Lions say bye to exceptional Pye

Lions say bye to exceptional Pye

As the Lions look to announce their latest intake ahead of the 2018/19 season it’s time to reflect on one particular Lion that won’t be suiting up this year, and that’s the one and only, Hannah Pye.

The stalwart Receiver’s recent decision to retire – from both domestic and international football – has brought the curtain down on an effervescent career – one which has seen the cherished #82 take home four consecutive national titles and appear in every one of Team GB’s 11-aside fixtures since the programme’s inception (of which the highlight reel is sure to include, her combative demonstration at the most recent World Championships in Canada together with a well-earned European Championship Silver medal in 2015). Without question the country’s number one ranked Receiver since putting on her cleats, if there were a BAFA Hall of Fame, she’d be in it!

We caught up with the Northampton-based Pye for an insider’s view on her announcement and to discover what being a part of the Lions has meant to her over the last 4 years.

You’re not exactly ready for the retirement home just yet, so how come the decision to hang your boots up?

It was a very difficult decision and it was something I gave a lot of thought to but ultimately it was the commitment of football, over time – the travel and expense – that eventually took its toll, despite still having the passion to play.

With the Euros fast approaching too, I did intend to hold out until after the Championships but that experience was still going to come with significant expense so making the call early seemed best; it will be tough knowing I won’t be a part of the European playing squad but I will be there on the side-lines with gusto!

You were a leading flag player before converting to tackle football – what was the turning point for you?
It was way back, at the first tackle development day that I attended, which coincided with it being Sapphire Finals day at Lichfield RFC. I watched the Lions compete in the final and seeing such skilful players on display is when I knew I wanted to be apart of that. Seeing Jo Kilby throw a long ball made me think “I want to be catching those!” – that day represented the start of my football journey to come.

What will you miss the most?
I will miss the team. It has been such a pleasure to build up such strong relationships with my team-mates, they become your second family and you share so many experiences together, looking out for one another, leaning on one another. I will miss sharing those times however I do tell myself I can still see them at anytime, so that helps.

What’s your favourite moment or memory with the Lions?
There is no one memory that can be singled out, throughout my time with the team there have been so many amazing times that it would seem unfair to single just one out but my favourite moments are those when the team travelled to games or abroad and we would – without fail – eventually find a coffee shop, sit down together and just chat and laugh! I also loved the times when we would spontaneously erupt into bouts of singing and dancing.

From a game perspective, I loved it when we faced really tough competition, with the clock running down and the pressure on – that’s when all the heart from the players shone through, when we had to find something more, fighting for one another and sharing and feeling the passion of the moment.

So, pads and lid firmly shelved, what’s next for Pye?
That’s a good question and I guess that’s the exciting part right now as I don’t actually know what I’ll be doing next or what the future holds. I think I’m going to enjoy taking some time for myself first but I’ve no doubt at some point I will get itchy feet for something to float my boat. I’ll keep you posted though if it involves anything resembling an odd shaped ball!

As is the way it’s now onwards and upwards for the team but a moment for some warm words is only fitting, courtesy of club captain Jo Kilby:

“In so many ways Pye will be irreplaceable to both our own and indeed Great Britain’s Lions, she is a complete player: strong, fast, durable, competitive, with great hands and a fierce block, all tethered to a feisty spirit that belied her very outward and fun-loving nature. A go-to receiver for myself and Nat [Parker] she was one of those players that would cherish going off-script, go bananas when her teammates achieved and relish the thrill of a tough game.

“She led and inspired, probably without even knowing it, and the game will be slightly less illuminated without her.

“On behalf of the whole of the Lions programme may I take this opportunity to thank Pye for her resolute service to the Lions and wish her all the best for the future.”

Image © Phil3 Productions.

Hannah Pye