Preston Grasshoppers, Lancashire and England Counties full back Sean Taylor is leaving Lightfoot Green this summer with Ballymena, Northern Ireland his destination.
Sean joined Hoppers in 2009 and after 5 seasons at Hoppers and over 120 1st XV appearances we will be very sad to see Sean go. Sean has scored over 50 tries and last season broke the club points scoring record in a league season with 341 points which included 21 tries.
Sean has also been our community rugby coach for the past few years. This role has seen Sean work in local schools, provide coaching to our mini/juniors and run our successful rugby camps.
We managed to catch up with Sean after he arrived back from Georgia with the England Counties Squad last week.
How did you come to play for Hoppers having spent your youth at Tarleton?
ST: I was coming to Uni here and my friend Alex Zavallis-Roebuck was here and another friend James Smith was at Fylde and I was wanting to progress my rugby as Tarleton’s 1st XV where not at the level I wanted to play at. I went to Fylde for a session and didn’t enjoy it. Alex Keay heard I was looking to come to Hoppers so he rang me and it went from there and I am very grateful for him giving me a chance.
What is the match that sticks in your memory from your time at Hoppers?
ST: The first match will always be one that stands out especially when it was the long trip up to Westoe. There are a few other games that stick out for me, Nuneaton away when we finished 3rd, Dave said I cost us the game (we still drew), which is always funny to look back on (can’t take them comments too seriously). Stockport away where I took the penalty in the last minute to win the game also stands out, mainly because I had just missed a conversion from a similar place and I was bricking it (fortunately it went over). The main one that always sticks out is the Lancashire Cup win. The team at that point was playing fantastic rugby and thoroughly deserved to win against Sedgley Park who where in the league above. In that team was Karl Fitzpatrick and Sean Long which was an unforgettable experience in itself.
Who are the lads/coaches that helped you most when you first came to the club?
ST: I think everyone in my first two years helped me massively and the main reason I chose Hoppers over Fylde was the welcoming of the players and coaches. Obviously I’ve had mates that I had met from Uni, the likes of Tom Hughes and fat boy Mark Irving. Some of the other players that helped where Luke Cunningham, Phil Whyte, John Peterson (always reliable) and Wayne Steel. In terms of coaches all were good but a special mention has to go to Manners (Paul Manley).
What are your plans for next season and beyond?
ST: Next season I am off to Ballymena where I was considering going 2 years ago. The ambition is to hopefully push towards Ulster Ravens and then see what happens from there, however it will be a different style of rugby where at the very least I hope to develop my game even further. Beyond next year is not something that is in my immediate focus, for the time being I want to throw my full concentration into the up coming year. We will just have to see what happens at Ballymena. If both Ella and I enjoy it then we may stay over there or look to come back to England dependent on work opportunities, however I am very excited for the next few years ahead.
Will you miss Lightfoot Green?
ST: With living at Lightfoot Green for the past two years I certainly wont miss the flat (just the company in it). But yes I will miss Hoppers. It has been 5 fantastic years for me and I can only hope that it will be similar over in Ballymena.
2 England Counties tours must make you very proud. Tell us about those….
ST: Yes it’s something I never expected to be involved in. I am immensely proud to have pulled on the Rose. I believe its a fantastic team as it gives players below the professional level the chance to represent their country and is a way of picking up late developers. The tours themselves where an absolutely amazing experience and something I can’t really describe. I think I am most proud of being selected for the two test matches against French Federale and Ireland Clubs.
Which County Championship title did you enjoy most, this year or last?
ST: A lot of people have said that this year with the comeback was better and we were unbeaten too but I thinkI prefer my first one. Probably because I saw a lot more of the ball and in my opinion had more of an impact on the result.
Finally, who was the best player you played with in your time at Hoppers and who was the funniest?
ST: Obviously Sean Long, even after he retired from Rugby League. In terms of non-professional it would have to be the (English) Tom Hughes. The year he represented ENGLAND he was hands down the best player in our team and by a long way. His step and the lines he would run were a privilege to watch, especially in training where I just stood at the back and watched him doing the work.
There are a few contenders for the funniest. I’m sure Brad Tuff would love me to say him but he just misses out. The runner up would be Paul Whyte. The stories he had from his Rugby League days and his obvious questions made me chuckle. The winner would be Wayne Steel. Very much like his brother (but funnier), he is very quick witted and always good to be around on a night out.
Everyone at Lightfoot Green would like to wish Sean the very best in Ballymena and we thank him for his commitment, hard work and the entertainment he has provided on the pitch.
Good luck Sean, it’s been a privilege to watch such a graceful player at Lightfoot Green.