In the latest edition of our Ultimate XV feature, this week we gather the thoughts of one of Hoppers all time leading appearance makers who has a special claim to fame within the history of the club. Eric Dean currently sits 17th on the list of leading appearance makers (in the modern era) having played for the club 244 times, mainly in his favoured full back role.
But it is another statistic with which Eric will always be associated with. Quite simply, Eric was the first product of the clubs mini rugby section to go on to play 1st XV rugby at PGRFC. He played for the Colts XV in 1980/81 season before moving into the 1st XV squad. Seasoned Hoppers watchers will always remember a famous try that Eric scored at the Woodlands. The game was a Lancashire Cup Semi Final against a much vaunted Orrell side in April 1986. Hoppers were massive underdogs going into the match but a superb backs move led to Eric chiming into the three quarter line from full back and scoring the games only try as the unfancied side from Lightfoot Green edged a titanic encounter by 10 points to 9 to reach the clubs second ever Lancashire Cup Final.
Below is the XV that has made Eric’s selection. Eric says that whilst he played against a number of great players, he has picked those who were regular team mates during his long career at Lightfoot Lane. The comments attached to the selected players are as ever those of the Selector.
15) Steve Kerry
I would appear to have picked him out of position but to me Steve would have been a brilliant full back. He was a great tackler, good kicker and with his speed in broken play and having more space at full back it would have been his perfect position. Lucky for me he wanted to be more of a Rob Andrew!
14) Joe Hindle
Joe was a strong, deceptively quick and elusive runner before he had to resort to being a crash ball centre!
11) Mark Preston
Mark was extremely quick and a brilliant finisher. What I could have done with half his pace!
13) John Chesworth
John was a strong running, hard tackling centre with no lack of skill with the ball.
12) Paul Grayson
Paul’s record speaks for it’s self. He always looked a classy player from when I first met him on a tour to France in 1990.
10) Keith Aitchison
Keith was an elusive runner and a good decision maker. He knew when to kick and when to run (particularly from behind his own posts which I still remember well from the Lancashire Cup final 1986!!)
9) Dave Percy
Dave was the most committed, motivated and consistent player I ever played with. Ian Wright was a great player who I also greatly admired but Dave was always my favourite scrum half.
3) Brent Horton
Brent was a proper prop who even I could tell was a great scrummager.
2) Peter Carter
Peter was the best all round hooker I played with.
1) Joe Holden
Joe was also (I am reliably informed) a good scrummager but I do know that he was strong and by far the best ball handling prop I played with. He also won a few line outs. I had to pick someone who could beat Leemers in the “Grasshoppers competition!”
4) Wade Dooley
Who else could I pick?? I only recall playing at Hoppers with one British Lion!
5) Michael Bailey
Bill was a good ball handler and skilful player who I was always impressed with particularly in the line out system devised by John Morgan prior to lifting being legalised.
6) Micky Parker
Without doubt the hardest player I played with or against. He would always be first on my team sheet. He was a destructive tackler, brilliant on the floor and a better ball player than people realised.
7/8) Neil Leeming
Neil was the strongest player I played with and the captain I most enjoyed playing under. Brilliant in both tight and open play.
7/8) Roy Dransfield
I had to pick Roy as this back row is legendary at the Hoppers and when I started playing they were all at their peak. There was no better runner with the ball than Roy.
Coach – Dick Greenwood
When you were coached by Dick you trained as if you were playing in a cup final each and every week.