Sean Long agreed to the following lengthy interview, which took place in his salubrious Orrell back garden, for Rugby League World. In it he exclusively revealed that he wouldn’t be making himself available for international selection again.
After finally leaving St Helens in 2008, Long now plays for Hull FC.
The finest British halfback in over a decade and one of the few controversial characters of the modern era.
Three times a Lance Todd trophy winner, four times a Super League champion and twice on top of the world with Saints only tells half of the story. Long has represented all that is good about the summer era of Rugby League with his mercurial individual talent leading Saints to glory time and again. He is also a rare personality in today’s cliche-ridden game, often courting controversy yet maintaining a youthful exuberance for the game he began to play as a child.
“I did a couple of training sessions at school and as a seven-year-old I went down with my mates to play under-11s at Wigan St Judes. I loved it but I wasn’t getting much of a game because I was so young. Maybe just five minutes on the wing here and there but when I turned nine, they turned me into a fullback. I was OK, I could tackle and I ended up playing for Lancashire’s under-11s as a nine-year-old. A year later, I moved to stand-off where I stayed all the way through to playing scrum-half for St Helens.
“I supported Wigan as a boy and even went to the 1985 Challenge Cup final. My whole family supported Wigan and I got taken to all the finals. I probably wasn’t old enough to appreciate too much of what was happening on the field but I remember the huge crowd which wasn’t far short of 100,000. It was a mad experience and I used to watch the video every week. Brett Kenny was awesome wasn’t he? My dad used to get the Aussie games on video and they were great to watch.
“I used to play on Sunday mornings and would then go to Central Park with my mates. I thought Steve Ella was brilliant and when I got older my favourites were Ellery Hanley, Andy Greg, Shaun Edwards, Gene Miles and Martin Offiah. I was a bit of a Wigan nut and had the posters on my bedroom wall.
“When I was 15, a lot of the lads were getting signed up like Ian Knott and players from other clubs like Warren Barrow and Keiron Cunningham and I kept thinking, ‘when am I going to get signed up’? Then Keith Mills told a scout at Wigan that they were missing one of the best young players at St Judes so they came to watch me away at Widnes St Maries. I had a pretty good game and scored a couple of tries so I got in. It was done and dusted in a week. I signed but carried on playing for my school and amateur club and then went on a YTS training course with about 11 others. We were getting paid for training and playing and I loved it.
“I started to think that my big year could have been the Centenary Season. I was in the first team squad for the first game but ended up playing in an Alliance fixture at Hull. I made a break and smashed into the fullback as I tried to step him. I smashed my knee and was out for about 18 months.
“I eventually came back and made my debut in a cup game against Rochdale and then came off the bench against Salford and played pretty well. That’s when a few members of the press noticed me but it was hard back then. When I first started training with the first team, I was the fourth choice stand-off behind Frano Botica, Henry Paul and Nigel Wright!”
Long’s dream of gaining a starting berth at Wigan ended in 1997 when after four early season appearances (three from the bench), the club let him go. Widnes, battling to remain in the game’s second tier, picked him up in a swap for their prop forward Lee Hansen.
“In early 1997, I dropped down a division and went to Widnes where I played nine games. It was a very good standard division with Hull, Huddersfield and Wakefield there but we only won twice while I was there; one up at Workington and then at home to Keighley the following week. It was an awful time, we were next to bottom of the league, only above Workington. We were short of players at times and even had to get some of my amateur players along to have a game. I did alright and luckily Saints and a couple of other clubs came in for me. I’ll always be grateful to Graeme West for letting me go because he could have kept me for the remaining 18 months I had on my contract. But he didn’t stand in my way, they got a fee for me and off I went to St Helens.
“I’d been full-time at Widnes and took a pay cut to go to St Helens. They’d just sold Lee Briers while Tommy Martyn had got injured after the Challenge Cup final. I made my debut in the World Club Championship against Cronulla when we lost 48-8. Things weren’t going well after that Cup Final win and we lost a lot of games but I loved playing for Saints and the off-the-cuff style suited me. I enjoyed playing under Shaun McRae too. He was very tactical and his video sessions were so long I once took a packed lunch in with me!
