Otley Rugby Club are to lose the services of steward Peter Longstaffe, who is retiring at the end of the season after a 36-year association with the club.

He first became involved in 1978, when invited to join the committee preparing for the visit to Cross Green of the All Blacks the following year, and started looking after all the pitches in 1980. Longstaffe took over as steward two years later when made redundant at the closing of the Vickers factory.

In that capacity he has overseen many wedding breakfasts, private and club parties and corporate meetings, plus the many other groups who use Cross Green – Ilkley Motor Club, dancing, martial arts and slimming clubs, to mention but a few.

He coached juniors and colts for nine years, doing his qualifications course with Nigel Melville, and is still involved with the playing side, shooting the video of the home game to give to the opposition and the RFU.

Longstaffe, who will be sorely missed, has a litany of stories about happenings and encounters – meeting Sean Fitzpatrick and David Kirk when New Zealand Universities visited in 1985, the famous North victory over the All Blacks, repeated in 1989 when Australia, despite a marvellous try from David Campese, also went down.

There was also the Italy v USA World Cup game when Italy complained about the length of the grass. He offered to cut it but the Americans wanted it as it was and won the argument, if not the game.

Longstaffe once received a phone call at 11.30am one Saturday when the North were due to play London at Headingley, saying that the pitch was unfit and could he prepare a playable surface in time if the game was transferred, which he did.

He has always – rightly so – been proud of his pitches and recalls the day when, the week before a county or divisional game, the ground would be rested, and he rather regrets that Cross Green is overplayed and never resembles those magnificent years.

Longstaffe was presented with a memento by club president Michael Proctor.