Rugby League Heroes: Sean and Christian Tyrer

What’s it like to be the son of a legend? Last week, Colin Tyrer told us about his great career with Leigh, Wigan, Barrow and Hull KR. This week, his sons Sean and Christian recall their time in the professional game.

If you could relive one day from your careers, which would it be? 

ST: The Lancashire Cup semi-final when I played for Wigan as an 18-year-old, and we beat Widnes. We had several players missing, and we weren’t expected to win. It was a try apiece, but I kicked five goals to Andy Currier’s three. It was a Wednesday night, and it was likened in the press to the Wigan v Manly game from a year earlier because of the crowd. My dad was assistant coach at Widnes and Christian was a big Widnes fan, as I had been. We had a bit of banter before, and no one gave anything away tactics-wise, but I couldn’t wait to get one over on dad! I think he was quite proud afterwards.

CT: My choice would be Widnes against Wigan in the quarter-final of the Regal Trophy in 1995. It was a great game. We weren’t in the top league at the time, and it was a Wigan team full of stars. We were quietly confident because we’d played well that year. We had a good pack, we had the Hulme brothers, and we had the wily old fox in Shane Cooper. I had a drop-goal that hit the post, which would have won us the game, but it went to extra-time, and they beat us. It was live on Grandstand, and they replayed the game a week later because whatever they were supposed to be showing had been called off.

How much of an influence was your dad on your playing careers? 

CT: Massive. He was never a pushy parent. He never forced us to get involved. He was quite modern in his thinking. He didn’t go through our games and tell us what he thought. He’d ask us what we thought and would offer a few points of advice.

ST: I’ve coached at Leigh Miners and parents rant and rave at their kids, but dad wasn’t like that. If I had a good game, he said, “You did well there.” That was it. If I’d played badly, he’d say we need to work on this or that. I do that with my kids.

How did you come to sign for Wigan, Sean?

ST: I knew Wigan were interested when I was at Leigh Miners. We got to the BARLA Under-18’s National Cup Final against Egremont at Central Park. I had a cracker. I scored a hat-trick and six goals. Wigan made me an offer on the Monday. I just wanted to grab the pen, but dad said, “He’s not signing for that.” I couldn’t believe it. We walked away and he said, “Don’t worry, they want you, and they’ll be back for you.” Sure enough, that’s what happened.

CT: I went with Sean and dad when he signed for Wigan, and I even remember what he was wearing. I watched him at Leigh Miners when he played with Denis Betts and Ian Gildart. Nearly every player in that time signed pro. I’ve never told him this, but I used to really look up to Sean. When I watched his games, all I wanted to do was get on the field and play, but I was too young. 

What was it like playing and training with all those legends?

ST: I’d only played four ‘A’ team games and I was shocked to hear I was going to make my debut. Wigan were playing Leigh in the ‘A’ team one Friday. I got a call to say I wasn’t playing and to go training with the first team on Saturday morning. My debut was against Bradford on the Sunday, and I remember Dean Bell throwing up before the game. Even he was suffering with nerves! I got a chance 20 yards out and knew I could make it, but I tipped it on to Dean and he scored.

All the players were great. I was at a heritage do the other week and it was great to see them all. I knew Andy Gregory and Joe Lydon from being with my dad at Widnes. Shaun Edwards came up to me recently to say hello. I hadn’t seen him for years. I didn’t think he’d remember me, but he told me he did because I helped him win the Lancashire Cup in 1988.

CT: It was similar for me going into a Widnes team full of stars. Tony Myler was a legend, my hero. He was dogged with injuries, but he could play. It was unreal to have not just him but the Hulme brothers as well. They were so competitive on the field and in training. They were proud Widnes lads. Emosi Koloto was so underrated, but he was a giant. He’d send me to the halfway line in training. He’d stand on the dead-ball line and could hit me with a one-handed underarm 50-metre pass, which would hit me with some force. I played one game with Martin Offiah, but it was in the ‘A’ team. Nobody can tell me he isn’t the best winger the game has ever seen.

Why did you leave Wigan, Sean? 

ST: I got offered another contract, but I decided to leave as I’d have more chances elsewhere. Warrington, Salford, Oldham, Rochdale and Leigh all came in for me, and I was impressed with Oldham. I’d grown up with Tommy Martyn from the age of three. We played rugby in the street, and we were at Leigh Miners together. We didn’t even have to talk; we just gave each other a look and then something would happen like a chip over the top or a dummy. I remember Barrie McDermott coming on as a sub at half-time one day. We had two injuries so were down to just 13 players. I said, “Barrie just settle down. Don’t do anything stupid.” Anyway, we kicked off and on the first tackle, he ran in, took someone’s head off and got sent off!

