Luke Wright has called upon Sussex's hierarchy to ensure that players are offered extensions before entering the last year of their contracts and said that the loss of Phil Salt and Chris Jordan "hurts me to my core".
Salt and Jordan will play their final games for the club on T20 Finals Day in Birmingham on Saturday ahead of their departures to Lancashire and Surrey respectively, joining Danny Briggs, Laurie Evans, Chris Nash, Luke Wells and Michael Burgess on the list of first-team players to have left Sussex in recent seasons.
And while the club have put together an impressive T20 side which has reached the quarter-finals of the Blast for four seasons in a row under Wright's stewardship, they have implemented a youth policy for their four-day side which has seen results fall off a cliff, sitting bottom of Division Three of the County Championship ahead of next week's final round.
"I'm hugely disappointed to see those lads leave," Wright said on Friday. "Any time you get lads going into their last year [of their contract], it's going to be difficult - they are high-quality cricketers and there are always going to be counties that want them. Add in the Hundred now - whether it's playing a part or not, who knows - but I'm sad to see them go.
"It's something from the club's point of view that we need to look at because we can't be losing our best players all the time. Myself and Ravi [Bopara] are getting older and that's the challenge they've got - our recruitment process has got to be really strong and it's something that probably hasn't been as good as it should be at this moment in time."
Wright admitted he was sceptical as to whether the Hundred was the only influence in Salt and Jordan's departures and instead called upon the club's management to ensure key players were offered attractive deals in order to keep them at the club - including Jofra Archer, who is centrally contracted by the ECB but whose Sussex deal runs out at the end of next season.
"It's got to be a fear, hasn't it?" he said. "If the so-called smaller counties are losing their best players all the time then obviously it's a worry, but we've had these issues before. When the first and second division [of the Championship started], everyone thought the smaller counties might go and lose all their players, and we've always been able to keep them.
"Only the lads themselves will know the reason why they're leaving. Chris Jordan's not gone to Hampshire [where Southern Brave are based], he's gone to Surrey, but it's something I'm sure the ECB and the PCA are going to look at to make sure that there is enough independence between the Hundred teams and the hosting counties. Is that a factor? Who knows.
"All we can know from our side as a club is that we don't want to be letting our best players go into their last year. It's a challenge but it's absolutely not impossible to keep your best players. We've got to work hard on trying to replace them as best we can going forward.
"We don't really see him [Archer] much anyway, but obviously we don't want to lose him - just like we don't want to lose any of our best players. I hate seeing any of our best players leave and it hurts me to my core to see them go. I was brought up at Sussex with a strong team that was competing in days like tomorrow all the time, winning trophies and Championships, and that's certainly where I'd still like to see the club. Sussex have helped get Jof to where he is and we certainly hope he stays with us but ultimately that's down to him."
Sussex have already made two signings ahead of next season in Fynn Hudson-Prentice and Steven Finn, and are expected to recruit further players with Stuart Meaker (retired) off the books and a handful of others out of contract. They appear to have missed out on the signing of Ross Whiteley, who looks set to move to Hampshire instead, and Wright encouraged the club to bring in some experienced players to help the young players in the Championship side in their development.
"Are we happy with where we are right now? No, of course not," he said. "It's been a really tough season, which I suppose it was always going to be for that young squad. It's the way that the club have gone - they want to go really young at the moment in four-day cricket, but that's a process that's going to be a hard road at some times.
"I feel for some of those young lads. I couldn't imagine playing when I started my career without having senior players around me, so for those guys it is tough and they are having some lessons - they had a tough loss at Grace Road this week. On the flip side, there is some real talent which is really exciting - it's just making sure we can package it right and I'm sure that's what the people above me are trying to do."
Sussex will welcome Bopara and David Wiese back into their squad for Finals Day after their involvement in the Caribbean Premier League but are without Rashid Khan who is in the UAE ahead of the IPL. Jack Carson replaces him in the squad, while Ollie Robinson has not been made available after a busy summer with England.
Vitality Blast Finals Day 2021 is supporting the players' charity: the Professional Cricketers' Trust. Saturday 18 September will see a day of fundraising and awareness for the Trust on one of the biggest days of the domestic calendar at Edgbaston. Visit bit.ly/DonateFinalsDay to find out more and donate.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98