2023/24 Awards and Summary

Date: 16 May 2024

The 2023/24 season was rounded off with the annual presentation dinner in the clubhouse at Lightfoot Green last Saturday, 11th May.

All of the teams from across the club gathered to celebrate another successful season with players from each time recognised with the presentation of individual awards. Please read on for a summery from the captain or coach of each team as well as the winners for each side.

1st XV

It has been a mixed season for the 1st team finishing 11th in National Two North, for the second consecutive season. Our final points tally of 54, bettered last season by a single point. Whilst we have played some outstanding attacking rugby at times, the lineout and some of our defensive performances have let us down. This is very evident when we look at our statistics. We managed to score an average of 29 points per game but conceded 35.
Although some might say we have managed to stay up and consolidate our position in National Two North, we want to change out mindset from just ‘competing’ at this level, to ‘winning.’ We have shown glimpses of what we are capable of this season. Our highlights include winning away at Tynedale (38-43) and Hull Ionians (15-19). Also, home wins against Lymm (46-42), Billingham (26-22) and Huddersfield (70-19). We were able to push most teams very close this season, often ending up on the wrong side of the scoreline by a single point or score (Sheffield Tigers 39-41, Fylde 33-27, Sheffield 24-26, Hull 40-33, and Tynedale 35-36). We know that we need to continue to develop our decision-making and our resilience to edge out more of these tight games.

On Saturday 11th May, we held our annual Player Presentation Night. This provided us with an opportunity to get together and to celebrate individuals who have really stood out for us this season, and there have been lots! We are building a squad that can go on and do great things. The age profile of the squad is encouraging with many playing 1st team rugby at just 18 years old.

Additionally, Al Haworth has built a 2nd team squad that is competitive, with players pushing hard for 1st team places.

1869 Club Player of the Year Award: Scott Richardson

1st Team Most Improved Player: Harry Holden

“Harry has worked extremely hard on his fitness and mobility, working extremely closely with Karl Ince. He has got himself in great shape through sheer hard work, and this has shown in his performances on the pitch, particularly in the second half of the season. He had a great skill set and has been able to put this to good use with his improved fitness.”

1st Team Coaches’ Player of the Year: Declan Norrington

“Declan Norrington took the Coaches’ Player of the Year award. Dec continues to improve as a player and brings a high level of physicality to every game. He is still relatively young, and he is very coachable. He has a great attitude and has put in some huge performances this season.”
1st Team Player’s Player of the Year: Jack Lightowler

1st Team Player’s Player of the Year: Jack Lightowler

“Jack Lightowler has been one of our standout performers in every game he’s played this season. I’ve always known that he was a very talented young player, and many people were surprised when he wasn’t offered a professional contract following his time in Academy rugby. That said, his speed of transition from age-grade rugby to National Two has been phenomenal. He is our Player’s Player of the Year, very deservedly.”

Finally, planning is already well underway for next season, as our new coaching team look to build on the good foundations put in place by Alex Keay, who departs the club at the end of this season. Thanks for everything Keasy!!! Farewell also to our Lead Physio Lucy Grey,- Thank you and we’ll see you around the club!

Words by Dan Orwin

2nd XV

Good season playing for 2nd place on last weekend of the season, unfortunately pipped to the post by Chester to finish third.
Good sign of success was the amount of players moving up to 1s and still managing 10 wins on the bounce and running Caldy to within 20 points.
Memorable wins Macclesfield away, sedge at home and Chester away with a very young squad!
Another pleasing aspect was easing in a few of the colts ready for next season

2nd Team Coaches’ Player of the Year: Craig Procter

Mr reliable, plays any position asked without complaint, always helps me out on a Saturday and a good player to boot

2nd Team Players’ Player of the Year: Izaak Gosling

Pipped 4 other players by one vote! Comments during the voting process showed what lads think of him on and off the pitch.