“When Tommy came back, I was out of the team and on the bench because he and Bobbie Goulding were the first choice halves. I didn’t mind where I played when I came on but I started to play more and more at scrum-half. Bobbie picked up a big suspension for whacking Jamie Mathiou in a game against Leeds so that extended run at scrum-half helped me.
“I’d done alright in 1997 and Shaun McRae was Assistant Coach to Andy Goodway for Great Britain for the series with Australia. He told me there was possibly a spot open for me but that I wouldn’t play as Bobbie and Martin Crompton would be ahead of me. Crommy then went home after not getting selected and I ended up on the bench at Old Trafford although I didn’t get on. But I did at Elland Road in the decider. Paul Atcheson got injured after half an hour and I ended up on the wing against Ken Nagas. I was shitting myself!”
At club level, Long was on the verge of permanently splitting up the once formidable Saints’ halfback partnership of Bobbie Goulding and Tommy Martyn. Although Long was signed as a stand-off, it was the unpredictable halfback Goulding’s place that was most under threat.
“1998 wasn’t the best year for the club but I was loving playing regularly so it was great for me and it wasn’t long before Bobbie left to join Huddersfield. I’ve played scrum-half ever since and ended up in a Great Britain shirt again in the third Test against the Kiwis at Watford, although that was at six. The series was gone and a few guys, including Iestyn Harris, missed the game. I played at ‘six’, did alright and scored. Casper (Tony Smith) kicked a late drop-goal and we got a draw. I also remember a brawl in that game. Scully and McCracken got into a fight, I ran in to split it up and ended up fighting with Syd Eru on the floor!
“Back at Saints, Ellery came in for 1999 and he had a real aura about him. I don’t think he was the best tactically but when he spoke you believed what he said and that’s why a lot of his motivational talks worked so well. The best example was a game at Leeds. Ellery had been suspended by the club and this was his first game back. We only arrived about 15 minutes before kick-off and we were offered a delayed start to help us get ready but Ellery looked up at the official and just said, ‘don’t bother. My players will be ready.’ We only just had enough time to get strapped! He gave us the best team talk I’ve ever heard and the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. He went through us one by one telling us how good we were. ‘Paul Atcheson my champion fullback. Kevin Iro and Paul Newlove, the best centres in Super League’. That’s how it went and we went out onto that field that night knowing we were going to win. And we did.
“Ellery was the best players’ coach. There were obviously things going on behind the scenes with that suspension but he was great for us. He hated the press. Sometimes, at the weekly press conferences we have, he’d just tell the press, ‘my players aren’t speaking to the press today’, and that would be it! They couldn’t do anything about it and we loved it. He’s an unbelievable character and a bit of a madman. He’d rollerblade into work sometimes. I’d drive past him on the East Lancs Road and wonder what on earth was going on!
“Against Gateshead later that season, I popped my AC joint and thought my season was finished so Ellery let me go on holiday. I came back and didn’t feel too bad so I came off the bench against Cas in the play-offs and was also a sub for the Grand Final with Bradford. Ellery wanted the sting to go out of the game before I went on so he put me on after 20 minutes and I ended up kicking the winning goal off the touchline.”
Early in 2000, it appeared that Saints had been one-season wonders as they quickly plunged into crisis, losing three games before the controversial Hanley was sacked. By the time Ian Millward was recruited from nearby Leigh, the idea of Saints retaining their Super League crown was looking a tad far-fetched.
