ON THE back of their stunning run to the Championship Grand Final, and what it has done for the mood of Featherstone Rovers fans, it would be a surprise if their head coach Ryan Carr ever has to buy a beer in the town again.
Indeed, if the ‘Flat Cappers’ actually beat huge favourites Toronto Wolfpack in Canada tomorrow night to earn promotion to Super League, you imagine the likeable Australian would be given the freedom of the whole place.
With that in mind, if he has any sheep to herd, he could take them for a stroll down Station Lane and usher them into Last Orders – originally Railway Hotel where the club was initially formed by local coal-miners in 1902 – or further on to The Junction Hotel or, in fact, any pub he decided to frequent.
Perhaps that is pushing things a little too far but such grandiose occasions – playing for a place in the top-flight – certainly do not happen too often nowadays around these parts.
One of the unlucky few who missed the cut when Super League came along in 1995 (there was controversial talk of merging with Castleford and Wakefield Trinity to form a Calder franchise), the unfashionable club’s shock 1983 Challenge Cup final victory over star-studded Hull remains their last successful stab at major glory.
Asked by The Yorkshire Post if he had needed to buy his own pint of late, Carr replied: “It’s only here at the club surprisingly.
But these players I’ve got, they’re the ones that take to the field every week and keep growing as a squad, keep playing so hard for one another, turning up and finding ways to win these games where people probably haven’t given us a chance.Featherstone Rovers’ coach, Ryan Carr
“Everywhere else I go they give me one but my own club won’t!
“No, it’s all been good. The community here really supports its people and everyone is behind the team; they’re so loud.
“We took 1200 to York the other week and that was a great spectacle and then, on short notice, there was a couple of hundred people over in Toulouse on Sunday.
“And they were way louder than the Toulouse fans.
“I’m pleased we could do this for such a small town – a community town – and they deserve it; they’ve been through a lot as a club and had a lot of success back in the early days.
“In recent times they’ve had some really good teams, too, so to give them another they can be proud of is something the boys are really pleased with.”
The town and wider community have given back as well; Featherstone are a part-time team so most of their squad have other jobs.
That has meant players needing time off work both for last weekend’s sudden-death play-off in France and now the hastily-arranged trip across the Atlantic.
“Fortunately, the employers have been really good for them and really supportive,” added Carr. “I think they realise the enormity of what they’ve achieved so we have everyone off work which is good.
“They deserve it and it’s a nice little trip away as a group again to spend some more time together and finish our season over there regardless.”
It has not quite been like a scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles but there has been some taxing travel of late, nonetheless.
Rovers, who finished fifth, only arrived back from Toulouse on Monday evening after a five-hour coach journey from Bristol and some players were in work Tuesday and Wednesday before joining up again for yesterday’s flight to Canada.
But Carr said: “There’s no excuses.
“We haven’t made any excuses yet and we’re not going to start now. We’re looking forward to it; the challenge and playing in a Grand Final.”
Carr’s own story is like something from a movie script.
He is still only 31 and few people had heard of him when – after John Duffy stunned the club with his late exit to Leigh Centurions – he was named as Feathersone’s new coach in January.
Carr was a lower league stand-off who retired early due to injuries and, instead, went into coaching where he worked in the NSW Cup but also in the lower levels of NRL clubs such as South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks.
His appointment might have been seen as a gamble by Rovers who only had a handful of players when Carr arrived but, having instilled such an exciting attacking style and crucially made them so organised defensively, they now stand just 80 minutes away from Super League.
“I’m proud of my players,” he said, when asked about his achievement. “I’m very thankful to have my wife Megan by my side and my two little boys who have come over from the other side of the world to support me.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and wouldn’t have been able to write this story.
“But these players I’ve got, they’re the ones that take to the field every week and keep growing as a squad, keep playing so hard for one another, turning up and finding ways to win these games where people probably haven’t given us a chance.
“I’m really proud to be their coach and thankful for the opportunity.”