PLAYER-COACH Tom Heard says his desire for 'a fresh challenge' is behind him leaving Tiverton and joining National League 3 South West outfit Barnstaple.
Heard, 31, played as a youngster at Tivvy before moving to Taunton, but came back to Coronation Field in 2006 as player-coach and guided Tivvy to third and fourth-placed Western Counties West finishes.
The centre stepped back into the breach with Ricky Cruse just before Christmas but could not prevent Tiverton's relegation to the Cornwall & Devon division, and he says the time has come for him to test himself elsewhere.
"It is just a fresh challenge for me. I have spent a few years at the club on and off as a player-coach and so it's time for a change of scenery," revealed Heard, who bagged a hat-trick on his league debut for Tiverton against Wellington back in 2000.
"I moved from my previous club Taunton to here as a player-coach and my main motivation was to get my level three coaching.
"Barnstaple are three levels higher than Tiverton so it is definitely a step up and it will be good to challenge myself.
"I'm going to have my first pre-season training session at Barnstaple and then hopefully I will be starting the season with them.
"I'm getting married and going on my honeymoon this summer so it has been a bit of a disrupted pre-season so far, but that is the plan."
Tiverton have since appointed Dave Maddick as their new coach, who has coaching experience from stints at Torquay, Brixham, Newton Abbot and, most recently, as colts coach at Paignton.
And Heard admits he still holds his former club close to his heart, after enjoying some notable highs and lows in their colours.
"The first time I coached at Tivvy we managed to finish third and then we came fourth the following season so that all went really well," he said.
"I think finishing that first season when I coached in third place was probably the highlight. We even managed to beat Barnstaple that season.
"It was obviously disappointing to get relegated last year but we knew we'd had a bad start and had left ourselves a lot to do before Christmas.
"Tiverton is my hometown club and there are certainly no hard feelings with me moving on. I live in Tiverton so I can certainly see myself going to help out there at some point in the future, either as a player or as a volunteer.
"You do certainly build up an allegiance with a rugby club and it is the same for me and I will certainly stay in touch with people at the club."
Tiverton start pre-season training today (Tuesday) at 7pm, and will hold sessions every Tuesday and Thursday. New players are welcome.