“The following season started badly. We lost the World Club Challenge to Melbourne, a Challenge Cup game at Leeds and lost in Super League to Bradford. Ellery fell out with the club and called the Chairman and the directors dinosaurs! It was hilarious but he was on his way out. Ian Millward came in and turned things around and I think that if we’d kept the same coach we’d have finished mid-table because things weren’t going well with Ellery. Under Basil, we won it again. He gave us a simple gameplan and that was the year Joynty got that last second try against Bradford. Basil had always gone through certain scenarios with us and he once asked me what I’d do if we needed a try off the game’s last play. I replied that I’d kick it but he told me never to do that because the defenders would drop back expecting it. He said to always run it. I did put in one kick – sidewards to Kevin Iro – but only because I couldn’t reach him with a pass. It went across then came back and I passed it to Dwayne West who was only just on as a sub for Newy. Westy was awesome because he was fresh and beat a couple of their players. Then when Joynty got it, I was right behind him. He should have passed to Sully but he must have known he could get to the line and he did. Everything went crazy and I was running around with the mascot’s head on. Eddie Hemmings was shouting that St Bernard was on the field and didn’t realise it was me! I wanted to take the conversion with the head on but the ref wouldn’t let me.
“We were buzzing after that, thrashed Wigan at the JJB and then played really well in the final. They pulled it back to one point in the second half but Freddie Tuilagi scored in the corner which I converted for a seven point lead and that was it.
“We had some great players back then. Keiron was the best hooker in the world, Wello had come in and had a blinder and there were so many others of course.
“Then we had the World Cup with England. John Kear got a camp together and there was a good team atmosphere but there were so many good players playing for Wales and Ireland that we were weakened. We did alright at Twickenham against Australia but they had an awesome side. Joey Johns couldn’t even get in at halfback! There was Lockyer, Fittler, Kimmorley, Webcke and Tallis. They were just too good for everyone else but John did a good job and gave plenty of young lads a chance. He always looks after young players and guys like Peacock, Pryce, Walker and Wello have gone on to have great careers but, in terms of winning it, we were too far off.”
If British Rugby League had hit a new low after a World Cup that failed to live up to expectations both on and off the field, Long and St Helens quickly restored some pride with a nail-biting 20-18 win over Wayne Bennett’s Brisbane Broncos. Having lost by 40 points to Melbourne Storm in 2000, no-one discussed the possibility of a Saints victory. People just talked about keeping the score down.
“Saints started really well in 2001, beating Brisbane and then winning the Challenge Cup against Bradford but I got a bad injury a few weeks later in a game at Huddersfield, snapping me knee in a challenge from Brandon Costin. I held it against him for a bit but you get over these things. I was gutted because it was the same knee I’d injured a few years earlier as a Wigan player. So that was my 2001! The highlight was Brisbane of course. We were never meant to beat them. They had an awesome team didn’t they? We got stuck in and our defence was good. We were then able to turn around that 18-8 deficit and win.
“I didn’t have the best seasons in 2002 as I had a scratchy start in coming back from my knee injury and I snapped my wrist just before the Challenge Cup final. We were a bit complacent for that game and our preparation wasn’t right. What we trained on was basically just a farmer’s field. We dropped every ball and took that into the game itself and lost. I missed about 11 weeks and got fit just before the Grand Final against Bradford although I broke my jaw in the play-offs. We won the final with my late drop-goal but the jaw injury ruled me out of the Kiwi series.”
Asking Long about 2003 doesn’t bring much of a response. Saints were hammered by the Roosters in the World Club Challenge, lost a classic cup semi-final to Leeds before losing 40-24 to Wigan in the Super League play-offs.
“Crap. 2003 was crap. We struggled up front because we’d lost some size but the one good thing to come out of it was that we trained the house down for 2004 to make up for the disappointment of 2003. We got flogged in pre-season and were so pumped up for our Challenge Cup game at Odsal that we’d have beaten anyone that day. We went on to win the Cup against Wigan as we also put together a good Super League run. Then came the betting thing…!”
