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Featherstone's derby day dreams

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George Riley George Riley | 14:02 UK time, Thursday, 12 April 2012

“In Featherstone, they mine coal and play rugby league.”

That simple voiceover, painting a picture of life in the tiny west Yorkshire town, appeared in the 1969 film “The Game That Got Away”.

This weekend, Featherstone’s part-timers, who have topped the Championship for the past two seasons, are looking forward to one of the biggest games in their recent history when neighbours Castleford arrive at Post Office Road to renew hostilities in the Carnegie Challenge Cup.

It will be the fierce rivals’ first meeting in the competition in 20 years, with Super League Castleford seeking a first cup win over their lower-league opponents since 1941.

featherstone

Featherstone's captain, Malcolm Dixon (right) holds the Rugby League Cup aloft with the help of a team mate after they had beaten Barrow at Wembley in 1967. Photo: Getty

There are rugby league derbies which attract far bigger crowds, but few are more passionate.

I spent a week in Featherstone a couple of years ago, filming a piece looking back at that iconic 1960s documentary.

It was plain to see the rugby league fire still burns as fiercely as it did in the old coke ovens of Glasshoughton, where Featherstone coach Darryl Powell’s father worked when Powell was a pupil at Castleford High School.

Powell, a Challenge Cup finalist as a player with Leeds in 2003, supported both clubs as a youngster. His uncle was a Rovers fan and, therefore, took him to Featherstone. He then started watching Cas when his family moved there.

“Castleford actually offered me a contract when I was 17 but I decided to join Sheffield instead because I thought I had a better chance there of getting on,” says the Rovers coach, a former Great Britain international.

“I’ve been involved with both clubs as a supporter so I know exactly what this club means to both sets of fans. I just hope we can do the game and its proud history justice.”

There is some distance between the clubs in terms of standing, although Rovers are working hard to ensure they are in a position to apply for a Super League licence, but the close ties Powell has with both sides are shared throughout.

Featherstone’s chief executive Craig Poskitt left Castleford last month, after five years as commercial director, to take up his new role five miles down the road.

Another famous former Tiger, Lee Crooks, joined Featherstone two weeks ago as general manager, a sign of the club’s remodelling to shape itself into a Super League side to enhance their shot at a licence in two years’ time.

Crooks, like Powell a former Great Britain international , spent seven years at Castleford and has played in four Challenge Cup finals - three for Hull and one for the Tigers.

His first outing as a Featherstone employee was to join me to conduct the fourth round draw and, you might have guessed, he pulled the 1983 cup winners out against Castleford.

It immediately struck me as the tie of the round and, given the way the two sides were playing, it looked a perfect draw, with the Tigers on a run of seven straight defeats.

That slump has been arrested in the past fortnight, while Rovers were left reeling by a surprise 60-40 home defeat by Sheffield last weekend.

Rovers players Tom Saxton, Andy Kain, Jon Hepworth, Tim Spears, Dominic Maloney and Anthony England are all Tigers. In fact Hepworth’s in-laws are huge Castleford fans.

There should be plenty of points and drama, with the possibility of an upset. And, if you are looking for a sign that the underdogs may have fortune on their side, then talk to Sam Smeaton.

The Featherstone centre won the £500 top prize in the club lottery last week. It is a prize usually won by fans. Coach Powell has promised “if we win, that money is going behind the bar, whether Sam likes it or not.”

As Rovers continue their off-field preparations to challenge for a Super League licence, this is an ideal opportunity to showcase their credentials on it.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I agree the Fev v Cas is the tie of the round. But if the BBC had first pick of the ties to televise then why oh why are they at the Stobart Stadium on Saturday and not the KC Stadium for Hull FC v Huddersfield?

  • Comment number 2.

    Great great article about a great club !! Come on the under dog.

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting article George about a club with a great RL pedigree. The tie should be a cracker.

