie Morgan: 4 Caps
10.        Steve Molloy: 3 Caps (Out of 4 in his career)
11.        Keith Bridges: 3 Caps
12.        Malcolm Dixon: 2 Caps
13.        Gary Jordan: 2 Caps
14.        Terry Clawson: 2 Caps (Out of 14 in his career)
15.        Don Fox: 1 Cap
16.        Chris Bibb: 1 Cap