By Grace Pritchard
Toronto Wolfpack have at last secured their spot in super league – but not without the big city team being put under immense pressure by the small Yorkshire town.
This past season of Rugby League has been the year of the underdog, with the likes of Salford and Featherstone both challenging for promotion.
Whist Featherstone left Canada still a Championship team, the excitement and momentum in the lead-up to the million-pound game last Saturday will not just fade into the background as the club prepares for another season striving for a super league position.
Mayor of Featherstone, Steve Vickers said: “The impact on local businesses has been immeasurable.”
“The interest in the club and Featherstone as a town has skyrocketed.
“We hope this season’s success will lead to increased investment and bigger crowds for games which will ultimately have a positive effect on businesses, in turn generating more employment opportunities in the town.”
Hundreds of fans gathered at the LD Nutrition Stadium last Saturday night to watch the live streaming of the game from Toronto, which saw the Rovers defeated 24-6.
Fans of around 30 years Alvin Martin, 45, and Keith Ruckledge, 49, both recognise the shift in the community atmosphere around Featherstone.
Keith said: “Hopes have been raised, the town is buzzing.”
This shift in attitude has spilled over into the wider rugby league communities with a lot of cross-club support being expressed.
Alvin added: “It’s great to see clubs and fans showing appreciation and respect for each other.”
Featherstone Rovers has evolved dramatically since being founded in 1902. The club is aptly nick-named The Colliers due to its strong link to the coal mine which was one of the many closed nationally under Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1985.
Featherstone Rovers has filled the void left by the closure of the mines, becoming the heart of the Featherstone community.
Featherstone is one of the most deprived wards in the Wakefield area with limited employment opportunities within the town. The Featherstone Foundation set up by the club has a massive outreach in the town providing opportunities to children in the area they might otherwise have not been exposed to.
While the Rovers may not have received their desired result at the weekend, their success has firmly put Featherstone back on the map. With interest in the club continually growing it seems this is a turning point for Featherstone Town as a whole.