The departure of the reliable Richard Slater at the end of 1999 left Featherstone without a recognised number thirteen, and over the next few seasons, a number of players stepped forward to make a claim. It was a reflection of the new requirements of coaches of their loose forwards that a contrasting selection of players filled the role.
The summer of 2000 saw veteran Australian Matt Lambert return to Post Office Road as pack leader and first team skipper. Lambert had previously played at Hunslet, before a spell at Featherstone in 1997 and then York. He brought a wealth of experience to a youngish pack. Lambert played a total of 57 games for Featherstone, and helped the club through a transition period. From time to time that year, erstwhile second-rowers Steve Dooler and Neil Lowe both also had the opportunity to show their running skills from the base of the scrum.
For almost all the 2001 season Paul Darley was used at number thirteen. Originally from Castleford, Paul did a very good job for the club under coach Peter Roe. In later seasons, he switched to hooker before a serious knee injury ended his career after playing 106 games for the club. For the following season, Rovers went to Halifax to sign Danny Seal, a different style of back-rower to Darley’s handling and distribution role. Seal was a diminutive forward, but a strong runner and a decent tackler. He did a good job for us over two seasons, despite a persistent hand injury, and his 68 games brought him 31 tries. In 2004, Rovers took on Adam Hayes from Huddersfield. Alternating between second row and loose forward Adam played some 58 games, but lost his place to Steve Dooler and went on to have a decent career at Sheffield and Dewsbury.
Rovers then signed ex-Castleford junior, Richard Blakeway. Richard was more in the role of a classical loose forward, tall, with distribution skills and a kicking game. He was even used at stand-off from time to time, but settled down to play most of his rugby at Featherstone in the second-row. After 117 games and 31 tries with Rovers, he went on to play for Hunslet and York. In a bid to win promotion back into the Championship in 2007, we signed Castleford forward Tommy Haughey, who had also played at London and Wakefield. Tommy helped the club achieve that aim and won a place in the National League Two ‘dream team’ for that season alongside Stuart Dickens. More than any other player throughout the whole decade, Tommy made his mark at loose forward. He was a frequent try scorer, 45 in 90 games, and aggressive tackler on his day. He later played for Hunslet and York. When Daryl Powell took over in 2009 he switched the experienced Jamie Field to 13. After a long super league career at Leeds then Wakefield, Jamie continued to play his natural strong running and tackling game, and over four seasons played 86 times for Rovers before retiring.