Paris Saint-Germain vs Sheffield Eagles: Where are they now?
Watch the first-ever Super League game between Paris Saint-Germain and Sheffield Eagles on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm on Sunday
By Billy Painter
Last Updated: 29/03/20 6:51pm
As we mark 25 seasons since Super League's big kick-off on March 29, 1996, we take a look at what some of the players who played in that very first match between Paris Saint-Germain and Sheffield Eagles are doing 25 years on...
The name that springs to mind when anybody recalls that opening night at Charlety Stadium is that of Frederic Banquet. The man at the centre of the first-ever video referee decision - just minutes before notching the first four pointer in Super League history.
After his two-year stint with the Paris club, Banquet spent seven seasons playing in French Elite 1 with Villeneuve, before finishing his career with Carcassonne - where he played until the age of 35. After retiring from playing he spent two years coaching Carcassonne juniors followed a stint with Limoux, where he worked with their reserve grade.
Nowadays, Banquet works at Carcassonne Town Hall and trains a local rugby union team in his spare time. He still has some connection to league, however, with his 14-year-old son playing the game at junior level.
Banquet is not the only player to try his hand at rugby union coaching. Half-back Fabien Devecchi also spent a couple of years in the 15-man code before returning to league in 2019 to coach his hometown club Villeneuve. Alongside his role with the Leopards, Devecchi teaches sport day-to-day in a local school as well as supporting his two daughters who play basketball.
Full-back Laurent Lucchese now works as a personal trainer and Chinese massage therapist, together with his head conditioner role at Carcassonne XIII. In his spare time away from work commitments and rugby league, Lucchese practices Qigong and is currently learning to play the guitar.
PSG's captain on the opening night, Pierre Chamorin, runs two family businesses alongside his two brothers - one specialising in garden decorations, and the other in construction.
Although Chamorin does not have an active involvement in rugby league anymore, he still follows the Super League results and watches every Manly Sea Eagles game in the NRL. As well as travelling for both work and pleasure, he plays touch rugby every week with several other former players.
After his two seasons in Super League with PSG, Australian prop forward Jason Sands spent a couple of seasons with Villefranche-de-Rouergue as their player-captain/coach and represented the French national team up until the end of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup before returning home.
Upon returning to Australia, Sands started a degree in management and accounting - working his way up through several sales and general management positions before eventually moving his family to Melbourne to start an outdoor furniture business.
Sands had a two-year assistant coaching stint with Melbourne Storm U18s before the rigours of running a business took its toll, but his passion for rugby league still remains strong.
After seven seasons with Sheffield Eagles, Anthony Farrell spent five seasons with Leeds Rhinos and three at Widnes Vikings before ending his playing days with Halifax. The former Welsh international took on the role of caretaker coach in March 2004 and remained in that position for just over two years.
Nowadays, 'Faz' works as a civil servant in Her Majesty's Prisons and Probation service. He still has an involvement in rugby league, having recently taken up the microphone to summarise on some fixtures for local radio.
Farrell's sons, Joel and Izaac, currently play together for the Eagles in the Championship. Like Anthony, Joel wrote himself into the sides history books too - winning the inaugural 1895 Cup at Wembley in 2019.
After retiring from playing in 2006, Andy Hay has continued to maintain an active role within the sport ever since. He cut his teeth in coaching as part of the backroom staff at Hull FC and Salford Red Devils before taking on the head coach role at Featherstone Rovers in May 2014 - a role he held for just over a year.
After his time at Rovers came to an end almost four years ago, Hay and his family decided to move to New Zealand where he took up a role as head of coaching and development for Auckland Rugby League - a job which sees him work with players from grassroots level all the way up to New Zealand Warriors first grade.
Hay was not the only Eagle to spread his wings and move down under. After initially setting up his own window-cleaning business, half-back Dean Lawford and his family took the opportunity to head to Australia for a lifestyle change in 2014. The Lawfords enjoyed their time down under, but after three years decided to return to the UK to be closer to family and since returning home, Lawford is now a qualified HGV Class One driver.
Lawford's half-back partner on that opening night, Ryan Sheridan, has gone on to a career in coaching with assistant roles at Dewsbury Rams, Featherstone Rovers and presently Castleford Tigers. Sheridan is joined on the Tigers' backroom staff by another Eagles representative on the opening night in Matt Crowther, who has worked as the club's physiotherapist since the 2014 off-season.
Crowther was forced into retirement in 2003 with a badly fractured lower leg and ankle while playing for Hull FC against the Tigers. Immediately upon retiring, he started studying physiotherapy full-time at Leeds Metropolitan University and spending 13 years working his way up from junior rugby league to his present role with the Tigers.
Another player to try his hand at coaching after retiring from playing is Keith Senior. After joining Leeds Rhinos in September 1999, where he would then go on to make 365 appearances for the club over 12 seasons, Senior then returned to the Eagles in 2015 in a coaching capacity and he has remained there ever since.
But without a doubt the biggest mainstay of the Sheffield Eagles has been Mark Aston. A substitute on that opening night in Paris, he has hardly been away from the South Yorkshire club ever since.
After a Lance Todd Trophy-winning performance in the side's 1998 Challenge Cup win, Aston has been at the helm for over 500 games spanning 20 years - leading the Eagles to two Championship titles and an 1895 Cup.
After over 30 years firmly consolidating himself as part of the club's furniture, could he be the figure that sees the Eagles soar once more and grace the Super League again one day?
You can watch our broadcast of the first-ever Super League match between Paris Saint-Germain and Sheffield Eagles in full on Sky Sports Arena from 7pm on Sunday, as well as follow it online with our blog.