Featherstone Rovers confirm 17 departures with mass exodus from Post Office Road after failing to secure promotion

Ben Olawumi
Featherstone Rovers

Featherstone Rovers celebrate a try in 2023 - Alamy

Featherstone Rovers have today announced a 17-strong ‘departures list’, with a mass exodus from Post Office Road after failing in their bid for Super League promotion oncemore.

Having exited the Championship play-offs at the semi-final stage in 2022 with a defeat on home soil to Batley Bulldogs, the Rovers began this year as heavy promotion favourites and romped the league, finishing 12 points ahead of 2nd-placed Toulouse Olympique.

The West Yorkshire outfit lost only twice in the regular season, though on both occasions there was a casualty. A few days after they were beaten by Toulouse, assistant Leon Pryce bit the bullet. Head coach Sean Long was the next to go, sacked in the wake of a 25-22 defeat at Halifax Panthers in June.

And despite his replacement James Ford vowing they’d left no stone unturned ahead of it, they again came unstuck in the semi-finals of the play-offs, beaten by a London Broncos side who had ended the regular season 18 points beneath them.

The Broncos went on to get promoted, while Featherstone were left to lick their wounds, and as a result no less than 17 players will depart.

Featherstone Rovers confirm mass exodus; 17 depart after failed Super League bid

Chairman Mark Campbell had already admitted that there would be a big re-structure as the game enters a new era with IMG, and after their Grade B status was confirmed on Tuesday morning along with a 15th-place standing out of 35 clubs, that has proven to be the case.

In IMG’s eyes, fellow Championship outfit’s Toulouse and Wakefield Trinity are both a more attractive proposition where promotion to Super League in 2025 is concerned as things stand. If Featherstone don’t perform as well on the field this year as they have done – for the majority – in recent years, they could well slip even further down the standings.

Among the 17 departing players, both Junior Moors and James Lockwood will retire. Veteran back Craig Hall has already seen his next move, to newly-promoted Doncaster, confirmed.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Cozza has joined Wakefield from 2024 on a two-year deal, and Craig Kopczak will reunite with head coach Long in League 1 at Oldham, who harbour lofty ambitions next term.

The full list of departees is: Luke Briscoe, Mathieu Cozza, Matty Wildie, Joey Leilua, Dane Chisholm, Mark Kheirallah, John Davies, Craig Hall, Junior Moors, Arama Hau, James Lockwood, Elijah Taylor, Daniel Smith, Tyla Hepi, Craig Kopczak & Johnathon Ford, Luke Cooper.

What next at Post Office Road?

As well as those listed above, Wales international Dan Fleming has also confirmed his retirement. He spent the vast majority of the 2023 campaign on loan at Halifax, though was still officially a Rovers player.

As we understand it, with him taken out of the equation, it leaves Featherstone with 11 of their squad from this year – Caleb Aekins, Jack Bussey, Brad Day, Gareth Gale, Chris Hankinson, Josh Hardcastle, Connor Jones, Thomas Lacans, Ellis Longstaff, Gadwin Springer & McKenzie Yei.

In addition, they have already recruited Super League talents Ben Reynolds and Greg Minikin from Leigh Leopards and Warrington Wolves respectively.

It’s difficult to see the Post Office Road outfit being in the discussions for promotion up to Super League in 2025, and you wouldn’t expect that to change a great deal throughout the course of the year.

READ NEXT: Bradford Bulls swoop in to land young Australian hooker from Canberra Raiders for 2024