ESSEX Leopards’ longest-serving player, Lukas Volskis, has joined the club’s Division One rivals Medway Park Crusaders.

The Basildon-based guard has spent six seasons with the Leopards.

But he has now opted to join the Crusaders, who have also offered him a community coaching job.

“This was a very hard decision to make and it still seems like a blur to be honest,” said Volskis, 23.

“I’d like to thank everyone at the club for being so understanding and I’m glad that I will be able to keep relationships with everyone I have become close with.

“It’s time for a new challenge in my life and my career and I’m looking forward to seeing how I’m able to handle it with the help and experiences I have attained at the Leopards.

“Chairman Fred Dicker told me ‘big men make big decisions’ and I feel like this one was a very big decision in my life.

“But I’ve loved my time with the Leopards and wish them all the very best for the future.”

The switch will allow Volskis to earn more money to help get him through university.

Leopards’ general manager Dave Ryan said he was sad to see Volskis leave.

“We’ll miss Lukas” said Ryan.

“He’s been with us a long time and it will be weird to see him play against us.

“But Medway offered him the chance to work in schools and earn money, which we’re not in a position to do as our community work is currently fulfilled by our full-time players.

“We wish him all the best for the future, and he knows that he’s always welcome at the Leopards.”

Life without Volskis starts for the Leopards with a trip to Leicester Warriors in the National Trophy tomorrow.

Robert Youngblood’s team then also face Worthing Thunder in the same competition at the Basildon Sporting Village on Sunday.

Leopards have won two of their three Trophy games so far and are third in their seven-team pool, with Leicester fifth and Thunder sixth.

Sunday’s game tips-off at 4pm.