2nd Team Most Improved Player: Derek Ochieng

Started with socials, fast became part of a solid front row, in other circumstances may also have had a shot with 1s. Became a very popular part of the squad

Words by Alan Haworth

3rd XV

After another outstanding season in 2023, we were promoted to Division 1. This was a significant challenge that could easily have been overwhelming for us, and we knew we would have to fight hard to compete with the other teams in the league, many of which were second teams in their clubs. However, as time progressed, we rose to the challenge and made great strides, ending the season mid-table.

The key to our continued success has been a strong team ethic and working hard for each other. As a third team, we don’t have the luxury of having 15-20 players training every week, so having a good team bond on and off the pitch carries us a long way. We recognize the importance of constantly adapting and building the squad. This season, we have continued to build a young side, bringing four of last season’s colts on board and rotating a couple of this season’s colts at the back end of the season.

In addition to these new additions to the team, we have also been fortunate enough to retain a lot of last season’s squad. This has helped us maintain the expertise and experience at the backbone of the team, supporting and developing younger players. This has allowed us to establish a strong platform to compete well this season and look ahead to future seasons.

One of the keys to our success over the last few seasons has been having a solid core of 11 players in key positions who are available week in and week out. The shift in our tight five this season has proven to be a massive strength. Until we lost a couple of players to injury, our pack remained largely unchanged throughout the season. Laying this solid platform allowed our exciting backs to express our running style of rugby. Again, having a core of 3-4 backs available every week helped us maintain that consistency.

This was our third successive season making the cup final, and coming away with a 24-20 win against league winners Manchester showed us that, on our day, we can compete with the top four. From myself, I want to thank everyone who has been involved with the 3s over the last four seasons. We have had a good run with two promotions, three cup finals, and two championship medals. It’s a good way for this coaching staff to bow out.

3rd XV Coaches’ Player – Daz Hill

3rd XV Players’ Player – Brad Harrison

3rd XV Best Newcomer – Cal Mcilroy

Words by Cory Wallace

4th XV

The 4th team have had a very successful season, winning the league by a comfortable margin. We hadn’t lost a game until after Christmas. This was down to having a consistent set of lads available week in week out that gave us a very good platform to build on.

Playing out from the front we had a pack that was dominant in every game with Shaddy showing age is just a number playing what must be his 40th season for the club alongside best new comer Connor Shelliker and former colt Luke Salisbury dismantling front row oppositions.

This was built on with a back row that would tackle anything, an aging Danny Whalley moving to the forwards and hitting everything with players player of the year Matty Carr alongside him, being crucial in us being solid in defence!

The backs were less consistent but the consistent pairing of Tom Lyth and Captains player of the year Ollie Hoban at 9 and 10 gave us a very structured attack that helped us become the force we were!

The achievements from the lads this year are complimented by other teams stacking against us with higher players and still not preventing us from getting positive results. These fixtures will help us still seeing the level we will need to up our game to next season having been promoted. It is going to be a challenge but one as captain I am very excited for to see how successful we can be next year!

4th XV Coaches’ Player – Olly Hoban

4th XV Players’ Player – Matty Carr

4th XV Best Newcomer – Connor Shelliker

Words by Will Davies

5th XV

First of all I’d like to thank everyone that has put on a Hoppers shirt for myself this season and you’ve all given me and that shirt 100% and that’s all I ask for.

As a season as a whole I would say we’ve had a good season finishing 6th. We had a great start to the season with 4 wins from the first 5 games from there we started to struggle to get a regular and consistent team together. There are plenty of positives looking forward for the 5th team following this season. We’ve been in plenty of games where the scoreline doesn’t show how we played. This year we’ve had a few UCLAN players coming down to help and having them down consistently next season help us have a steady team along with those players who are already in the team so I’d like to thank all of them that have come down and brought their friends along with them on a Saturday.

Daniele Bartani Players Player: Daniele has been fantastic for the club coming in this season his ability has come on leaps and bounds from when he first joined the club. Daniele is a fast winger who everyone has grown to like a lot and with his skills as a player got the vast majority of the votes of players player. His performances for the 5th team has seen him called up to the 4th team towards the end of the season and this has been is fully deserved.

