Featherstone then and now
It probably goes some way to explaining why I'm not married, that a much-needed post-World Cup holiday has been spent filming a rugby league documentary in Featherstone.
Swapping Portugal for Post Office Road may have done little for my outward radiance, or indeed social life, but it's been a powerful reminder of the lust for life there is outside of Super League.
Rovers are cruising towards an unlikely Championship title, led by former Leeds and Great Britain halfback Daryl Powell. They have lost just once all season and will clinch the title on Sunday by beating Sheffield.
A famous rugby league club from a tiny mining town, Rovers also starred in the 1969 documentary 'The Game That Got Away', a fascinating insight into league's breakaway from union and its battle to survive as a sport in its own right. "In Featherstone, they mine coal and play rugby league," bellows the stony voiceover.
Featherstone Rovers celebrate Challenge Cup success in 1967
The club's current success offered a perfect opportunity for me therefore to reunite Rovers' 1967 Challenge Cup winners to compare and contrast the '60s game with the modern era. It's a documentary that will air on BBC1 in October.
Sat watching black and white footage from the '60s with former captain Malcolm Dixon, Championship-winning skipper Vince Farrar, the club's most-capped player Jimmy Thompson, joker Kenny Greatorex and Alan Rhodes, it was like the old boys had never left the dressing room. Only the limps, the adjustment of hearing aids and the discussion of hip operations served to remind of the lasting physical legacy of a career in rugby league.
The way the game has changed over the last half century is obvious.
These players were up at 5am to go down the coal mine, and played for an £8 win bonus. Indeed Greatorex describes with a laugh how he was hauled in by the Rovers committee to explain why he had been claiming seven pence for his five pence weekly bus to the stadium on match day.
He played his first game of rugby league having never picked up the ball before. He had never even tried it, let alone trained. A footballer, brought in at the last minute as he was fast, and half the team was stuck down the mine. He stood on the wing, whispering to his centre to tell him what to do, where to stand, where to run. He went on to score five tries.
Physically you would get away with far more back then, the players tell me. As we watch footage of flying elbows and spear tackles, the general consensus is that half the stuff that went on in the '60s has since been outlawed.
The 1960s Rovers team was also selected by a 17-man committee, sitting once a week. "If that was the case today, I'd walk away!", coach Powell tells me.
For amateur clubs like Featherstone though, some things haven't changed. The coaching staff, led by Powell, is full-time, but the players - as in the 60s, train just twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, before a match build-up session on Saturday and game day on Sunday.
Powell's team includes manual workers and even a debt-collector, who I'm assured gets special treatment on the training ground. Half the Rovers side in the '60s worked down the pit.
The 1960s vintage had never seen the documentary of their former selves until we played it to them this week. It was a remarkable and pretty emotional reunion, with Vince Farrar left seething after seeing footage of his then coach Laurie Gant criticising his inability to kick. "I'm scarred by that!," he tells me. "I thought I had the best kicking game at the club."
With Featherstone poised to underline their status as the best current side outside of Super League, what chance gaining a licence to return to the elite? Powell shakes his head and tells me it won't happen. "Certainly not this time," he says.
There are plans for Rovers to redevelop the ground and shift the playing surface back 50 yards to do so. Powell believes there is no Super League future for the club until they do so.
Both clubs need a new Super League-standard stadium, but the local authority insisted last week that it would only provide financial support for one ground. Which presents a clear problem.
Castleford's Michael Shenton looks like being a St Helens player next season
Wakefield then announced they would press ahead with their own plans, with Castleford doing the same. The council clearly wants a ground-share, the Tigers are yet to formally rule it out, and indeed were happy to entertain talks to that effect, from which the Wildcats pulled out.
The Castleford-Wakefield rivalry is so fierce there is an obvious need for the clubs to preserve their identity, and does any fan really want to share its home with a rival? But given the financial restraints at both clubs I fear the plan to develop two new stadia is unrealistic.
The centre almost joined Bradford a couple of seasons back but stayed loyal to the Tigers. Given the Bulls subsequent demise he will probably feel he made the right call, indeed Shenny's stock has arguably risen more since he opted to stay.
The 24-year-old has decided that now is the right time for a new challenge, and although no official announcement has been made it is my understanding that Shenton will be a St Helens player next season.
It is a terrific move for the player, and a great signing for Saints, who in Shenton and Kyle Eastmond will boast two of the great young stars of the British game.