Crash victim was Sidmouth Rugby Club “icon”

Tributes to grandfather-of-five

TRIBUTES have been paid to an “icon” of Sidmouth Rugby Club who died in a car crash last Monday.

Young players coached by Richard Sawbridge, 68, pictured, were among those to take part in minute-long silences in his memory before matches at the weekend.

Family and colleagues of the grandfather-of-five described him as a “lovely, humble guy” who “never gave up on anyone”.

Richard died from injuries sustained in a collision near Hangman’s Stone on the A3052.

The retired teacher, who was dedicated to helping disadvantaged young people, was a long-serving and integral part of Sidmouth Rugby Club’s Junior Section since 1996.

He’d coached one particular group of players, the current Under 14s side, since they were Under Sevens – and told colleagues he’d ‘bow out’ from the sport when he saw them become Colts.

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“The boys are very upset,” said junior section chairman Jed Stone, whose son is a member of that side.

“The kids, and his fellow coaches, looked up to him as a mentor. He was an icon in the club and will be sorely missed.

“Richard was enthusiastic and passionate - a coach who absolutely focused on the individual needs of players.

“He was such a lovely, humble guy, had a great sense of humour and always had a smile on his face.

“His side enjoyed lots of success and won four Devon tournaments on the trot.

“He was going to hang up his boots after those boys became Under 16s.”

Richard, who lived in Seaton, is survived by wife Hilary, children Cary, Toby, and Charlotte, and five grandchildren. In a family statement they said: “He never gave up on anyone he taught.

“Despite a truly extraordinary lack of personal sporting prowess, he inspired many youngsters to get involved in rugby and cricket. He was instrumental in building the Sidmouth Rugby Club junior sides to the size and following that they have today.

“His loss is sorely felt and he will be forever held dear in the hearts of his family and friends.”

Rugby club secretary Terry O’ Brien described the tragedy as “a great shock”.

He added: “Richard had probably been the longest serving member of the junior section and was our Clubman of the Year in 2003 in recognition of his work.

“He was exceptionally good at dealing with kids.

“He decided he would follow one group through their junior stages to Under 16s – and would then bow out.”