Plymouth Albion / Rugby

Albion are re-finding their identity in National One, says Dawe

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Graham DaweGRAHAM DAWE believes Plymouth Albion are re-finding their identity this season in National One.

Albion were relegated from the Championship in April after 13 years in English rugby’s second tier.

Demotion has come at a massive financial cost to Plymouth, who nearly went out of business at the start of this year after poor budgeting.

They have lost more than £500,000 in guaranteed income a season through RFU funding and sponsorship. They also do not have any derby matches to look forward to in National One, with Gloucestershire side Cinderford their nearest opponents, which is still a 300-mile round trip.

Albion are desperate to get back to the Championship within the next three years, but Dawe believes the club can benefit from rebuilding their values in National One.

“I don’t want to complain,” said Dawe, when asked about the problems relegation this year has brought the club. “We are in a very challenging situation, but you just have to get on with it.

“National One is an exciting division and it is a national league.

“There’s not too much publicity around this league and it is certainly a challenge, but it is helping Plymouth Albion find its identity again.

“In this league no two teams play the same. They are not cloned like you could accuse Premiership and Championship sides. People play different ways.

“It is a real challenging league. We have to travel some big distances but other teams have to travel some big distances to us.”

To go from a funded league which gets televised matches and national media attention to one that is not funded and struggles for publicity, is a massive change.

But Dawe said:  “That’s the challenge of finding your identity. Ultimately, I would have thought it could do the club a lot of good long-term, providing it leads to somewhere positive.

“We’ve got to keep the faith, hold our nerve and we have to get behind the players. Everything in this league is about supporting the players.”

Dawe admits the club’s ambition is to get back to the Championship.

“At the end of last season we put together a three-year plan to ultimately do that and we can’t waver off that course, in my opinion,” said the Albion boss, who has had to totally rebuild the squad on a tight budget after losing 31 players following relegation.

“It is a very fluid plan, but you have to put something on paper to work from.”

Although promotion within three years was the initial, realistic target after Albion’s much-publicised problems, Dawe said the club would be delighted if it happened earlier.

“We’d be over the moon if it happened before,” said Dawe. “It would be the best thing that ever happened to this team.

“But we have to contain people’s expectations and just keep working hard.

“Our focus at the moment is just on Rosslyn Park this Saturday.”

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