Tom Spink Captains Player: Tom is someone that I can always rely on to turn up and put a shift in whatever position I play him in. Tom is always willing to improve his game and this has shown over the season. He has been ever dependable this season and in the second half of the season he has been rewarded for his performances on and off the field with the Captancy when I’ve not been fit or have come off until he was again called up to play for the 4th team towards the end of the season.

Best Newcomer James Miller: James is the player who will do anything for you and is always willing help out. This has shown by helping most weeks with the raffle before the 1st team home games when extra help is needed. James is a player that has come on loads as a player and has become a key player in integrating everyone in the squad.

Words by Dale Schofield

Women’s XV

This season we have a good year, it was our first year back in a league structure and against some well established we have managed to finish in the top 4.

Our coach’s player, has been someone who has put their body on the line, always walking off the pitch battered and bruised but ready to go the next week. She played in multiple positions and always there for the team, and it was a pretty easy decision for me and Shaddy as our coaches player is… Fiona Prescott.

Players player, this award is always a special one as it is someone receiving recognition from their teammates. This person has been a calming influence on the team, as well as being that extended part of the leadership team, helping teammates out where possible to help improve them and encourage them, also there to kick the goals for use time and again, players player is… Megan Grant-Harris.

Most improved, is someone who came to us just before Christmas and never played rugby before, but now every time we see her, we cannot get the ball out of her hands. She is always asking questions and wanting to improve and get better, having started initially on the wing she has slowly moved in, and she has become a big part of the team, the most improved player is our resident scouser… Samantha Jones.

We have a couple of special awards; This player would have been in and around the leadership team if not a captain, but due to unfortunate circumstances, injury has curtailed her involvement and has meant early retirement, she has been a big part in supporting the team on the committee and always there when we need her, Gemma Livingston-Steele, we have a special present for you as a thank you for your contributions to the team.

Another person we would like to recognise, due to personal situations taking precedence, she hasn’t been able to be around as much and has decided to take a step back. She has been at Hoppers for a few years and has done so much for the club to support those around her, Natalie Jones.

Finally, the two women stood next to me have been absolutely amazing, coming into the co-captains roles as well as holding positions on the committee, doing a great job of leading the team on the pitch and supporting us as coaches to help the team grow and develop, Joss and Penny we thank you for all your efforts this year and we have a little gift for you.

Words by Sam Cleaver

Colts XV

The season for the Preston Grasshoppers under 18s Colts team has been characterised by a variety of outcomes. Despite facing both highs and lows, there’s a palpable sense of potential surrounding the development of the transitioning players. Over the course of the year, the team has gained momentum, with both its size and quality increasing noticeably. Particularly encouraging is the significant presence of under 17 players within the squad, who are committed to remaining with the team for next years campaign. The team’s progress has been remarkable, culminating in a commendable performance as runners-up in the plate final. With a solid nucleus of commited players, the future appears promising for the Preston Grasshoppers Colts.

Players’ player – Malachy McGuire

Coaches’ player – George Noblett

Core Values Award – George Bottomley

Colts Clubman Award – Evans Edionseri Ojuruwa

Lancashire U17’s

Finn Hurley
James Shuttleworth
George Noblett

Lancashire U18’s

James Noblett

Clubman of the Year

The clubman of the year award was presented to 3rd XV Coach Cory Wallace. The title of 3rd XV Coach doesn’t do Cory justice as many will recognise Cory as the glue which holds the Senior Rugby section of Preston Grasshoppers together. He has given up countless hours to ensure that we field 5 senior teams every Saturday. Cory’s phone will certainly enjoy the rest from the constant notifications as he leases between all of the players and captains every week!

Cory deserves his well earned rest as he steps down from the role.

Team of the Year: 3rd XV (Captain Alex Johnson pictured above with Club President Keith Brierley)


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