Sudbury Rugby Club director of rugby Graham Richards has confirmed he will be leaving at the end of this season.
Richards, whose side sit in second place in London League Division Two North East, informed his players of his decision after Saturday’s 45-0 victory over Ipswich.
Last season Richards guided the club to promotion by winning the Division Three North East title, but revealed his departure at the weekend following rumours circulating around the club during the previous week.
“It was important that I told them,” the former Natal Sharks, London Harlequins, Harlow and Malta coach said. “I didn’t want them hearing the news from anyone else.”
Richards took over as head coach back in September 2012, replacing the duo of Lee Cooper and Scott Harries in the Whittome Field hot seat.
The club’s chairman Bob Waller has led the tributes to the Welshman’s time in charge so far, and hopes they can continue the work he has done in the last three-and-a-half years.
“We can be nothing but grateful for everything that Graham has done,” he said.
“He has taken us from one team with 14 players going to Wisbech on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, to us turning out three teams today.
“He has successfully integrated the youth into our first team and senior players, so we now have 17-year-olds playing in our first team.
“Graham has introduced different training techniques, and the intensity and openness of our play is recognised throughout the county as some of the most attractive rugby around.
“We will be forever in his debt, if only for the fact that he has shown us what can be done. It will be my mission now for the next couple of years to ensure this is carried on at Sudbury Rugby Club.”
During Richards’ first season, as he started to ring the changes, Sudbury came perilously close to being relegated into the Eastern Counties.
Survival was assured right at the end, and after a fourth place finish in 2013-14, Richards oversaw a memorable 2014-15 title-winning campaign.
Waller said: “Sudbury can only say thank you for all the effort and everything Graham has put in. His legacy will not be just what is left on the pitch here, but how we approach things.”
The club, without a fixture this weekend, are yet to name a successor.