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

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Jackie Fennell

One door closes, but another opens. How often has that been true in the history of player development at Featherstone? The legendary full-back Freddie Miller called it a day in November 1952, and a month later we signed a promising young hopeful from Bagley’s Recs.

1952 Jackie Fennell. 

Throughout the 1950s Featherstone Rovers had a very good team. And every good team needs its star players. And every good team needs its under-rated clubmen, who offer a high level of skill, commitment and consistency week in, week out with the minimum of fuss. At Rovers throughout that decade Jackie Fennell was one such figure.

After turning professional at 19 years old, locally born Fennell went straight into the first team. At this stage in his career he was a stand-off, but within a short time he would receive tremendous competition for that position from his great friend Joe Mullaney. Fennell therefore played much of his first full season in the A team. The full-back position was invariably filled by a young Keith Goulding, who much later became Rovers’ head coach. Ken Elford took over from Goulding, but Jackie Fennell was playing too well in the reserves to be ignored. Over the next season and a half, he vied with Elford for the number one jersey, but also filled in ably at centre, on the wing, and at stand-off if Mullaney was injured.

Gradually though, Fennell made full-back his home, with dogged last line of defence tackling, a never-say-die spirit and a very useful kicking contribution his trademarks. Given the place-kicking duties between 1955 and 1958 he kicked 102, 78 and 101 goals a season, and became only the second player ever to land 100 goals in a year. He won a Yorkshire Cup winner’s medal in 1959, but never appeared in a Wembley final, being part of a beaten semi-final team in 1958, 1960 and 1962.

Although Jackie relinquished the kicking duties to Terry Clawson, his displays continued to be a model of consistency into his thirties. Awarded a richly deserved benefit in 1963, he was judged by many as unlucky to have missed out on county honours, the victim perhaps of playing for a team perceived to be unfashionable at a time when politics had a lot to do with representative selection. Jackie Fennell eventually retired two years later after definitively having lost his first team slot to young Gary Cooper. In total he played 323 games and scored exactly 1,000 points, only the second player ever (after Jim Denton) to achieve that milestone. His 455 goal tally was also a club record until it was broken by former team-mates Terry Clawson and Don Fox.

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