‘The betting thing’ is an apt way to describe a situation that still seems surreal to Long. Relaxing at home one minute, he was then confronted on his doorstep by the Daily Mail informing him that they knew he had placed a £1,000 bet on Bradford to beat a much weakened Saints side in an Easter Super League fixture. Martin Gleeson, who played and scored, was also involved although Long didn’t play. The two players were aware that Millward was to field a virtual Academy side at Odsal and used their information to make a quick buck at the bookies.
“They tried to make out we were match-fixing which was ridiculous. I wasn’t even playing and Glees scored the first try! All it was, was we had information that the bookies didn’t have. We jumped on it. It was a silly thing to do but, even though I wanted Saints to win, we were never ever going to win that game. I thought I was treated very harshly.
“One minute I was sat in my house chilling out and the next there was a knock on the door. As I answered, the guy moved to the left and from the right hand side there was a bloke taking pictures from his car. They asked if I’d had the bet and that conversation was the first I knew about it. I was on the back foot and just said that I’d opened the account and put the bet on for a mate. They went and I rang Basil to warn him what was going on. I was still injured and Basil told me and Glees to get away. So we went into hiding!
“A lot of the things that were said were harsh and people started coming out of the woodwork saying we should have been banned for life! We carried on playing but we knew a ban was coming. In the end, it was too harsh to get both a big fine and a long ban. Glees got even longer than me. The press made such a big deal that the RFL were backed into a corner to give us that kind of punishment.
“Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test and was fined £10,000. That’s nothing to him – he’s on 90 grand a week. I should have been fined 500 quid judging by that! It might look like we earn a bit but ten grand was a lot of money to hand over on top of the court costs and, of course, we’d handed over our winnings to a guy who’d broke his neck in a game. The whole thing didn’t work out very well!”
“We were back for the Tri-Nations and I got back for the end of Super League. Saints had been on a bad run before then which was probably down to the tough pre-season we had. We’d gone mentally, absolutely shot at. We did OK in the Tri-Nations, finishing top of the group but got spanked in the final. I started with Iestyn but got taken off after 25 minutes for Mags. Then Iestyn came off with ten left for me. It was stupid. You don’t mess around with your halves like that.”
Harris was selected for the national side after just four months back in Rugby League having played rugby union since 2001. The Welshman had even publicly doubted whether he would be ready for the Tri-Nations but he was still selected.
“There were better players in form than him but Nobby was the coach at Bradford. He probably thought, ‘I’ve got to pick him because I paid so much money for him’. Me and Mags had played seven and six and done OK then Iestyn got in for the Kiwis game at Hull; a game which didn’t really matter. He played really well and stayed in there for the final. They were too good for us anyway. Maybe we were even a bit complacent having finished top of the group and you can’t do that against Australia.”
So, once again the autumn internationals had ended in disappointment but Long was soon enjoying winning ways back at Knowsley Road. However, yet another bombshell was on the horizon as Millward was sacked, for off-field disciplinary issues.
“I was surprised to say the least. If we’d been losing, you could have understood it but we were on a great run. I don’t know what went on and I still don’t but it was obviously time for Ian to move on. I was good friends with Basil so it was a bit weird but I think there’s only so many years a coach can stay at a club although at the time I was really upset for him. He rang me up and said, ‘Longy, I’ve been sacked’. I said, ‘you what?!’ He told me he’d had to hand his ‘phone in and for me not to say anything. It was bizarre. Dave Rotherham took over as assistant and then Daniel Anderson came in and things got back on track.”
Things did get back on track for the club although injuries were to rob the Minor Premiers of the chance to contest the trophy at Old Trafford and, as in 2001 and 2002, Long suffered an end of season injury that ruled him out of the forthcoming international programme. This time he was on the receiving end of a Terry Newton attack in an infamous game that saw Long and Lee Gilmour leave the field injured, courtesy of the Wigan hooker.