Why did you leave the Roughyeds in 1993 just as they won promotion?

ST: I got offered another contract, but considering they’d got promoted, the money was poor. Peter Tunks was the coach, and he went through so many players. We called him Noel Edmonds because of Swap Shop. He was always swapping players. If someone didn’t turn up to training, we’d ask each other if he was injured or if he’d been swapped.

Kurt Sorensen phoned my dad because he’d just taken the coaching job at Whitehaven. It was good money, too good to turn down. He had a driver who would take us up, but he quit after a month and muggins here had to do it! We played Wigan in the Regal Trophy and lost 22-8, but we pushed them all the way and they scored a couple of late tries. We had some good players like Clayton Friend, David Seeds and Reg Dunn.

Why was Whitehaven the end of your career?

ST: The club phoned to say they couldn’t afford to pay me any more because they weren’t going to make the top eight play-offs, and that I shouldn’t bother to come down anymore. I said they should make me a free agent, but they seemed hesitant. They called again to say they had terminated my contract because I’d refused to play. That was rubbish. I got the RFL onto it. It should have taken a couple of months to sort, but it took seven years. Seven years! I couldn’t play for anyone else, even in the amateur game. I’d only signed a 12-month contract, but Whitehaven still held my registration. I was 24 or 25 when it started. By the time it was sorted, I was 31. I went training with Rochdale when I could play again, but I realised I’d lost too much time. It wasn’t worth getting injured and it messing up my work. I took Whitehaven and the RFL to court, and both settled out of court with me. 

You made your Widnes debut in 1993 against Saints, Christian, and scored your first try against the New Zealand tourists. What do you remember? 

CT: I was on the bench against Saints. It was a tight game, a typical local derby. I came on as a scrum-half. I picked the ball up from a scrum and wanted to run it. I broke the first tackle and managed to get an offload in. It went wide to Darren Wright, and he scored. I was buzzing. That was my first touch, having been a fan for years. We could have beaten New Zealand. Rodney Howe played for us that day. Dave Ruane made a half break, and I supported him on the inside and went under the posts.

How did you feel when Widnes were excluded from Super League?

CT: I can’t remember much about my career, but I know I was in the physio’s room when we found out. It was sad. Jim Mills announced over the tannoy that he’d just come off the phone from Maurice Lindsay and that Widnes were definitely in. And then it didn’t happen. 

You joined Bath shortly after they had played the cross-code matches against Wigan in 1996. What did the players think of those matches? What was their attitude to Rugby League? 

CT: They loved Rugby League, but everyone in League talks union down – “kick and clap” and all that. When I went down there, I expected some snobbery, but it was the complete opposite. They played very intense tick and pass which was very Rugby League orientated. They watched League and tried to take stuff into training. They knew going into the cross-code games they would each win their own game, but they wanted to be expansive in the union game. They could have been very technical without Wigan touching the ball but, to their credit, they threw the ball about, so they knew Wigan would get chances too. There was no ill-feeling towards Rugby League, and they had a very positive attitude towards it. 

Why did you sign for Keighley in 1998?

CT: Salford and I reached an agreement, but it felt through. Warrington wanted me but only on a trial basis at first, which didn’t interest me. Lee Hansen was at Keighley and told me Lee Crooks wanted to speak to me. They weren’t in Super League, but I was very impressed by them. I signed a decent deal. Lee was building what seemed like a good side. It didn’t work out for Lee in the end, but I did enjoy my time there. They’re doing well again now and all credit to them.

What do you remember about your dad’s career? 

ST: I couldn’t pick any games out, but I remember going to Barrow to watch him. Rugby League was our life and I wanted to go to training and games all the time. I ended up being a ball boy at Hull KR when he played with Roger Millward and Clive Sullivan.

CT: I have vague memories of being taken to Hull KR when he was finishing off, but I was too young to remember any specifics. I knew he played rugby, but he didn’t talk about it much. Then he went into coaching. We were watching Sky one day, and it had him on a list of all-time scorers at Wigan. It was a shock to see him there because I hadn’t realised he’d had a career like that.

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