Harrogate Rugby Club have been rocked by the sudden departure of experienced forward Tim Heaton.
Heaton has decided to leave Claro Road and take up a player-coach role at his former club Leodiensian, in Leeds.
Heaton explained the reasons to his decision to his teammates at training on Tuesday.
Director of rugby Mike Aspinall said: “Tim’s been offered a coaching role at Leos and due to family reasons he has decided to go.
“He has a family business and he has a six month old son, all the sort of reasons that you can’t begrudge.
“It’s a massive loss for us. To lose someone as key as Tim who has been absolutely outstanding for us for five years is a massive blow.”
The number eight powerhouse has been one of Harrogate’s stand out players over the five years he has spent at the club, pulling on the red, black and amber jersey more than 150 times.
He was part of the Cockerels side that swept to promotion in National Three North in the 2012/13 season to mark an immediate return to National Two North.
Aspinall added: “He’s such a good player and has consistently been one of our best defenders.
“He has a skill set at number eight which is second to none.
“It was always a case that he would go back there at some point. It’s just a shame that it’s happened so early.”
The forward’s departure is likely to give Scott Irvine, brother of star fly-half Callum, a chance to step up to National Two level.
The up and coming flanker will battle South African Willen Enslin, signed from York over the summer, to permanently replace Heaton’s presence. Enslin has been one of Gate’s success stories so far this season and he is likely to return to the starting 15 on Saturday at home to Sedgley Park after subbing against Ampthill and District last week.
Aspinall is hoping his side learn from the mistakes made against Ampthill on Saturday which ended in a disastrous 53-7 scoreline to the runaway league leaders.
Gate’s only try game in the 79th minute when Callum Irvine jinked through the defence to score a try converted by Joe Rowntree.
Despite the heavy scoreline, Aspinall remained encouraged by his side’s defence but criticised the way his side used the ball.
He added: “It’s not all doom and gloom.
“I was disappointed by the result but I wasn’t hugely disappointed by the performance. We showed some great defence at times.
“We didn’t do ourselves any favours with the ball in the first half and that was when the damage was done.
“It’s always going to be small margins of errors when you’re playing against a team of that quality.
“Some people will say it’s a naïve statement if you say you defended really well, but I thought we defended as a team in the first half and finished 19-0 down.
“That means we must have been doing a hell of a lot of defending.”