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Tributes paid to ex-rugby player, teacher and athletics coach

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: February 20, 2014

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TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Burton teacher and rugby player who died on Sunday (February 16) following complications from surgery in January.

69-year-old Dave Sunderland, who is originally from Halifax and lived in Rugeley, played 291 games for Burton Rugby Club between 1966 and the early 1970’s and also taught history at John Taylor High School. In addition he also worked as a middle-distance athletics coach, offering guidance to top athletes including UK indoor 3,000m champion Charlene Thomas and current 800m European champion Lynsey Sharp.

Lynsey told the Mail: “I first got in contact with him in 2010. I’d been injured for two years and I wrote to him to get some advice and we just hit it off and I asked him to start coaching me.

“He came up to Scotland to help me train and I also went down to stay at his house. We were always in contact with one another and would sometimes speak on the phone two or three times a day.”

“Everyone says he was just the nicest man you could meet. He always looked out for everyone and was so caring and supportive.

“I think he believed in me more than I believed in myself. Just before the 800m final I remember him saying to me ‘you can win this’. Obviously I came second, but I was upgraded later on when it turned out that Yelena Arzhakova failed a drug test.

“Without Dave, none of what I achieved would have happened.”

John French, who joined Burton Rugby Club at the same time as Dave told the Mail: “He often played at fly half or centre, but his favourite position was on the wing. He was also a strong middle distance runner.”

A statement on the Burton Rugby Club read: “It is with much sadness that the Club hears of the sad news of the passing of former 1st XV player Dave Sunderland.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very sad and difficult time.”

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