Following on from his ‘Pictorial History’ and ‘50 Greatest Matches’ books, former Rovers secretary Ron Bailey completed his trilogy with a look at our greatest ever players. At the latest count a total of almost one thousand different players have pulled on the famous jersey of Featherstone Rovers, making it a difficult task then to go on and choose the top 100. This book makes a very good effort at doing so, but of course part of the fun is the debate it generates among readers about which stars have been left out and which included. The list is in alphabetical order from Dick Allman to Brian Wrigglesworth, and each entry has a page of biography and minimal career statistics. The “Top Twenty” players are given two pages each, and these also listed on the front cover of the book. Many of those twenty obviously pick themselves, as they are the giants of the club’s history and members of the Hall of Fame.
There are a number of selections from beyond the living memory of any fan, although many other candidates worthy of inclusion from the 1920s through to the 1940s missed out on appearing in the book through lack of available material to be able to assess their talent and contribution. It’s always interesting to read about bygone eras, and all the entries on pre-war players all well researched. Some of the photographs from that era understandably suffer in quality, though there is less reason why some of the modern photos are also poor quality.
As with the ‘50 Greatest Matches’ book there is a tendency on the part of the author to lean towards his time as Rovers club secretary (from 1955 to 1967). A number of players from the 50s and 60s were a bit ‘lucky’ to get in ahead of others from the 80s and 90s who missed out. I use the word ‘lucky’ in a relative sense because of course, whoever is chosen, it remains a competitive line up. However, some surprising omissions for me were Terry Manning, Trevor Clark, Mel Mason and Steve Molloy. The book came out in 2002 and no doubt if it was updated there would be at least one or two names who would have forced their way onto the list since then.
One telling statistic that Bailey points out is that of the 100 players he eventually chose, 78 came through the junior ranks or directly from local amateur rugby and just 22 were signed from other clubs. Only one foreign born player made the list, but no prizes for guessing which swashbuckling New Zealand loose-forward that is!