Peter Fox, ‘one of the sport’s greatest-ever coaches’ and Featherstone Rovers legend dies, aged 85

Peter Fox, right, pictured with Bob Haigh after Bradford Northern won the Rugby League Premiership Trophy in 1978.
Peter Fox, right, pictured with Bob Haigh after Bradford Northern won the Rugby League Premiership Trophy in 1978.
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TRIBUTES have been paid to Peter Fox, one of Yorkshire rugby league’s great characters, who has died at the age of 85.

A member of arguably the sport’s most famous Yorkshire family, Peter was older brother to Don – rated among the best scrum-halves of his generation – and world record points scorer Neil.

As a player he made 245 appearances in a solid if unspectacular career that took in spells at Featherstone Rovers, Batley (twice), Hull KR, Hunslet and Wakefield Trinity, from 1953-54 to 1966-67.

But it was after he hung up his boots that Fox really made his mark on the code, winning the Challenge Cup and First Division championship as a coach and taking charge of Yorkshire, England and Great Britain, leading the latter to a famous Test win over Australia in 1978.

Rovers described Fox, a member of their Hall of Fame, as “one of the sport’s greatest-ever coaches”.

“In the 1950s Fox also had a playing career for Featherstone Rovers, but it was his two spells as head coach which truly cemented his place as a club legend,” a club statement said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Peter Fox’s family and friends.”

Born in Sharlston, between Wakefield and Featherstone, Fox was appointed coach of Rovers in January, 1971.

He masterminded their Wembley Challenge Cup win over Bradford Northern two years later and was at the helm when they were runners-up to Warrington the following season.

After leaving Featherstone Fox coached Wakefield Trinity from 1974-76 and then steered unfashionable Bramley to promotion into Division One in 1976-77.

That inspired a move to Bradford and Fox was to prove a huge success at Odsal, winning the Premiership in his first season when Northern were also runners-up in Division One.

They were first division champions in 1979-80 and 
1980-81 and his first spell at the club also included victories in the Yorkshire Cup and John Player Trophy.

Fox joined under-achieving Leeds in May, 1985, but a frustrating period there ended when he was sacked on Christmas Eve the following year.

He returned to Rovers, securing promotion in his first year back at Post Office Road, and after five seasons was once again appointed at Bradford where he finished his coaching career in 1994-95.

His final active involvement in the game was as director of football at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in the early 2000s.

The BBC’s rugby league reporter and commentator Dave Wood said: “It is very sad. For several years we shared a commentary box working together for BBC 5Live. He was one of the great characters, voices, coaches and story-tellers.”

Leeds Rhinos’ chief executive Gary Hetherington also hailed Fox as “one of rugby league’s real characters”.

He said: “My first club [as a player] was Wakefield Trinity and Peter came in as coach.

“He didn’t have a lot of success at Wakefield, but he did at Featherstone and Bradford. It is very sad news.”

Rhinos and Wakefield will pay their respects to Fox at Friday’s Super League game.