“We were on another roll having finished top of the league. We thought we were going to win it again when we played Wigan at the end of the season. I’ve never been so hard in my life though. I thought I’d been hit by a brick and it ended my season. I was upset with Tez but, more than anything, I just couldn’t understand it. We’d been mates since we were kids but I kind of understand it now. Terry’s a madman and when he loses it, he loses it. He doesn’t know what he’s doing at times and he just lost the plot. Something wasn’t right with him that night and I’ve since heard their attitude was: ‘our season’s finished so let’s take some of these guys out’ and it just went a bit far. I’m sweet with it now although my face still stings a bit sometimes!”
If 2005 ended painfully for Long and St Helens, they more than made up for it with a wonderful domestic season that saw them win the Challenge Cup and the Super League at a canter. In majestic form, Long picked up a third Lance Todd trophy as Saints swept aside Huddersfield in Cardiff’s Challenge Cup final before Hull were dispatched at Old Trafford.
“We thought we’d been the best side in 2005. We kept our best players and added one or two. So last year was about getting the silverware we’d missed out on in 2005. We had confidence in every game and faith in one another and what we achieved last year will probably never be repeated. We were part of something special; a great team. You can’t top winning everything but Hull were a great side last year and beat us at Knowsley Road. We knew parts of the final against them would be tough and we just had to stay with it during those periods.”
Saints had won only one trophy in three seasons but their return to winning ways was spectacular as Daniel Anderson moulded a side even better than 2000 and 2002. What does Long see as the differences between the present team and the champion side earlier in the decade?
“Strength in depth. We have great impact off the bench nowadays and last year we even had Fozz and Vinnie Anderson out of the 17 for the big games. We’re better defenders now and you have to be fitter of course, which we are. We were maybe better attackers in 2002, more off-the-cuff, but we’re a better side now.”
Whether Long remains a part of this wonderful side beyond this year remains to be seen. Him, Paul Sculthorpe and Keiron Cunningham are all in the final year of their contracts and there is every possibility that at least one of the Knowsley Road stalwarts will be released.
“I hope not. I’m enjoying my time there but it’s up to the club to re-sign me. I think I’ve got two or three more years left in me. They might be in the NRL but I’d love to stay at St Helens.”
FOR the first time, Sean Long speaks in depth about the 2006 Tri-Nations tour to Australia and New Zealand:
“I’ve no regrets in my life. I knew the tour would be tough because we’d had such a tough season but it was my last chance to play the Aussies and beat them. I did that in one of the games so I’ve no regrets. I’d watched games as a kid when Henderson Gill did ‘a bit of a boogie’ and when Steady scored against them in 1992. Those memories had stuck in my mind. I wanted to achieve that and I did. Those guys won games but not the series, just like us.
“Older guys might have gone on tour for three months, when they went by boat, but things were different then. They probably didn’t spend too much time at home because of their job anyway. We have great jobs in Rugby League now and sometimes we’re home at 2pm. We spend a lot of time at home and when I was away I missed it, especially with Claire being pregnant. I was tired and missing my family. I’d spoken about going home even before the first game in Christchurch so it wasn’t an overnight decision. I never settled in over there and had had enough by the time I came home.
“The game in Sydney that we won took a lot out of me both physically and mentally. Looking back, my head had gone.
“We weren’t allowed to drink on the flight from Wellington to Sydney but we did have some in the airport. The behaviour on the ‘plane has been magnified and maybe it was a bit boisterous but if we’d been in a pub no-one would have heard us. On a ‘plane it’s quiet, so it just got magnified tenfold but we were a bit rowdy I suppose – me and Glees.
“We got back to Sydney on the Sunday and I knew I was going home. The boys thought I was crazy. They laughed at first then they started to believe me. I told Brian and he asked me to sleep on it but I told him nothing would change. I asked Jimmy, the bloke who organised our flights, to sort me out and he did. The next day I confirmed things with Nobby although he tried to change my mind. Jamie Peacock and Brian Carney tried to as well, which was a good gesture but my mind was made up. I couldn’t have contributed anymore.”
Long has since been accused of letting his country down but, on the other hand, perhaps his honesty should be praised. Stepping aside and allowing a fully focused and motivated halfback to play in Brisbane could only be a good thing for Great Britain.
