TRIBUTES have been paid to a Rhyl Rugby Club stalwart following his sudden death this week.

John Hardy, who is widely regarded as one of the club’s greatest ever players and supporters, suffered a heart attack on New Year’s Eve at the age of 66, but leaves behind a lasting legacy throughout the North Wales region from a rugby development perspective.

He enjoyed a glittering playing career with the Dragons before returning to coach both the senior and junior sides, and he leaves behind wife Sonja and mother Betty.

Dai Roberts, a director of the club and long-time friend of Mr Hardy, said: “The club is devastated at the sudden death of John Hardy, one of the finest players Rhyl ever produced.

“He was the nicest, most genuine of men who coached the senior team some years ago and recently returned to coaching with the Mini Dragons.

“He was a rugby and family man through and through and he will be sadly missed. Our thoughts are with his wife Sonja, his mother Betty and all of John's family.”

Mr Hardy also played a prominent role in the development of RGC 1404 during the initial stages of their development, working closely with the likes of Rupert Moon and Marc Roberts in ensuring a thriving Academy structure was put in place that has played a huge contributing factor in the Gogs’ meteoric rise to the Principality Premiership and an historic WRU National Cup triumph.

Mr Moon, said: “I lost a good pal suddenly. John Hardy was an unsung hero, passionate, caring, considerate rugby and family man.

“He helped me and North Wales Rugby. Recently we reminisced about tough and great times.”

A Tweet from the official RGC account also paid tribute, which read: “The thoughts of the RGC family are today with the family and friends of John Hardy who sadly passed away yesterday.

“It is fair to say that without John there would have been no development of Parc Eirias and thus no RGC. He will be much missed by us all.”

Mr Roberts, who holds the position of WRU Regional Manager of North Wales, added: “Spent a lot of time with John in the very early days of planning the RGC academy and team.

“To put it simply we would not have moved the project as far as it has come without him.

“Thoughts are with his family and friends.”