POPULAR fly-half Ben Dudley admits it will be an emotional day when he plays his final home game for Worthing Raiders Rugby Club on Saturday.
The 35-year-old has played for the club for 12 years but will run out at Roundstone Lane for the last time when Raiders host Clifton.
Dudley is hoping to sign off with a win and said: “It’s all come about really quickly. It doesn’t feel like that long ago when I first joined the club but I’ve been here for 12 years and now I’m preparing for my last home game.
“It will be quite an emotional day. Although I live in Portsmouth, Worthing is my team and it’s been fantastic to play for them for so many years.”
Dudley admits there were times in the last couple of years when he had thought about retiring but said: “If we hadn’t gone up to National 1 a couple of years ago, I would have probably called it a day on a relative high after a successful season.
“However, we got promoted and I desperately wanted to play at that level as that had always been an ambition of mine. I thought then that I’d give it one more year but, after we got relegated, which was disappointing, I felt I had unfinished business.
“I felt that I still had something to give at this level and would give it one more season.
“But now I’ve got baby number two due imminently, my life is very busy and I’m not holding down a regular place and this day comes around for everybody.”
Dudley, who could still feature in Raiders’ last two away games after Saturday, admits that he is not sure if he will play for a local club near to his Portsmouth base next season but he wants to get involved in coaching.
He said: “I want to develop my coaching and am looking at opportunities a little closer to home.
“Worthing to Portsmouth is 45 minutes, so it’s a big time commitment and I’m looking at what to do next.
“There’s some teams near me who play two or three levels below Worthing, so I might carry on playing as I feel like I could still be useful at that level.”
Raiders head coach Kieron Dawson was full of praise for Dudley’s career at the club and said he would be welcome back as a coach any time.
Dawson said: “Ben’s been a great servant to the club.
“He brings a lot of energy and competition to every training session and is great with the young players as well.
“I’ve said to him that we want him to come back here as a coach in a couple of years.
“He has a very young family, which is a big commitment, and I know how much time that takes up but we will always welcome him back.”
Dudley admitted that it would be an honour for him to return to Worthing as a coach in the future, if the opportunity arose. In the meantime, he is focused on signing off with a win in front of the Raiders faithful.
He said: “The support is fantastic and we always get a huge number of people who follow us home and away.
“It’s been disappointing this year but I don’t know if us not going up will be beneficial in the long term.
“A year of rebuilding could be a good thing and we now need to look at recruiting for next year and keeping hold of a lot of the players.
“I’d really like to sign off with a victory on Saturday but it’s going to be an emotional day.
“I know a few bits and pieces are lined up but I don’t know what is planned – I’m just hoping there’s nothing too crazy.
“I’m just going to go out and enjoy the whole day.”