INFLUENTIAL centre Marc Koteczky has revealed he will not be staying at Plymouth Albion for a third successive season.
The Australian, who has just become a father, had initially been keen to re-sign for the club he joined in September 2014, but has now decided to leave – even though he has not yet got anything else lined up.
The 26-year-old is unhappy that he had to chase up the new Albion owners about setting up a meeting to discuss his future and then when he did talk to them he said he was only offered a pay-as-you-play deal at £125 per game, whereas some other players were offered contracts similar to last year.
Koteczky’s departure follows in the footsteps of fellow centre and club captain Jake Murphy, who agreed to join National Two South side Barnstaple last week, and fly-half Elliot Bale, who has signed for Plymouth’s National One rivals Moseley.
“I want the supporters and everyone to know what has happened,” said Koteczky, who played 26 of Albion’s 30 matches last term, scoring six tries.
“Last season was unreal, with our winning streak and how we were training and playing. It was the best season I have had in a while.
“Throughout the season I was expecting us to be pushing to be promoted or, if we weren’t, to be the following season. I was expecting everyone would stay around and we would have another amazing season.
“Finding out there would be new owners and that there would not be much money and it wouldn’t be very good, was tough to take.
“However, I wasn’t going to make any decision about my future until I had heard what the club had to say, find out who was hanging around, which coaches they were going to have and what the budget was.
“I was told we would be having meetings with them that first week (when they took over), but they kept pushing it back every week. We were just waiting and waiting to hear from them.
“By then it was the end of the season and I had surgery on the Thursday after the Richmond game, so I was off my feet for a fair bit.
“I was waiting for a phone call or maybe an email from them (the new owners) to see if they wanted to meet up with me to talk about next season, but they never got in contact.
“I had heard about other boys signing like Nile (Dacres) and Herbie (Stupple) and so I was thinking maybe they have got some money.
“But it got to the beginning of this month, June, and I couldn’t wait any longer, so I managed to get Nigel Sparrow’s email address off someone else and emailed him to say ‘look can we meet up to talk about next season?’
“He said ‘yes’ and I met him pretty much the next day, but he or the club could only offer me pay-as-you-play.
“To be honest, I was expecting it, because I hadn’t heard anything. Yet I was shocked at the same time, because I’d heard things from the other boys.
“All Nigel could tell me was they didn’t have the money to give all of us a retainer.
“He also kept saying in the meeting that he was embarrassed about telling me, but what would you expect?
“I believe they have offered six players a retainer which is what I find hard to take. How do they justify why those six boys get retainers over other players?
“I get what they are saying that they need key positions. They said it had nothing to do with the players behind those positions, although I do find the last bit hard to believe.
“If they want to try and build another squad around six core players then why wouldn’t they try and keep the guys who had stayed loyal from the following season?
“No disrespect to the guys that got offered a retainer, they deserve everything they get and all the best to them, but what I just find hard to take is why they would get it over other players who have played a key role in the squad.
“I know loyalty is hard to find these days in rugby clubs, but I was expecting to be one of the first players to be spoken to, but instead I was the last and yet this would have been my third season.
“I am a Championship player, but I was loyal to the club last year and I personally believed I had a good season. I had a lot of game-time but was only offered £125 per game and that does not include pre-season when there’s no games.
“I think everyone’s on the same pay-as-you-play deal, so someone like me would get the same amount as an 18-year-old who has just come out of school with no experience.”
The former Australian Sevens training squad member added: “Nigel said the reason why I hadn’t been contacted was because they thought I was in Australia, but what was wrong with emailing me to find out?
“I’m not angry with what has happened at Albion (the takeover and administration). These things happens, but it has just not been handled very professionally.
“If it was their plan all along not to offer me a retainer why didn’t they tell me back in April, so I could plan?
“To be honest, after what happened even if they had offered me a retainer I wouldn’t want to play for them after the way they dealt with things. So I am not going to be around next season, which is a shame as I wanted to stay.”
Koteczky, who has a European passport, had become settled in Plymouth. He is a new father to a son called Jack.
“I met my partner, Lucy, here and have now got a family so it would have been nice to have been here another season or two because her family are here and I like to call this place home now,” said Koteczky, who can also play fly-half and full-back as well as centre.
“Last season was going so well. I was really confident that we had found a squad that would be around for a while and I was settling down.”
The former Randwick back, who played top level rugby in Italy before joining Albion when they were in the Championship, knows it will be hard for him to find a new club at this stage, especially as he is currently a none English qualified player. Championships clubs can only play so many none-EQP players if they want to get full funding.
“I am finding it hard to get a club because I’m none EQP, that’s why playing for Albion in National One was kind of working for me anyway,” he said.
“Also, now it is left so late it is going to be even harder, but I’ve just got to wait and see.
“I was very close to going to France last week but that has not happened. I am just keeping my options open at the moment.
“I don’t really want to play below National One. Even playing National One was a big decision.
“I am also looking at life after rugby now because of all this, which is shame.
“Unless something comes up soon I might have to move back to Australia or find a job other than rugby.”
In an ideal world, Koteczky would like to find a full-time playing contract which is enough to support his family at an ambitious club where he can develop his game.
Meanwhile, Albion, who were the best supported team in National One last season, have announced they will be having four open trial sessions for any prospective players over the next two weeks.
Although they hope to get a number of young Exeter Chiefs players, Albion are still going to need to increase their squad.
Albion have still not announced their pre-season matches. Previously head coach Graham Dawe had games against Jersey (August 6), Pirates (August 12), Exmouth and Pirates (August 27) pencilled in.
The Jersey game will not be happening as the Championship club have paid for Coventry to visit them that day instead. Camborne have announced they will play Albion on August 13. The Pirates were believed to be still keen to play Plymouth and so far they have not announced any other fixtures for those dates.