THERE was only one spot Featherstone Rovers’ Tommy Smales had his eye on ahead of the 1967 Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
“We got inside the stadium, went into the dressing rooms and straight away I said to one of the attendants, ‘which is Hursty’s peg?’,” explained the former loose forward, today being the 50th anniversary of the West Yorkshire club beating Barrow 17-12 to win the famous trophy for the first time in their history.
“He told me and I went right up and hung my shirt on his.
“It was just the year before when England won the World Cup and I wanted to be sat where Geoff Hurst was.
“Then we walked out in front of 76,000 people. There’s only 14,000 live in Featherstone. What a terrific feeling. I didn’t feel nerves. I just felt my chest. I was a 44 inch, but I felt like 48 that day; it just swelled up.
“Then you looked up at all those supporters, trying to see your wife in the crowd, only to see... the Queen.
“She was in green and it really stood out among all those grey suits. I’m sure she did it on purpose. The Queen, the ruler of our country.... Everything about the day was fantastic as well as before – we beat Bradford Northern, Wakefield, Castleford and Leeds – and afterwards, too.
“But that was the highlight for me – shaking her hand when we collected the cup. We met the Duke of Edinburgh in the line-up before. I had bandages on my knee and thigh. He said, ‘what are those on your legs?’. I told him if I didn’t have them my leg would fall off. He laughed at that.”
The late Carl Dooler won the Lance Todd Trophy as man of the match, the brilliant Featherstone scrum-half having such an impact on the game against the favourites.
Laurie Gant’s side were trailing 7-2 when his clever pass sent Arnie Morgan in for a try.
Dooler added a drop goal and then, in the second half, made a break from dummy half before supplying the pass for local lad Smales – who had a five year stint with Barrow previously – to score the try that sealed victory.
Featherstone won again in 1972-73, their third success being the shock victory over Hull 10 years later. They have not returned since but are in tomorrow’s quarter-final draw.