    Looking beyond this match, it will be interesting to see how Featherstone's next application to join SL will be received, especially as it has often been voiced that a 14 team Super League is too big and should be reduced to a 12 team competition. Looking at Widnes fortunes this season, would Fev be able to compete?

    PS Given their poor form, what chance the Broncos get dumped out of the Challenge Cup?

  • Comment number 4.

    @CONMEBalls:

    I would guess that maybe the proximity of the Grand National to Widnes might have influenced the Beeb's decision about which game to televise? Unless the events are being run by two different production crews of course in which case I am way off base. Widnes and Saints both have histories in the Challenge Cup as well, of course, and so in principle the match looks like a good one. It might end up being a good one too as Saints' form is unpredictable, plus we have some injuries now, and Widnes have sprung one surprise this season already in defeating Wigan at the Stobart. I suppose we will have to wait and see. I'm not sure that a good crowd will turn up though as Widnes are charging £20 for advance booking. Some work needs to be done on the Challenge Cup by the RFL as it is getting lost.

    @George

    Good piece on the Featherstone-Cas clash. I do hope there is no repeat of the trouble among fans that occurred during the recent Wakey-Cas derby. Featherstone fans do have a bit of a reputation. Some had to be escorted out of the stadium last season when we played them at Widnes in the Challenge Cup but they were fighting among themselves at that point! (Hull KR seem to be good at that too for some reason)

    Fans aside though the match promises to be tasty. I think Agent Millward sensed a possible banana skin and rested his key players for the Tigers' match against us on Easter Monday (although we still struggled to achieve a win there). I am very much looking forward to watching this match and it does have that aspect of what the Challenge Cup used to mean about it, ie a possible upset, and also there are the history and derby angles too.

  • Comment number 5.

    @SaintDi

    Di, this game is going to be little more than a training run for St Helens. Hull v Huddersfield has much more potential to be a classic, especially after their brutal encounter on Monday.

    Also, I suspect after the record Easter crowds there will be some very poor turnouts this weekend. The experiment of giving SL Season Pass holders free entry into cup ties has now ended and the clubs are charging normal game day admission. Times are hard for people at the moment, a lot including myself, simply doesn't have the spare cash to go to watch my team on Sunday.

  • Comment number 6.

    I wish I was as confident as you are CONMEBalls (great username!). We only scraped past Cas by a converted try and that was with some commendable goal line defence (28 consecutive tackles apparently). That was a very depleted Cas side too, with their main playmakers having a rest. I'm not remotely convinced the match against Widnes will be a training run; not at all.

    But as you say, the Hull v Hudds match might have been better. I suppose that would depend on how Hull respond to their league defeat. They could just lie down for Hudds second time around. Who knows? Everything could turn on its head.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm only judging on the couple of times I have seen Widnes live and two off the box. They are a shocking side and an understrength Saints should still have plenty in the locker for them. Anyway, it isn't the Challenge Cup these days without Saints in the Semi Final.

    The thing is with Hull on Monday, their big effort on Friday at the KC really hit home in the last quarter of the game while Huddersfield had a pretty easy afternoon at the office against Salford. With the extra rest, and the change of venue, it's quite easily the game of the weekend and one I wouldn't like to call.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good piece, enjoyed reading it - as I went to kids school in Fev I always like them to do well - but was always a Cas fan at school in Leeds - I need SL class to show in the end!!

    I don't think it will be as easy as a lot of Cas fans think and if Fev can keep it within 2 scores at the hour mark - In Fergie's terms there could be some squeaky bums!

    I just hope on and off the field the clubs, teams and SUPPORTERS do themselves justice and the Challenge Cup is the talking point, nothing else.

  • Comment number 9.

    C'mon Fev - RL & Super League needs clubs like you.

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done Featherstone an excellent win! completely outplayed Castleford. Chase was shown up to be what he is. A player with one dimension? run across the field and pass inside. Castleford would actually be better off without him? Plus he should be on report for hitting Ropati with a cheap shot!

 

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