Rabbitohs football manager Shane Richardson – one of the game's longest serving and most esteemed administrators – has resigned from his role to ease the financial strain of the COVID-19 pandemic at Redfern.
Richardson was already slated to finish his 16-year tenure with South Sydney when his contract expired at the end of 2021, but he will depart 18 months early after approaching the Rabbitohs board earlier this week.
He will remain involved with the club as a consultant in the gradual transition of head coaching reins from Wayne Bennett to Jason Demetriou in 2022.
Richardson was a key figure in the club's drought-breaking title triumph in 2014 after first being brought to Redfern by chairman Nick Pappas in 2003.
The Rabbitohs have grown into one of the NRL's true powerhouses during his tenure.
Shane Richardson resigns
But with the suspended NRL competition biting hard, and South Sydney standing down the majority of staff on two weeks paid leave, Richardson flagged his own job as expendable to potentially save others at the club.
"In times like these, leaders have to step forward and lead," Richardson said in an address to members.
"When we were reviewing things with [CEO] Blake [Solly] early in the week, it became very clear to me on Tuesday that I needed to step down.
"The cost of having me remain in the football department was one of our largest costs and as a club we need to cut the cloth to suit the suit."
Tension between Richardson and Pappas was a persistent distraction throughout the off-season, to the point he was offered an early exit from his contract before resolving to remain under South Sydney's new coaching plan.
The veteran administrator conceded he and Pappas have had "ups and downs", but told members "no one pushed me into this decision".
He backed the club's hierarchy to succeed on and off the paddock with a playing squad he believes is stronger than their 2014 cohort.
"We have worked hard before this virus hit to ensure that we are in a great place in terms of succession planning," Richardson said.
"I honestly believe we have a stronger team in place now than when we won the premiership in 2014 and they can lead us into the future.
"We have, in my opinion, the best coach in the game in Wayne Bennett, and he and Jason Demetriou will be able to lead the players through this time."
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Richardson has been involved in the game's top level for the past 26 years in roles with Cronulla, Penrith, the Rabbitohs and a game development position at the NRL.
He plans to continue working in rugby league after a brief sabbatical, quipping "I'm sure that there's a feedbag for an old horse out there somewhere."
Richardson first raised his exit with Solly just 24 hours after the NRL competition was put on hiatus at the start of the week.
He then spoke to co-owner Russell Crowe and approached the Rabbitohs board, before informing Bennett and his coaching staff on Thursday.
Solly paid tribute to Richardson's influence in South Sydney's rise from regular wooden spoons to consistently being a premiership contender and turning an off-field profit.
"There is no doubt that the club has transformed because of Shane's involvement, his passion, his ideas, his energy and his ability to execute those ideas," Solly said.
"If Shane has one wonderful legacy to leave the club, it is the quality of the people he has put around him and the work he has put into their development.
"That contribution will be felt long after Shane leaves his full-time post with us".