In our latest instalment of the Ultimate XV series, Hoppers long serving player and now committee man John Chesworth provides his Ultimate XV. After the recent update to the Hoppers list of leading appearance makers, Ches currently sits seventh on the all time list having made 333 appearances for the 1st XV. Equally at home in the centre or at full back, John was a product of the Hoppers Colts which he captained and was a Lancashire Colts representative to boot. After moving into the senior ranks he was a virtual ever present during an upturn in the clubs playing fortunes. He gained senior Lancashire honours and also captained the club before retiring to concentrate on his family and career commitments. John provides his comments on his selection below.
What an extremely difficult exercise this is! I have trawled back to the days when it was 4 points for a try and we had a bottle of port in the changing room next to the first aid kit (which comprised just a roll of tape, tube of deep heat and a sponge). This may come a surprise, but I like the social side of rugby, and I have to be sure that all those I pick will stay behind for a pint. So here goes:-
15. Chris Glynn. Glynny joined us from Liverpool St Helens having run us ragged in a cup game the previous season. A great atacking force he was also a goal kicker to boot. Also, was very easy to tempt into stopping off in London after games in the vacinity.
14. Joe Hindle. In the early 1990s Joe was probably Hoppers’ most effective attacking runner and having a bunch of mere children in the midfield, his experience was invaluable. Joe was a builder by trade (some would argue otherwise), and master at 3 card brag. On a long away trip to the Midlands, having already taken all Teddy Edward’s cash, Ted ended up owing Joe 3 free skips before we had got past Wigan.
13. Paul Barrow. A tough choice this one, other contenders were Dave Whittingham and Rob Smith, but PB was something we hadn’t seen at Hoppers, a former Super League loose forward in the back line. I was first introdcued to his forearm in a “semi-opposed” training session, thereafter, he was a formidable force in both attack and defence and the best thing about him playing for us meant he wasn’t playing for them. Also, a very useful minder when sampling the St Helens nightlife.
12. Jimmy Moore. Fresh out of the colts, Dick Greenwood took the bold step of sticking Jim and I in the centres, with Paul Grayson also 19, at fly-half. Jim was robust in defence, had superb hands and was more than happy to do the hard graft to make ohers around him look good. He was also responsible for much inovation in Hoppers’ apres rugby, not least the funnel, as demonstrated by a certain W A Dooley in the Winnington Park Club House and the infamous beer and egg.
11. Gary Monaghan. Mony used to dance his way through our Hoppers colts defence when we played against Leigh colts, and it was a blessed relief to be on the same side as him in various Lancashire sides. When Hoppers signed him in the late 1990s he had lost none of his pace and that amazing side step, you knew it was coming but there was nothing you could do about it.
10. Michael Lough. Probably the hardest pick. In my early years I was lucky to play with Paul Grayson and Will Greenwood (he was a 10 at the time). I also had the privilige of playing with two of the finest ball players in North West rugby, Mike Kirby and Keith Aitchison. However, Luffy’s impact on the Hoppers when he landed from Australia was phenomenal. In the year we got promoted to the equivalent of National 1 he scored 27 tries from 24 matches, allied to this, his defence was akin to having an extra back row in the midflield. His fearless performances on the pitch were matched by his relentless attempts to prove his Aussie manhood in the bar after the game, “if you Pommys swallow the Tequila worm then so will I….”.
9. John Bleasdale. For a position where so much can go wrong, very little did when Bleasey was playing. His distribution was great and he never shirked the tough chores around the fringes.
1. Lloyd Bell. Every team needs their enforcers, but Lloyd carried his duties off with such panache and when confronted by the referee would look like a schoolboy wrongly accused. Great operator in the scrum and line out (so I’m told).
2. Pete Carter. The story goes that Wade Dooley christened Brian Moore “Pit Bull” becuase of “Pit Bull” Pete from Hoppers. A tenatious player, superfit and a never say die attitude.
3. Chris Dew. Chris was captain in my first year in the First team and later went on to coach Hoppers along with John Morgan during the successful 1998/1999 season.
4. Mike “Bill” Bailey. Bill and I have played for Hoppers together since the colts. A fantastic ball handling second row and an uplifiting presence in the changing room. Bill has also been at the club’s core off the field for many years and is now Chairman of Rugby. In terms of motivation pre-match speeches don’t get much better than this “Stop thinking about boozing and start thinking about rugby!”
5. Wade Dooley. It was slightly surreal to watch the toughest man in world rugby on telly knocking 7 bells out of Rob Norster one week, and sit on a coach to Hereford with him the next. It is an amazing achievement for Hoppers that in the space of 15 years it has been involved with so many England Internationals, and it all started wih Dools. I have never seen anybody else hold two pints of Guiness in one hand.
6. Ian Ashton. A one man wrecking team, when playing at Fylde, Ian gave Mike Teague and Micky Skinner a torid time. He gave us the lead in the memorable cup game against Northampton in 1996, and held his own against the full international back row we played against that day. He likes drinking Margaretas, butI’ll leave it up to you to say there is anything wrong with that.
7. Glyn Dewhurst. Another tough choice here, the first open side I played with inthe First Team was Mick Parker, a true master of the dark arts, I also had the pleasure of playing with Steve Fee when he was over from New Zealand, a bloke you feel would have played international rugby if he could have been bothered to; laid back was an under statement. However, Glyn had all the attributes needed for a great 7. He was an explosive tackler and knew all the tricks at the breakdown. In attack, he had pace and his handling skills in the ultimate team will more than compensate for those of our blind side.
8. Neil Ashton. A bear of a man, Ashy and I started our rugby acquaintance challenging one another for the left wing position in the Hoppers’ colts team. Ashy knew he was beat so he decided to retreat to the gym and came out a finley honed back row player. Having recovered from a dreadful knee injury early in his career, Ash came to be an ever present in the Hoppers back row eventually making the number 8 shirt his own. A great ball carrier, frightening in defence and a superb captain. One of Neil’s finest performances off the pitch has to be the men’s downhill gold medal on the escalator in the Kings Cross Tube Station, bruised the backs of his legs for weeks.
Coach: Mentioned him earlier but we have to have John Morgan leading us. Great motivator, and all round top bloke.