FRONT row pair Matt Price and Jimmy Litchfield will be moving on from Coventry Rugby at the end of the season along with back row forward Waita Setu.
Hooker Price, 35, joined Cov for their first season in National League One in 2010 and has made 180 league appearances as well as leading the club’s thriving community department and, this season, the Development Academy, while prop Litchfield, 26, has played 49 games in his two seasons at Butts Park.
Setu, 26, arrived at Cov from Australia for the start of the season, but suffered a shoulder injury requiring surgery on his debut at Old Albanian in September and only returned to playing this month in the Development side.
Said Price: “I’m really proud to have played a part in helping the club to stabilise at a time when it was needed both on and off the field and to see it progress the way it has.
“It’s amazing how far the club has come. When I first walked in I was, like, the sixth person in the squad – and that was two weeks before pre-season! Thinking of where we were then and where we are now, the transition is remarkable and I feel lucky to have been a part of it all.
“I’m proud of where the jersey is now from where it was when I picked it up.
“Walking out before last Saturday’s game with Andy Brown, Tom Poole and Brett Daynes, people I consider friends for life, and the ovation we received was pretty special and a moment we’ll all remember.
“I want to say a big thank you publicly to all the supporters over the last nine years, it has been fantastic. It’s a real family at Coventry and I’ve loved being here, there’s nothing better than running out here in front of these fans.
“It’s meant a lot to my family as well – my mum and dad love coming here, and my little boy loves running around and kicking a ball on the pitch.”
Price will be concentrating on his growing community rugby business which delivers programmes similar to the one at Cov to a number of other Championship and National League clubs with more in the pipeline.
“It’s a fresh start for me which I’m looking forward to,” he said. “The business is growing, we’ve got more and more clubs coming on board, and I need to spend more time on that.
“At Coventry we’ve delivered to over half a million children across the years that the programme has been operating and it has brought in valuable revenue. Community departments are very important to clubs in terms of revenue but also engagement and introducing people to the club at a young age who we hope will go on and spend 50 years with us.
“I always thought I’d dread the day I left, but I’m actually quite happy with what I’ve achieved and with the club back in the Championship, the timing is right in every respect.
“I’ve had a couple of offers to play and coach which I’m weighing up, I’d like to stay in the game and coach, but it comes down to work so we’ll have to see.”
Said Cov’s director of rugby, Rowland Winter: “Matt has been a loyal and valued player and supporter, and he has done a fantastic job for us.
“He has shown the values that the club is all about, and we wish him all the best for the future wherever he continues to play or coach.”
Litchfield joined Cov in the summer of 2016 from London Scottish, who will be Championship rivals next season.
“I’ve absolutely loved it here – it’s been amazing,” he said.
“I’ve learnt a lot over the last two years and I’m definitely, 100 per cent, leaving a better player through the coaching I’ve had here.
“They’re a great bunch of lads, there’s a real family environment which is so nice to have been involved in, and it’s the most enjoyable club I’ve been a part of.
“With how this season has gone I couldn’t really ask for anything more – it’s been awesome.
“The fans have been amazing and give terrific support. If you have a good game they will tell you, but they’ll also tell you if you’ve had a bad one which is what you need and keeps you grounded; and I’m more than happy to have a beer and a chat with any of them at the bar.
“I’m not 100 per cent decided where I’m going yet, but hopefully I’ll be putting my skills to the test against Cov next season – we’ll see where that goes.”
Commented Winter: “Jimmy has developed a lot in his time here, he can play on both sides of the front row which has been so valuable to us, and over the two seasons he has played more games than any other prop apart from our captain, Phil Boulton.
“He goes on to the next stage of his development with our best wishes and we will look forward to meeting up with him again.
“Waita was so unlucky to be injured the way he was. We’ve taken him through his rehab, but with new players coming in and being an overseas player his pathway here is rather blocked.
“He’s been a big feature around training sessions, his ability is there to see and his presence around the squad, and we wish him all the best for the future at a new club.”