“Richard Horne and Rob Burrow are both better halfbacks than me if my head isn’t in the right place. I told the boys that I felt I was lettting them down by going but also that I’d let them down if I stayed. If I’d played at Brisbane with my head not all there, I’d have gone through the motions and had a shit game. I wouldn’t have done myself justice and would have let the team down anyway. A fully fit Horne or Burrow is better than a guy who doesn’t want to be there. I watched the game at home and was rooting for the boys to win.
“One thing I was upset about was people bringing up the betting thing and making out that I’d been sent home for having a bet. Who on earth would I have had a bet on?! But I get on with most journalists and I don’t take anything to heart. It’s their job to put stuff in the ‘papers but sometimes it’s a bit out of order.”
So, will Long play for Great Britain again? Our conversation goes like this:
“Will you play international Rugby League again Sean?”
“I seriously doubt it.”
“Will you go to the 2008 World Cup?”
“No, I don’t think so. Last time being away from my family was hard enough and I can’t do it again.”
“What about this year’s series against the Kiwis?”
“I don’t know. I’m probably finished. If I play as many games as I did last year there’s no way I’m playing. In fact, I’ve made my mind up and just want to do my best for St Helens now. If I can have a couple of full pre-seasons from now then I might get another season or two out of myself at the end of my career. I’ve got to listen to my body now and there are too many games in a year for someone to keep playing internationals and expect to be right for the following Super League season.
“All you do is get bagged anyway by the press or on Sky. ‘The kicking game’s shit’ and all that. I’m putting this jersey on, I’ve had a tough season, I’m absolutely fucked and all you can do is slate me. It’s one thing I don’t need. It’s not financial gain either. We don’t get much money playing for GB.
“It isn’t much fun playing for Great Britain and that’s been the case for a while. I remember the 1999 tour Down Under and Chris Joynt didn’t enjoy himself. That’s why he went to play for Ireland the following year. He just wanted a different environment that would be more fun.
“On the last tour, we only went on the piss twice and on one of those we had to be back at 7pm! I’m not saying we should be drinking all the time but you need to break down some barriers and get to know some of the guys from the other clubs. You need it for the team spirit.”
“When you go into camp you don’t know some of the players too well. Some surprise you and some don’t come up to scratch but one guy was unbelievable. JP was awesome and went up in my estimations. I knew he was good but didn’t know he was that good.”
There were also rumours that Long didn’t see eye-to-eye with coach Noble on the tour; a suggestion that Long pauses and then smiles at.
“No comment! The coaching was different to St Helens’. That’s all I’ll say.”
Sean Long’s greatest moments:
1. His 1998 performances in a poor St Helens side that suggested that not only would Saints not miss Bobbie Goulding, they had, in fact, got an even better player.
2. His performance and crucial second half try for Great Britain in the drawn third Test against New Zealand in 1998.
3. His substitute appearance, culminating in the matchwinning touchline conversion, in the 1999 Grand Final.
4. His play-off form in 2000 when he played a vital role in Chris Joynt’s famous winner against the Bulls, scored two tries at the JJB and set up Freddie Tuilagi’s try at Old Trafford that put the game beyond Wigan.
5. His try and late drop-goal that helped Saints win the World Club Challenge in 2001 against Brisbane Broncos.
6. His most famous moment: the drop goal that won the 2002 Grand Final in the dying seconds to add to his earlier try.
7. His all-round display, kicking game and interception try as Saints pulled off an unexpected Challenge Cup win at Odsal in 2004.
