Gary Cooper was in the prime of his Featherstone career when he moved to neighbours Wakefield Trinity in 1966. Perhaps if he had known that Rovers would be at Wembley the very next year, he might well have stayed. Cooper’s loss turned out to be a gain for another player though.
1967 Brian Wrigglesworth.
1967 Brian Wrigglesworth.
As the 1966/67 season started, it was a real struggle to find a suitable replacement for Cooper. Dave Kellett, Stan Dawson, Jimmy Bell and Howard Darbyshire all had a run out at full-back during a disappointing league campaign. None of them managed to put together a significant run in the first team. Then in January coach Laurie Gant turned to erstwhile centre Brian Wrigglesworth and soon realised that he had found the answer.
Having started his career as a stand-off at lowly Doncaster back in 1957, Wrigglesworth then had a few seasons at Bramley, and while he was there he was selected for Yorkshire at stand-off. From Barley Mow he moved to Hull KR for a season before joining Featherstone in 1966. His reputation was as an elusive running stand-off, who was prepared to take risks and try something different. With Mick Smith at stand-off, Rovers initially used Brian more in the centres, before Gant took the gamble of starting him at full-back. Now aged almost 30, his switch to number one suited his game perfectly.
As Rovers embarked on another of their famous Cup runs, Wrigglesworth came to the fore with some eye-catching runs and a try or two. Rovers reached the Cup final and Brian must have thought the wide open spaces at Wembley would suit his game. But it was on defence that he made his mark in the final as Barrow and Great Britain winger Bill Burgess surged clear in his own half and raced away with only Wrigglesworth to beat. His team was already five points up and a ten point gap could be too big for Rovers to claw back. Wriggy nailed his man in fine style, showing him the outside and pulling off the perfect cover tackle. He went on to pick up his winner’s medal.
Although unheralded when he arrived, Wrigglesworth’s impact on the team had been noticeable. His enthusiasm and adventurousness were valuable assets. He played throughout the following season, before turning to coaching. He became player coach of the A team and won the Yorkshire Combination with them in 1972. Coincidentally he relinquished his first team spot to another local lad who was ‘coming home’ from Hull Kingston Rovers. In total Brian Wrigglesworth played 66 games for Featherstone Rovers and scored eleven tries.