The Betfred Championship season is entering its final four weeks. Toronto Wolfpack currently sit proudly at the top of the table with 33 points from eighteen games, with a spot in the Qualifiers now secured.
Below them, the battle for the final three places could not be tighter. Over the next week, we will be looking at the teams eager to secure one of the final three spots, including their form, star men and remaining fixtures- today’s look is at Featherstone Rovers.
Featherstone Rovers History
Although the club’s history dates from 1902, the clubs true modern history begins in 1921 as shown in the clubs insignia.
Rovers have been victorious in the Rugby League Challenge Cup three times and were crowned Rugby League Champions on one occasion in 1977.
Featherstone was formerly a small mining town in West Yorkshire with a population of around 16,000; Featherstone Rovers can truly be said to be one of the last small-town teams left in Rugby League.
Stand Out Player Past or Present
As I look through a star studded hall of fame list, a number of names stand out, including one of the greatest centres of the modern game, Paul Newlove, Former Great Britain scrum-half, Deryck Fox, and former Great Britain Lions Coach, Peter Fox.
If I was looking for a real folk hero amongst the Featherstone faithful, the one name that springs to mind more than any other has to be Brendon Tuuta.
Known as the babyface assassin, Brendon was a tough, no-nonsense style of player with a reputation as a brawler. Born in 1965 on the Chatham Islands, He started his career with CRL club Chatham before moving to the Haswell Club in the same competition.
He would leave the Chatham Islands to join the Western Suburbs Magpies for the start of the 1989-90 season, before joining Featherstone 12 months later.
Brendon soon became no stranger to the Rugby League Judiciary. He was suspended for six matches for breaking former England Rugby Union international Nigel Heslops’ jaw with a punch!
Nevertheless, he represented New Zealand at international level 16 times and returned to Featherstone to finish his career after successful stints with Perth Western Reds, Warrington Wolves and the Castleford Tigers.
Currently sitting in third on points difference, the ball is very much in Featherstone’s court to finish the season as strongly as possible.
Having defeated Rochdale and Swinton earlier in the season, much of the same will be expected by the Featherstone Rovers faithful going into the final rounds. Like others around them, John Duffy’s side produced a stunning display last weekend as they hammered the Hornets 80-4.
There will also be a rematch from The Championship Summer Bash with a visit to The Shay and a clash with local rivals Halifax, as well as tough clashes with London and Toronto at the Den on the last day of the season.
With the Broncos fighting for the right to challenge for a place in Super League and Halifax looking to cement a spot in the top four, the last thing Featherstone want is to have to venture to North America needing rewrite the history books and become the first team to win in Toronto to make it into the qualifiers.
The loss of Luke Briscoe
As Halifax and Featherstone have shown, you do not need to be a full time team to make it to the top of the mountain and challenge consistently all season.
They spent wisely and built from within just like Halifax. They also made good use of the dual registration system to good effect with Luke Briscoe turning into a potent try scoring threat. To lose such a vital piece of your attacking arsenal at this key point in the season couldn’t have come at a worse time for Featherstone.
Some would argue this also shows you the short falls of relying on the dual reg system. All that can be said now is, with Luke at Leeds, who is going to pick up the slack in his absence?
Apart from a May dip in form that saw them lose three League games in a row, this campaign has seen Featherstone be a model of consistency, like Halifax, but the games where points were conceded were to fellow top four challengers in London, Toronto, Toulouse, Leigh and Halifax.
Featherstone will be hoping to have their seeding wrapped up before boarding a plane to Toronto as the last thing they need is to have to beat Toronto to get into the Qualifiers. With a tough run-in, Rovers need to show why they exemplify consistency in their last four regular season outings.