OUTGOING Witham Rugby Club president Nick Redfern is capping off his time at the helm in style by claiming the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Guinness National Rugby Awards.

Redfern fought off competition from five other finalists from across the country to win the coveted award at a gala star-studded ceremony at Twickenham.

Since joining the club as a player in 1986, Redfern has been a driving force at their Spa Road home and will leave it in its best-ever position when he stands down as president this year after a decade in the role.

Ensuring the financial robustness of the club will be among his greatest legacies, having playing a pivotal role in rebuilding Witham's fortunes after the club twice almost went bankrupt in the last ten years.

But despite the impact he has had on making the club what it is today, Redfern admitted he never expected to take the top prize during the ceremony at the home of English Rugby.

He said: "From my point of view, I could not believe it when they read my name out. "I was bowled over to be recognised at that level, I really was.

"It's massively gratifying.

"I was there in a room full of England internationals and ex-internationals and had to get up and talk to everyone; it was absolutely fantastic and a wonderful experience.

"It's certainly one I'll never forget."

Redfern has been involved for more than 30 years at Witham and has held a number of key positions, including coaching the first team for 15 years and being first-team captain for two years as well as being a pivotal figure in the establishment of Witham's junior set-up in 1999.

But he considers his greatest achievement as being one that has come to fruition in the last two years.

Receiving a huge and unexpected utilities bill and then being hit when a storm wrecked a big club event, meant the club suffered turmoil and twice went close to going out of existence, but Redfern has been instrumental in reviving Witham's financial fortunes with an innovative share issue.

He has been key to a project that has made the club into a limited company so funds could be raised by the issuing of shares and being able to leave his position as president knowing that the future is secure and bright means so much to a man who has Witham RFC running through his veins.

Redfern added: "It's the first national award the club has ever received and I think the club nominated me because we are financially secure now.

"This was the fifth year we had been nominated in one or more categories and we'd got down to the last six, so we'd got used to being finalists and going to the awards ceremony, but this was the first year we won.

"It think it's testament to the hard work that everyone puts in and I do feel it is recognition for the club.

"The club would not operate without a lot of dedication from a whole group of people who put in an enormous amount of effort, but you do need someone with a vision who is prepared to push the club forward.

"There are always plenty of views on the way forward, but someone has to step up to be counted.

"If you feel you are right, then you have to push hard and move in the right direction and I feel this award recognises that I was prepared to do that.

"I've spent four years working through the legal side that has turned the club into a limited company where we have issued shares and raised money that way. "That has been made possible because we own the land our club is on and it has given the club the financial security we need.

"It's something I'm very proud of.

"We have been on the verge of bankruptcy twice over the last decade - once when I took over as president when we had a massive utilities bill and then after a storm blew down a marquee before our 40th anniversary ball and we lost a huge amount over it.

"But we are now in a secure position and that's allowed us to refurbish the club.

"We have had our problems, but now we can really look forward from a position of financial security to building rugby at the club."

With that financial security in place, Witham are looking to move the club forward and have already undertaken a major project to resurface the car park and driveway at Spa Road.

They are now holding an Open Day at Spa Road on September 14 when people will be invited to see the newly-refurbished facilities and find out more about plans to get the club more closely integrated with the local community.

Redfern said: "There is never a right time to leave a position like this, but when I took over in 2009, I did say I would do it for ten years.

"What I do know is that I can stand down as president knowing we're financially secure so we can focus on building rugby for Witham and the community.

"Is that a legacy?

"I don't know, but I do know that we have been on the brink at times and have been glad that the RFU and the community have been able to support us, but now we are in a position to give back where we can.

"We are looking forward to working with the community to do that and we're working hard to develop community links, including some brilliant ones with Maltings Academy."