North Wales Crusaders chief executive Andy Moulsdale has paid tribute to “teammates, friends and club legends” who have departed following the end of the 2019 season.
Alex Thompson, all-time leading appearance holder Jonny Walker and Stephen Wild have all retired from rugby league, while Simon Atherton is stepping away from the sport for the foreseeable future because of personal commitments.
They finished their Crusaders careers in style by beating London Skolars 36-18 last weekend, with Atherton, Walker and Wild all getting on the scoresheet.
Moulsdale said: “Saturday’s game was emotional and I’m glad the lads got the result and send-off their careers deserved.
“We really wanted to keep Simon for next year, but we respect his decision to concentrate on his family.
“I think he’s played some of his best rugby since being at the club in the last two or three months.
“We wish Simon well and he knows he is welcome back at the club anytime.
“I’ve been speaking to Alex all season about next year as myself and Muzza (head coach Anthony Murray) wanted him to carry on and see how he felt after pre-season.
“Tomo is the most honest bloke you’ll meet in terms of his rugby and where he’s at and he indicated that his body was telling him it was time.
“He will be a huge loss around the boys as he’s a great character and an immensely gifted player who can pretty much play anywhere.
“I’m hoping Tomo will be staying around the club as I know he wants to.
“It’ll be third time lucky for Wildy when it comes to retiring.
“There isn’t a lot I can say about him that hasn’t already been said.
“He’s a complete one-off as he’s played at the highest level of our sport and still turns up with no arrogance and a totally committed attitude.
“People shouldn’t underestimate what Ste has done for this club.
“He’s a legend player, legend bloke and I’ve not met anyone involved with this club who would have a bad word to say about the guy.
“Jonny Walker retiring gets me for a number of reasons.
“For one, I realise how old I am as we grew up playing rugby together and, for second, it’s sad to see him leave as he is one of the originals.
“Jonny is everything that is good about this club and I’ve never played with anyone who has a bigger heart than this lad.
“He has given everything on the field for this club, he will go down as a club legend and I know how much all the fans think of him.
“I wish all the lads the very best and I know they will still be involved or around the club in some capacity.”