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

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Joe Mullaney

Joe Mullaney
When Featherstone Rovers signed Jackie Fennell from Bagley’s Recs in December 1952, they thought they had signed a future star stand-off. Although he was to have a long and successful career at Post Office Road, things didn’t work out that way. A few months later, Peter Fox’s younger brother Don was signed as a scrum-half. And in the summer of 1953 Rovers took on another youngster who had grown up on Albert Terrace in Sharlston who was fifteen months older than Don. Those three signings provided the backbone of one of Featherstone’s greatest sides.

Joe Mullaney played a single game as an unnamed trialist in a charity match versus Wakefield. He was promptly signed and went straight into the first team in August 1953 under coach Eric Batten. Within a month, Joe’s great friend Don had taken over from Tommy Smales and our greatest half-back partnership ever was formed. The following season Jackie Fennell slotted into full-back and the backline structure that was to serve the club so well for so many years was complete.

Joe’s rise to the top was swift. Within a year he had won county honours for Yorkshire. Within two, his England cap. His representative career never really took off though, due to some inopportune injuries and the handicap of playing at an unfashionable club like Featherstone.

Domestically, Featherstone Rovers carried all before them under Batten then Harold Moxon. Season after season of high league finishes were sprinkled with herculean performances in the Challenge Cup which went down in Rovers folklore. Perhaps the most famous of those was in March 1959 when more than 17,000 fans jammed into the ground to watch Joe lead his team to a famous Cup quarter-final victory over St. Helens. Despite their heroics, it is hard to believe Joe never played at Wembley. His record of four Cup semi-final defeats in 1955, 58, 59 and 60 is a travesty. In the Yorkshire Cup he managed to make a final, captaining the side to win the 1959 competition against Hull.

What made Mullaney such a great stand-off? He had pace, wonderful hands, a side-step, a hand-off and an eye for a gap. He also had a very quick mind which could read a game. He was a very solid tackler and never shirked on defence. As club captain, he led by example and was an inspiration to his team-mates.

In total, Joe played 319 games for Featherstone Rovers and scored 85 tries. He had his benefit year in 1963, a joint award with Don Fox, although truth be told both players deserved their own separate years, such was the service they had given. Injuries forced Joe’s retirement in 1965. Affable, well-mannered and modest off the field, he remained a very popular figure long after he had retired. Joe Mullaney died in December 2015 aged 81.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Jimmy Williams

Stand-offs come in all shapes and sizes, and local product Jimmy Williams was your prototype classical stand-off, with good hands for distribution and linking with the three-quarters, a good step for running and an excellent kicking game. He started at Featherstone in 1919 whilst Rovers were still a junior club and comfortably made the step up to the big league in 1921. At stand-off in our first ever senior match Jimmy slotted a drop goal to open the scoring at Odsal and so score Featherstone Rovers first ever points. 95 years and more than 58,000 points later, today’s scorers will always follow in Jimmy’s footsteps. That first year he formed an effective half-back combination with the experienced Joe Kirkham, but his most productive partnership came a couple of years later with Charlie Annable.

Jimmy Williams
Williams’ career highlights undoubtedly both came in the year 1928. In May he played in the Championship final versus Swinton at Oldham. In October he played versus Leeds in the Yorkshire Cup final. Both games were lost, but there was immense pride and satisfaction to be taken from the fact that a newish club with very modest finances and a team full of local lads could scale such heights so early in their senior history.

In all, Jimmy Williams played 211 games for Featherstone, scoring 30 tries and kicking 120 goals. Even today, only Joe Mullaney has worn the number six shirt more times than Jimmy. After his benefit match was played in 1929, he left for York before his retirement as a player. His departure together with the later losses of other mainstays of our Championship final team including the Denton brothers and Ernie Barraclough, signalled a sharp decline in the club’s fortunes.

When the RFL were looking to expand the game in 1936 they set up a fledgling club in Newcastle and Jimmy Williams was appointed trainer. The club only lasted two seasons and folded when the backers pulled out.

Jimmy’s younger brother Billy was a decent player in his time and an all-round sportsman and he served Featherstone Rovers as a physio and conditioner from the 1920s right through to the 1960s. Then Billy’s son Jim (named after his uncle) carried on the role through to the 1980s.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Terry Ramshaw. 1943 to 2017. Rest in Peace.

Ramshaw scores v Australia 1963
TERRY RAMSHAW was one of the most highly respected second-row forwards in the Sixties and Seventies. He played for a variety of clubs, and appeared in four major finals, unfortunately tasting defeat on each occasion. Terry began his career with Castleford Juniors before being snapped up by Featherstone Rovers in 1960. It wasn’t until the 1961-62 season that Terry made his first team debut. His forceful running and aggressive defence quickly triumphed alongside such stalwarts as Cliff Lambert and Colin Clifft in the Rovers’ back-row. He appeared in 15 games in his first season, which was unfortunately cut short by injuries. He built on this solid start and was soon a fixture in the team. An early career highlight was his performance against the touring Australians in October 1963, as Rovers stormed to another famous Rovers victory, Ramshaw marking the occasion with a try. Over the next five seasons he went on to play exactly 100 games for Rovers, scoring a very useful 27 tries. His best return came in the 1964/5 season when he packed down in what must have been a real handful of a second-row for opposition defences alongside Arnie Morgan. That season Terry was awarded a Great Britain U-24 cap. The following year he had a dispute with the club and left for Halifax for £5,000 in October 1965. This was a record fee at the time, showing just how highly he was regarded.

It was at Thrum Hall where Terry next plied his trade, With some eye-catching displays it wasn’t long before Terry was picked for county honours, representing Yorkshire against Lancashire in 1966 and scoring two tries. Terry was by this stage an established star and he was on the move again, this time to Bradford Northern, who he signed for in October 1967. Once again, his raw aggression and hundred percent performances saw Terry quickly become a cult hero during his short stay at Odsal.
Ramshaw at Odsal, Bradford
Wakefield Trinity were next up for the now much travelled forward. Signing for Trinity in August 1968, he made a try scoring debut at Belle Vue as Wakefield defeated Salford by 31-12. After making over eighty appearances for Trinity, Terry was transferred to Salford for £2,000 in October 1971. He made his Salford bow at The Willows against Rochdale Hornets in the 1st round of the Floodlit Trophy. The 1972-73 season brought him another final, The John Player Final. But Terry was denied cup glory again as Leeds defeated Salford 12-7. 

After 41 appearances at The Willows, Ramshaw went to Hull KR. After several seasons there he returned to Lancashire at Oldham. Terry made 34 appearances for the Roughyeds before once more heading back to Yorkshire for the final time. He joined York in 1977 and played for them as substitute in the 1978 Yorkshire Cup Final. Unfortunately for the fourth time in his career he lost a major final. After a career spanning some seventeen years Terry finally hung up his boots at the end of the 1978 season. Considered a gentle giant off the pitch but fearless and uncompromising on it, Terry Ramshaw had a career only few can dream of.

 Thank you to Louise Woodward-Styles for much of the information on Terry's post-Featherstone career.