‘My Life in Rugby League’ for League Express with Whitehaven’s long-serving centre David Seeds, shortly after he announced 2007 would be his last as a player.
What do you remember of your amateur days at Kells?
I played rugby union at school but my brother was at Kells so I ended up there. I worked my way through the club although I was still playing both games at one time; union in the morning and League in the afternoon. But it was always going to be Rugby League for me. In the first team, I played in the centres with my brother and was even picked to tour Australia with the BARLA Young Lions. It was a great tour and we had a good squad of players with five or six Cumbrians included. It was a great experience and while we didn’t actually beat the Australian Schoolboys, we ran them close. Phil Hassan, Andy Haigh and John Clarke all toured and I think I’m the last survivor. I signed for Haven shortly after Craig Chambers and Graeme Morton along with Lee Kiddie. All of stayed for at least ten years.
You’ve had a lot of stability at Whitehaven in the last ten years because there are three more players on testimonial this year.
Yes, we certainly have had a lot of stability and testimonials will be a thing of the future at the club because there are a lot of young lads here who have joined us because we’re the leading side in the county. When I came here, Workington were the top side – in fact, they’d tried to sign me – but we have been for ten years now and players are signing for us and sticking with us.
When Town were promoted in 1994, did you regret that you’d turned them down?
No, certainly not but we had some good derby battles back then, with us being the underdogs. The first one I played in finished 0-0 in 1993 and Des Drummond managed to knock the ball out of my hands as I thought I was going in for a try. Then Peter Dover had a last minute try disallowed for a forward pass. On Good Friday, we beat them 7-4 at Derwent Park with me scoring the winning try. Derbies haven’t really been the same since to be honest. They’re a bit of a mismatch now.
In 1994 you represented Cumbria against Australia.
I was 19 and was shoved onto the wing to play opposite Wendell Sailor. I didn’t know much about him beforehand but I certainly did during and after the game. Someone sent me a photo afterwards of me trying to tackle him and you could fit a bus in between us! But it was a fantastic experience to play against all those legends.
What was Kurt Sorensen like to play for?
Kurt was a legend and you were in awe of him. He was probably the first coach to bring real professionalism and discipline to the club and it set the stall out for the rest of my playing career. But it was a big blow when he left us to coach Workington although it didn’t turn out to be the best decision he ever made. However, he was a big influence on my career but so was Clayton Friend who was still playing when I came into the side. Clayton was a great player with a great history and he could turn games at will. He wasn’t shy to tell you about your game and where you could improve.
You still had some good coaches after Kurt though.
Yes, Colin Hall took over as caretaker coach but then Stan Martin came in and he was a superb coach. He was a very good tactician who really developed my game in both attack and defence and we had a lot of time for each other. He brought over some great Kiwis and three of them are on testimonial now – Leroy Joe, David Fatialofa and Aaron Lester. He also brought over a bloke called Siose Muliumu who was a fantastic player and it’s frightening to think how good he could have been. He should have played Super League or even internationals. A fifth Kiwi, Gus Malietoa-Brown came over and is still one of the best centres I’ve played with but he had some family problems and had to go back home. That was Stan’s legacy – the players he brought over.
Then another Kiwi legend came in – Kevin Tamati. He had his knockers in his time here and he didn’t push us on as much as we’d have liked but it was the introduction of Paul Cullen that was a breath of fresh air for the club. He is the most enthusiastic Rugby League person I’ve ever met. If we’d been beaten on the Sunday, he would have us training the following Tuesday like we’d won the game because he had the ability to pick us up when we needed it. I remember the winter training sessions. He had us up on Kells pit, which is on top of a cliff face, on a sunday morning dragging sledges in the pouring rain. He put a lot of discipline back into the club because it had disappeared slightly before he came. He eventually left for Warrington and no one could blame him for that. He did well here and the only trouble he had was with injuries which hurt us because we didn’t have the biggest of squads.
Then Steve McCormack came in and took you to a couple of Grand Finals.
It was a great achievement to get to those finals but 2004 will always be the one that got away. I remember aying to Aaron Lester late on, “this is our day.” We just had that feeling we were going to win but Neil Turley kicked the last minute drop goal and Leigh were too good for us in extra-time. That was the best chance we’ll get to play Super League because we had the green light to go up and the team was good enough.
The following year you beat Castleford in the last league game to win the Minor Premiership but were then hammered by them in the Grand Final. Was the side guilty of over-celebrating the league win when nothing had really been achieved?
Yes, that’s probably right. We’d had a good season and finishing top gave us the club’s first ever piece of silverware. But I don’t know why we didn’t perform in the final. We were just blown out of the water by a very good full-time Castleford side.
Did you later feel cheated when you found out that they’d gone over the Salary Cap?
No, it didn’t enter our heads. We knew what level we had to get to beat them and we just weren’t good enough in that Grand Final.
How disappointed were you to be dropped from the side for this season’s Northern Rail Cup final?
It was a massive disappointment although I had an inclination the previous week that it was going to happen because I was on the bench against Sheffield. I got a ‘phone call from Dave Rotherham on the Thursday before the final asking me to go and see him and he told me his decision. We had a debate about it but it wasn’t a shock because I felt through the week that something was happening. I knew that John Duffy was coming back and something had to give. In the end, I came down with tonsilitis and wouldn’t have played in the final anyway but that was no consolation.
Has it affected your relationship with your coach?
No it hasn’t. We did have a bit of a debate but I told him that we weren’t going to fall out about it. It was all new to me though because in 14 years I’d never been dropped until this year. They were no emotions for me and I had to deal with them and get on with it.
As a part-time player, how is your week structured?
I’m a project planner at Sellafield. I worked at a chemical company called Marchon after leaving school but it was taken over so like the rest of the rugby team I’m now at Sellafield. I only work days there, not shift patterns like some of the lads. Then, there’s the rugby of course. On a Monday, there’s rehab, physio and swimming. On Tuesdays we do skills, weights and team work for two and a half hours. Wednesday is extra training if you need it, weights etc. Thursday is similar to Tuesday with a video session as well for the upcoming game and then we have Friday off. We’ll have a little run around on Saturday morning in preparation for the Sunday. So we do about seven and a half hours a week as a team compared to what a full time team does.
There was a player called Seeds who played for England in the recent Under-16 European Championships in Serbia. Any relation?
Yes, Darren’s my nephew and Ross Gainford, who was playing stand-off, is another nephew of mine. There’s a lot of talent up here – not just in that England side but throughout the county – and I often think that if some of these lads had been born in Yorkshire or Lancashire they’d be in Super League before long.