Hampstead & Westminster bid a fond farewell to Richard and Annebeth Wijtenburg-Smith as the pair move to the Netherlands with their daughter Julia.
Known as “Smudge”, Richard joined the club in 2012 following a year in Belgium off the back of the 2012 Olympic Games. He was keen to take on a new challenge at the London club who had the ambition to earn promotion to the top tier in England and become an established Premier League side.
However, he suffered a career threatening injury at the 2013 European Championships just weeks before moving to London. It meant the end of his international career and he duly spent two years in intensive rehabilitation before finally getting to make his debut three years after joining the club.
Since then, however, he never looked back and helped the club to reach the top tier and won a national championship in 2019. It earned them a place in the EHL where they famously beat HGC last October in Barcelona – Smith had previously played in the EHL with Loughborough Students in the competition’s maiden season in 2007-08, reaching the KO8.
He also met his now wife Annebeth at the club. She joined the club at the same time and has helped the women’s team develop from a side contesting the regional South competition before earning a spot in the National League and then, just two seasons later, winning the Eastern Conference. It sees them in the English Premier League for the very first time.
In a club message to the duo, Hampstead & Westminster wished them well for the future.
“This background provides the setting to thank him for how he threw himself into all aspects of the club with a determination to repay the support the club had shown to him.
“His focus on looking for every way to improve the club – both on the field as he helped recruit new players and persuaded Kwan Browne to join as Men’s 1s player/coach – and off the field in his role as Director of Hockey where he looked to improve the coaching set up across the club, in particular helping to strengthen the Ladies section – has been exemplary .
“That he also resumed his playing career to achieve on field successes with HWHC in winning a National Championship title and competing in Europe in 2019 provided a perfect ending to his playing career with us – and enabled the club as a whole to appreciate what a fantastic hockey player he still is.
“Richard himself would say however that the ultimate benefit in committing to Hampstead back in 2013 has been his meeting AB at the club. AB joined the club around the same time as Smudge and helped develop the Ladies’ 1s into the team they are today, as captain.
“Together they leave a legacy of having challenged the club to become the very best it could be – by building a culture of respect and togetherness across the men’s and ladies squads that has seen us become a leading club in the country.”