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Sportsman who transformed Saddlebacks loses short battle with cancer
10:06am Thursday 17th May 2012 in Wiltshire
Tributes have been paid this week to popular Devizes Rugby Club coach Dave Sullivan, who has died after a short battle with cancer.
The 65-year-old father-of-three sons, who was credited with helping to revitalise the fortunes of the club’s first team, was only diagnosed with the illness eight weeks ago and died at his home on May 8. His son Michael said his father’s illness was painfully short and a cataclysm for his family and friends, but added “he was fortunate not to suffer long enough to lose his great enjoyment of life”.
Mr Sullivan, a retired Trowbridge College lecturer in bricklaying and grandfather-of-three, had been head coach at Devizes until five years ago but had been brought back two seasons ago to help turn around the fortunes of the club’s first team.
Working with head coach John Kimberley, the club made steady progress, with the Saddlebacks finishing the 2011-12 campaign just outside the promotion play-off places in fourth.
The club’s coaching co-ordinator, Andy Smith, said that Mr Sullivan had a deep understanding of the game and was well respected. He said: “I was full of admiration for him.
“He took the time to get to know and develop each player individually. He will be a sad loss.”
Club captain James Gaiger added: “He was an outstanding coach and a genuinely outstanding person. He was always very helpful and he had a very close-knit family. Our thoughts go out to them at this sad time.”
Over his rugby career, Mr Sullivan played for Trowbridge RFC and later coached Bath Youth, Wootton Bassett and Devizes.
Ron Jones, chairman of the Dorset and Wilts RFU’s rugby development programme, said he was shocked to hear of Mr Sullivan’s death.
Mr Jones said: “He was a very passionate rugby man. He will be a sad loss to the game. He has done a lot for all age groups.”
Mr Sullivan’s son Michael said that travelling home from hospital, when it first became clear that his illness was serious, his father said: “I think this will have to be my last year for the rugby.”
Mr Sullivan’s son continued: “He would never have carried out that threat. If the season started and the players wanted him he’d be watching from behind the posts still.”
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