8. His Lance Todd winning performance as Saints beat Wigan in the 2004 Challenge Cup final at Cardiff.
9. Winning a record breaking third Lance Todd trophy as Long tormented Huddersfield Giants at Cardiff in 2006.
10. His man-of-the-match display as Great Britain beat the Aussies against all the odds in Sydney in 2006.
In 1997 Wigan swapped their young stand-off Sean Long for Widnes forward Lee Hansen in one of the most ill-advised transfers in the history of the game. Rugby League World looks at some other recent transfers that the Cherry and Whites may regret:
The signings of Paul Koloi, Doc Murray and Stuart Lester in 1997. For a club with a history of signing such wonderful Australian and Kiwi talent, these players proved nothing short of an embarrassment as Wigan endured their worst season since the early eighties.
Denis Betts coming back to England in 1998 might have looked a good move at the time but he failed to live up to the standards he set during his first spell at the club, while taking up a hefty chunk of the salary cap.
The 1999 signings of Greg Florimo and Mark Reber to replace the Grand Final winning duo of Henry Paul and Robbie McCormack. Florimo was a North Sydney Bears legend but a Central Park flop while Reber was never in McCormack’s league. His display at Headingley in the fourth round of the 1999 Challenge Cup wasn’t a good sign of things to come.
Releasing some of the finest young British talent in years. Luke Robinson, Shaun Briscoe and Paul Johnson have gone onto enjoy sparkling careers elsewhere as Wigan slipped down the table.
The signing of free-scoring London Broncos halfback Dennis Moran to replace the imperious Adrian Lam. Moran endured a nightmare at the JJB failing to direct the side as Lam had done.
Ian Millward on Sean:
SEAN’s a great guy.
When I arrived there, there were some pretty established players like Kevin Iro and Paul Newlove while Sean was one of the younger fellas. He had a cheeky smile but also an abundance of ability and a great zest for life. He was fantastic.
Sean loves playing Rugby League. People see this fun-loving bloke who’s a great guy to be around but he’s got an immense wealth of knowledge and a great desire to understand the technical points of the game.
I’ve seen him grow from a young man with a great exuberance on and off the field to a guy who hasn’t changed his personality too much but who has become very mature and composed on the field. He’s up there with the smartest people I’ve coached.
I can’t pick just one favourite memory of Sean because there are far too many! I won five trophies at St Helens and in all five he was involved with either the crucial pass or kicked a vital goal. I loved the way he celebrated success because you shouldn’t take it too lightly. It’s not a given that you’ll succeed again and Sean used to create an atmosphere where people enjoyed success.
I like the way Sean lives life. He was a player I enjoyed coaching because he always had a spark and he’d challenge you. He’d ask questions and he wanted to make the team better.
Socially he was very good company because he knew when to switch off from Rugby League and understand when he had to have some chill out time. He invited me to his wedding and we keep in contact. I looked upon my role as more than coaching him but helping him through life a bit as well and we used to talk about a lot of things other than Rugby League.
I heard Tommy Martyn say once that Sean and I were good for each other because I didn’t want to die wondering and Sean had that philosophy too on and off the field.
Halfback is the most important position on the field and the one it’s most important for the coach to have a good relationship with. He needs to have vision, an understanding of the tempo of the game, he’s got to have a kicking game, he’s got to be a leader with both actions and words. He’s normally the smallest bloke on the pitch but also the biggest contributor and Sean ticked all of those boxes.
Over the last couple of years he’s wanted to come over to Australia and he’ll be very successful if he does. Wherever he plays next year, in Australia or England, he’ll be a success.
Long – quick questions:
Music – The Doors
Film – King Pin
TV Program – Alan Partridge
Newspapers – Don’t read ’em
Book – Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography. He’s in Red Hot Chili Peppers
Football team – None
Family – Wife Claire, children Olivia and Seini and a dog called Cassie who won’t stop licking me
Best mate in rugby – Keiron Cunningham
Best coach you’ve played under before Daniel – Ian Millward
Favourite ever game – The 2004 Challenge Cup final against Wigan
Next GB halfback – Lee Briers
Best player you’ve played with – Jamie Lyon although Tommy Martyn was class
Best player you’ve played against – Jason Robinson
St Helens young gun – Kyle Eastmond. A very good player