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

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Vince Farrar, 1947-2017, Rest in Peace

Born in 1947, Vince Farrar made his Featherstone Rovers debut in 1965 and started his career as a hooker, competing for a spot with Milan Kosanovic and Graham Harris. When he wasn’t hooking, Farrar often played at loose forward, where his natural handling ability was put to good use. In 1971, with Keith Bridges at hooker, the departure of Mal Dixon left a space at prop which Vince filled ably. He remained a prop forward for the rest of his career.

Once he was established in the first team, it was not long before he won county honours, and after making his debut in 1971 he played for Yorkshire eight times during his career. He suffered a setback in 1972 when he had a serious knee injury, which fortunately cleared up in time one of the biggest days of his career, the 1973 Challenge Cup final at Wembley. A vintage performance was capped by an iconic try as he crashed over the line in fine style. He remained an automatic first choice pick when fit, and his hard work and courage was always an inspiration to his team-mates. In the summer of 1974 he had a brief spell in Australia with the Cronulla Sharks.

By the summer of 1975 Farrar was back to full fitness, and a regular over the next three years at blindside prop alongside Bridges and erstwhile second-rower Jimmy Thompson. For two glorious seasons the Thompson-Bridges-Farrar front-row combination took Rovers to our best ever years in the league. Featherstone finished second in 1976, which was Vince’s benefit season after ten years’ service to the club. Then in 1977 came Vince’s proudest moment as a player, captain of his home-town team as they lifted the game’s biggest prize, the Rugby League Championship, for the first and only time in our history. He played a total of 309 games for Featherstone Rovers.

This awesome pack of forwards was sold off too quickly, and Farrar himself joined Hull in November 1977. He went on to great things for his new club, gaining international recognition whilst at the Boulevard. He won a Great Britain cap when Peter Fox selected him for his country against Australia in November 1978. At 31 years of age, he was surely one of the oldest ever Great Britain debutants. He also played for Hull in the 1980 Challenge Cup final.

When Featherstone Rovers first team coach Paul Daley resigned in January 1981 Vince Farrar came back to Post Office Road for his first senior coaching role. Such had been the turnover of players in the four years he had been away that only a few of Vince’s old team-mates remained at Featherstone. His initial brief was to keep Featherstone in the top flight, and to try and break a losing run of matches. Despite taking Rovers to the Cup quarter-finals, the side didn’t win their first league fixture under Farrar until 29th of March against Salford. Featherstone did just enough to stay up in the end finishing just two points ahead of relegated Halifax.

The following year, 1981/82, Rovers finished 10th, despite winning only 12 of their 30 fixtures. 1982/83 started with high hopes but Rovers won just four of their opening 12 fixtures and inevitably it is the coach who pays the price in these circumstances and after a heavy 45-0 defeat at Wigan Vince Farrar was sacked in November 1982. Within a few months the side he coached would go on to prove just how well they could play on Rugby League’s biggest stage. Vince Farrar coached Featherstone Rovers for a total of 65 games, all of them in the First Division.

Two years later there came the surprising move of taking up playing again when the brand new Sheffield Eagles team was formed in the summer of 1984. Vince proved what a genuine rugby league man he is by playing 22 games that year at the age of 37 and making a lot of new friends at the fledgling club with his whole-hearted attitude.

He continued to be a popular figure in the game for the rest of his life, well loved and respected by everyone at Featherstone Rovers and throughout the game.

Rest in Peace. 

POST-SCRIPT. Vince Farrar’s testimonial brochure was printed by Featherstone Rovers in April 1976. In it, well-respected journalist Joe Humphrys of the Daily Mirror wrote the following:

“Rugby League footballers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are thick-set and short; others long-haired and lanky. Then there are those only too anxious to play their hearts out for the love of the game, contrasting with the ‘grabbers’ who believe the game owes them a living. And of course, there are the hot heads; players who don’t seem to be able to control their tempers and go seeking trouble in almost every tackle. They are all in a cross-section of Rugby League players.

But it is the home-spun players of the calibre of Vince Farrar, that ‘iron man’ of Featherstone Rovers, who form the real backbone of the sport.

Vince has always been the same. A sound, down-to-earth, hard-working, reliable player any coach would be glad to have in his pack - and one of the toughest. A player who has never set out to grab the headlines other than by his unstinting efforts on the field - and one whom I regard as unlucky not to have caught the eyes of the (international) selectors more often.

Vince cannot look back on a string of international appearances; injuries have plagued him at the wrong time. But a player who never complains, he has always played the game the way it was meant to be played…… asking for no quarter and giving none.

Yes, Rugby League footballers come in all shapes and sizes, but few like Vince. He’s the best of a kind.”