The Self-Isolation Chronicles: Featherstone Rovers

1. Cameron King posted on Twitter to get himself a move. TWICE.

At the back end 2018, after departing Parramatta Eels, hooker Cameron King posted an advert on Twitter for a new club. The post simply read: “Cameron King. Hooker. 90kgs. All-round good guy. Enjoys hard work and winning. Looking for a club. Please RETWEET to raise awareness. Cheers.” Awareness was exactly what he received at the Australian became the centre of a story. Journalists were unsure whether it was the sheer frankness of his post or the disputed desperation that caused the media attention. But, either way, it did. After being inundated with messages, from as far as Red Star Belgrade who made a serious approach, he would sign on the dotted line with Featherstone. A stellar 2019 season followed, in which we crossed for 18 tries, and again he had plenty of admirers. Upon the decision to make back to Australia, he just retweeted the same post with the words: “12 months on… try again I guess.” Cronulla Sharks presumably saw it, acted upon it and signed him up. Because, who needs an agent?

2. They had a one-eyed, female Rugby League player during the mining strikes.

We know that was all a lot to take in but, during the 1920s, pit-strikes had rocked the traditional mining town of Featherstone. To raise funds for distressed families and the club themselves, a group of women took on a team made upon anyone and everyone. They were, as revealed by long-serving club secretary Terry Jones in a 1995 interview with The Independent, fronted by their star player – who had one eye. Although she was unnamed, the Pontefract-based player had rallied strongly during the game. The women, who were affectionately known as “Bill Batten’s XIII” would play in both 1921 and 1926, with the latter known as the General Strike, to help drum up funds for the club in the time of crisis. In 1926 the miners ultimately returned the favour, as Featherstone Miners’ Welfare bought Post Office Road from the landlord on behalf of the club.

3. They once put season ticket prices on hold for an entire season.

Another reaction to a mining-related crisis here as, in 1984-1985, the club made the incredible gesture of allowing pass holders in for free that season on the premise they would pay once the latest strike had ended. Thatcherism and Nationalisation had begun to rock the mining industry and things were getting pretty desperate for the club and town as a whole. They were forced to offload David Hobbs to Oldham to gather some much-needed cash, while the resignation of Challenge Cup-winning coach Allan Agar worsened their on-field problems. The fans stayed loyal to their club and would make good on their promise to give the funds where possible, a similar passion that shone through on their reaction to the proposed ‘Calder’ merger at the turn of the Super League era.

4. Jeff Grayshon MBE played for the club against his son.

The quintessential Rugby League evergreen, Grayshon’s career would span from 1968 to 1996, with a staggering 776 professional games. The former Dewsbury, Bradford and Leeds utility had earned England and Great Britain selection during a lengthy time in the sport. Career highlights include being part of the 1973 Dewsbury Championship-winning side, featuring for England at the 1975 World Cup, captaining Bradford to back-to-back Championships under Peter Fox and touring Australia and New Zealand with Great Britain in 1979. He became the oldest GB player, aged 36, but broke his leg the same year. Retirement looked like it was beckoning but, in 1988, Featherstone took a put on the 39-year-old. He would feature for three years for the club, playing for Batley for a further three years before eventually retiring at 45. But among his career accolades is one that will remain a Rugby League anomaly. In April 1990, while playing for Featherstone, he lined up for his former side Bradford Northern against his own son – Paul, who himself carved a respectable career with Northern and then eventually Featherstone. Never before has the feat been done again.

5. A former player won a case for being sacked for playing rugby union.

In 2018, a curious case between Darrell Griffin and Featherstone Rovers saw the former England international sacked for playing allegedly unauthorised games for local rugby union side Morley RFC. The former Wakefield, Huddersfield, Leeds and Salford man was suspended by the club in December 2017, after the club argued he had played three games for Morley without their consent. Griffin had made no secret that he was intending to play one final season for the club, as he intended to leave ahead of the 2018 season. In a bizarre off-field dispute, Featherstone then sacked the player on grounds of misconduct, only for Griffin to contest and win a resulting tribunal. The saga also saw his brother and Hull FC centre Josh post reported conversations between Darrell and then Featherstone coach John Duffy. He would go on to feature for Keighley in the 2018 season and is actually still listed as Morley RFC player on their club website.