On this day - Teenage dreams come true as Featherstone Rovers pull off Challenge Cup shock over Hull

Featherstone Rovers' Peter Smith, Steve Quinn and Ken Kellett show the fans the Challenge Cup.Featherstone Rovers' Peter Smith, Steve Quinn and Ken Kellett show the fans the Challenge Cup.
Featherstone Rovers' Peter Smith, Steve Quinn and Ken Kellett show the fans the Challenge Cup.
THERE are many startling facts about Featherstone Rovers’ shock Challenge Cup final win over Hull in 1983 but perhaps none more than they had two 17-year-olds in their squad.

It was on this day 37 years ago that the struggling side from the small pit town in West Yorkshire, nestled between Pontefract and Wakefield, brought one of the most successful, star-studded teams of the era to their knees.

Some would argue it still remains the biggest upset in the competition’s 124-year history.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Allan Agar’s huge underdogs – who had only just avoided relegation – overcame the league champions who boasted legendary figures such as Great Britain captain David Topliss, fellow Lion Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton plus Kiwi trio Gary Kemble, Dane O’Hara and James Leuluai. Featherstone, in contrast, had local 17-year-olds Alan Banks and Paul Lyman in their ranks, barely out of school.

“When you watch the recording back, it was emphasised quite often how it was the multi-millionaires Hull against the part-timers from little mining community Featherstone,” said Peter Smith, the Rovers vice-captain that day.

“We were a local team with limited resources. We literally had two kids who were available to play Under-17s. Yet Alan was playing stand-off against David Topliss and did an excellent job.

“Paul came on as a wing; even though he ended up as a loose forward, he had a lot of pace and did a job for us even at that age at Wembley against all those stars.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“That was the most amazing part of it all on the day for me. It was just a brilliant time.”

More so for Smith, the Great Britain loose forward who had debuted for Featherstone in 1974 and went on to play more than 400 games for his beloved club.

“Being a Fev lad and living literally 150 yards away from the ground, it meant so much,” recalled the 64-year-old, Rovers having not won the Cup since and their only previous glories being in 1973 and 1967. “I was a ball boy at Fev as a kid in ’67 – not actually at Wembley but at the club – and I helped out a bit. So I was steeped in it really and Rovers was the only team I ever wanted to play for.

“When you start out as a junior, as a Featherstone kid, there’s two things you want to do; play at Wembley and play for Great Britain.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“To play at Wembley and win as well was just out of this world.”

The squad had been allowed out for some beers on the eve of the game but Smith – a fitness fanatic – ran back to the hotel and dragged second-row Dave Hobbs with him rather than get a taxi.

He said: “Dave wasn’t the keenest trainer – but it worked!”

Hobbs, of course, went on to score two tries at Wembley and claim the Lance Todd Trophy.

Their team spirit, resilience and fitness would prove crucial as they edged the 14-12 success, Steve Quinn slotting the late winning penalty after Smith was headbutted by former Rovers team-mate Charlie Stone.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was Smith in possession, too, when the final hooter sounded and he remembered: “Coming back to Featherstone on the open-top bus was great.

“I watched it as a kid in ’67 and ’73 but to actually be part of it was something else. Our Cup run totally contradicted the league where we were very poor and avoided relegation by one spot.

“Yet on the day in the Cup we just turned it on for whatever reason and it was the same at Wembley.

“Beforehand, Allan was very calm and simply emphasised we had nothing to lose whatsoever; just to go out and play how we did in all the rounds previously. We did.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Editor’s note: First and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing subscriptions@jpimedia.co.uk. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you. James Mitchinson, Editor

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.