Graham Richards has revealed he had a rude awakening to life at Sudbury Rugby Club with the coaches having not been told of his involvement when he first met them.
It was at the Christmas lunch on December 17, 2011 that the soon-to-depart head coach was first taken around Whittome Field as Sudbury beat local rivals Stowmarket in what proved to be Josh Rix’s final game for the club before his sad death the following month.
Richards, who had spells with Natal Sharks and Harlequins, joined the club the following April to run youth rugby, with a view to taking over all rugby.
“Unfortunately none of the then coaching staff had been informed,” he said, “so it was not a good start. But I’d made my decision, and I’ve never walked away from anything without a fight.”
He took control of the first team early in the 2012-13 season.
“I am grateful to Mike Beckett, who was chairman then, for giving me the opportunity,” he said, following opening up in last week’s Free Press last week on his frustrations with things off the pitch leading to him making the decision to move on at the end of the current campaign.
“I always enjoyed a good working relationship with him, and with Bob Waller who succeeded him.
“But in 2012 I’d had no pre-season contact with the first-team squad, and it’s very hard to coach a team that you haven’t had a chance to work with them pre-season.”
Sudbury just avoided relegation in that first season.
“We only matched the result of the season before, and some were asking why we were spending money on a coach. I said judge me after three years,” he said.
The following season, Sudbury finished fourth in London League 3NE. They won the title in 2014-15, losing just one game, and are now duelling with Saffron Walden and Diss for promotion from Division 2NE.
“I can’t be unhappy with that. What we have achieved has come from hard work, and I take my hat off to all the players during my time here and believe they can continue to improve.”
On his decision to leave the club to run a pub in Honeyborough, the village where he was born, just outside Neyland in Pembrokeshire, Wales, he said: “I was given an opportunity, doing something I’ve never done in my life, and I’m a man of challenge.
“The timing is right. I’ve thought long and hard over it, and I hope that when everyone assesses this, even the people who were resistant to my presence, they can look and say it went pretty well in my time at the club,” he said.