Roger, a former director and chairman of the N.E.C. (1984-2005) was entertained by Moseley president, Derek Nutt, with Moseley historian the late Peter Woodroofe keeping a keen eye on proceedings.
Two years after joining Moseley, Rogers played in the side that defeated the Maoris, the first overseas team to tour the British Isles, and scored one of his side’s two tries, the other being touched down by brother Alfred. In 1889/90 John Rogers was elected Moseley captain and went on to lead the side for three successive seasons.
In 1889 the Rugby Football Union (R.F.U.), acknowledging the progress that the game had made in the Midlands, arranged a match between London and the Midland Counties at Richmond Athletic Ground. Along with three club colleagues J.H. Rogers was selected for the Counties side, which most observers expected to lose. The Midlanders, however, appear not to have read the script because they won the match by a goal to a try and showed ‘excellent form.’
John Rogers’s play had obviously been noticed because immediately after this game he was selected for a London side to play the Western Counties at Weston-Super-Mare. The description of the side as ‘London’ was somewhat misleading because the team, as well as Rogers, included another Moseley player, three from Burton and one each from Coventry and Nottingham. London won easily and in the forwards ‘the Midland men figured prominently.’ Of these Midland forwards, two, J.H. Rogers and Frank Evershed, of Burton, were selected to represent London again, this time against Oxford and Cambridge Universities, at Blackheath. Once more the London side had an easy victory and Rogers seems to have impressed the R.F.U. selectors because he was chosen for the South side to take on the North, at Manchester, four days before Christmas 1889. This game was played in front of about 8,000 spectators and was won by the South 4-3. This score gives the impression of a close contest, however, due to the peculiarities of the scoring system at the time it does not tell the whole story. The South actually gained four tries but these were only worth one point each whereas the North’s solitary goal earned three points! During the match Rogers made an unsuccessful attempt to convert one of his side’s tries. A return fixture between the two teams was played at Richmond, in February 1890, and Rogers was again selected for the South. The southerners won again and once more Rogers missed a conversion attempt. The game was notable for a try awarded to the North ‘which gave great offence to a large number of spectators, who were unjustifiably demonstrative in their disapproval.’
Rogers’s performances in these various representative matches were rewarded when he was selected to play for England against Wales, at Dewsbury, in February 1890. Due to a dispute with the other Home Unions this was England’s first game, apart from that with the New Zealand Natives, for almost three years. The choice of venue may seem a little odd nowadays, however, in pre-Rugby League days the North was a stronghold of the game. The match was played in atrocious weather conditions and Wales were victorious by one try to nil, their first ever victory over England.
Despite playing in a losing team Rogers was retained for the next international, against Scotland, at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in March 1890. In a game that The Times described as a ‘brilliant exhibition of Rugby football’ England won by one goal and one try to nil. The Times also commented on Rogers’s good work during the loose play. Rogers kept his place for England’s final match of the season, against Ireland, at Blackheath. A crowd estimated at 12,000 watched the match and during the first half Rogers scored a try when supporting a break by fellow Midlander, Frank Evershed. The final score was three tries to nil in England’s favour.
Early in the following season, 1890/91, Rogers continued his representative career by making an appearance for London and the Midlands against Western Counties, at Blackheath. This game, like the previous season’s match, was won easily by the home side. Also as in the previous season Rogers followed this appearance by turning out for London against Oxford and Cambridge, however, on this occasion, against expectations, the universities won easily although Rogers was commended for his work during some open play. He had evidently done enough because he was once more selected for the South side to play the North at Blackheath, however, due to severe weather this game had to be postponed by a week and was transferred to Headingley where a crowd of 9,000 saw the North gain revenge for the two defeats of the previous season.
During 1890/91 both John and Alfred Rogers became founder members of the famous Barbarian club. John served on the committee in the club’s first two seasons but only ever played for the Barbarians on one occasion while Alfred played in the club’s first ever fixture, against Hartlepool Rovers, and went on to make one other appearance.
Following the North v. South match the England selectors decided to chose mainly Northern forwards and J.H. Rogers lost his place for the first two internationals of 1891 but regained it for the game with Scotland, at Richmond, in March. The English forwards did not play well and were well beaten by their opponents who ran out winners by three goals to one. This win secured Scotland’s first ever Triple Crown. At the conclusion of the International Championship there was a game between the County Champions, Lancashire, and the Rest of England for which John Rogers was selected. So popular was this match, at Manchester, that it was all-ticket, which was most unusual in those days, and in a closely fought encounter England emerged victorious.
In 1891/92 J.H. Rogers was once more chosen to play for the South against the North and brother Alfred was also selected, as one of the South three-quarters. The match was played at Newcastle-on-Tyne and resulted in a win for the North. John Rogers nevertheless got on the score sheet by converting one of his side’s tries.
Under the captaincy of J.H. Rogers the Midland Counties, in 1892, won the southwestern group of the County Championship and thus qualified for the final playoffs against the winners of the other three groups. They were not, however, able to maintain their run of success and Yorkshire won the championship. The annual Champion County versus the Rest of England match afforded both of the Rogers brothers a chance for revenge, however, it was not to be because Yorkshire were again victorious. Alfred Rogers had not been part of the original selection but was brought in as a late replacement.
In 1892/93 the Moseley captaincy passed from J.H. Rogers to his brother Alfred who led the club for two seasons. J.H. Rogers died in 1922, at the age of 54, having suffered an aneurysm while at his office in Colmore Row.
(Thanks to Dean Burfoot and John Clayton for the photographs).
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