Blyth hits landmark

PUBLISHED: 11:26 28 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:06 10 June 2010

P3438-48-08AW Withycombe(1sts) (Green And Black) Vs Minehead (Black and White stripes). Richard Blyth (no. 3 with knee supports) his 500th game. pic by Alex Walton

P3438-48-08AW Withycombe(1sts) (Green And Black) Vs Minehead (Black and White stripes). Richard Blyth (no. 3 with knee supports) his 500th game. pic by Alex Walton

Copyright Archant Ltd

WITHYYCOMBE chairman Richard Blyth reached a notable landmark in the win over Minehead on Saturday it was his 500th 1st XV appearance for the club. Blyth joined Withies straight from school as a 17 year old and made his club debut against North Tawton

WITHYYCOMBE chairman Richard Blyth reached a notable landmark in the win over Minehead on Saturday - it was his 500th 1st XV appearance for the club.Blyth joined Withies straight from school as a 17 year old and made his club debut against North Tawton in a 3rd XV game at the start of the 1982-83 season.By the end of that season he was pushing hard for a regular 1st XV place and eventually took possession of the No.3 shirt from Dave Josey, the only other Withycombe player with 500 games to his name.There were two or three seasons while he was in his 20s when Blyth didn't play that much. Otherwise, he would be well on the way to 600 by now. Blyth, now 42, said he always intended to play for as long as he could and had no plans to stop just yet."I can remember going to some sort of presentation evening when they gave Dave Josey an award for playing 500 games. I thought at the time 'that would do for me' and here I am still playing," said Blyth, who runs the family fruit-and-vegetable business in Budleigh Salterton."Although we aren't having a great season, I am enjoying it more now than I have for two or three years."When playing becomes a chore it is time to stop. It isn't so I won't be."Dave Josey told me he could only retire when he had found his own replacement. That replacement happened to be me. The same applies to me and, right now, I am not looking too hard."It is a sobering thought that for the best part of 40 years and more than 1,000 games, only myself and Dave Josey have worn the number three shirt for Withies. It is something I am quite proud of."Withycombe were only a junior club when Blyth first played for them and didn't warrant fixtures at 1st XV level against the likes of near neighbours Exmouth or Sidmouth, among others.Blyth, along with the Symons brothers, Al Loaring and Darren England formed the nucleus of a side that won three promotions in quick succession.It was quite an adventure and one Blyth, the only player still going, remembers with great affection."We had some great days, such as winning the Devon Junior Cup, a dramatic victory at Sidmouth to win promotion on the last day of the season, and the first time we played Exmouth in the league and beat them," said Blyth."I had to have eight stitches after we beat Exmouth - it was a fantastic game. I remember looking at my team-mates and thinking in 30 years' time, whenever we bumped into each other in the street, the first thing we would talk about would be that game."Blyth was a good enough technician of the black arts practised in the front row to be talked of as a potential Devon player. One of his few disappointments is he didn't get the call in his prime and when it did come it was for representative games rather than County Championship fixtures.Inevitably, other clubs tried to lure Blyth away from Raleigh Park, but he always said 'no'."I have never regretted it either," said Blyth. "Rugby for me has never been about money, but about enjoying it and a feeling of belonging."I don't have a problem with players who want to move around, but it wasn't for me.

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