TEENAGER Tom Putt has left Plymouth Albion to join their National One rivals Darlington Mowden Park.
The goal-kicking full-back/fly-half, who only turned 19 at the weekend, admitted he was sad to leave Brickfields, but said he had to do what was best for his career.
Like most of last year’s backs, Putt was only offered a basic pay-as-you-play deal for next season at Albion, whereas Darlington are offering him the chance to train full-time.
“It was a hard decision to make as obviously I have got family, friends and girlfriend, but I’ve got to make a decision that is best for me,” said Putt, who made 13 appearances and scored 63 points in his first season of National League rugby in 2015/16.
“It was good at Plymouth last year. The atmosphere was great. It is a real family club and the fans are brilliant. That is what I will miss.
“I do have to thank Graham (Dawe), both Simons (Lane and Hicklin), Tristan (Lark) and the physios for all the work they did in developing me on and off the pitch at Plymouth.
“I would have loved to have stayed at Plymouth, but unfortunately what they offered I couldn’t live on.
“I also wanted to operate full-time to try and get the best out of myself. I want to really push on with my rugby. Sadly, at the moment, Plymouth could not deliver that for me, so I had to look at other options.
“I spoke to Darlington and they were pretty keen to get me involved which was good to hear. The next thing I know I’m up here and I’m really enjoying myself.”
Putt, who had been on an apprentice contact at Albion which involved him studying at City College, added: “Plymouth offered me pay-as-you-play and that’s not what I wanted. It was a massive shame as I loved my year at Plymouth and wanted to stay again, but some things just don’t work out.”
Putt had been on trial at Darlington to see if he fitted into their plans and to see if he could settle in the North East.
The youngster, whose dad also played for Albion, is from Kingsbridge, so moving to Darlington is a big switch.
But Putt, who has been flying up and down from Exeter, said: “It’s not like I am moving to the other side of the world, I’m only an hour’s flight away, so that’s not too bad.
“Whatever happens, I know I will have given it a chance and that’s all you can do. When you are so young, you have to give it a shot.
“I just want to play as much as I can and get as much experience as possible.
“If you want to progress you need as much experience as possible, especially at such a young age, although I’m 19 now so I’m getting older!”
Putt missed Albion’s away match at Darlington at the start of March and so had not seen their 25,000 all-seater stadium at first-hand until he flew up to the North East on trial.
“The facilities are amazing,” he said. “They are probably the best facilities I have been to or used. The stadium is just unbelievable – it’s massive. I’ve never been to a place like it.”
Putt, who was the youngest player in Albion’s squad last term, would have made more than the 13 National One appearances he did make for Plymouth in 2015/16 had he not missed three months with injury, just when he was hitting top form.
“I got injured for a bit last year, but luckily I have got rid of that and I can crack on this year and hopefully get a place in the starting team and just see where it takes me,” he said.
Putt made most of his appearances for Albion at full-back. He did play one game on the wing but fly-half was his main position before last season and which is the position Darlington need cover for.
“I played full-back last year, but I can also play 10,” he said. “I am comfortable with either. I’m not too bothered which I play, just as long as I am playing.”
Putt joins James Penman in swapping Albion for Darlington so he knows at least one face in the dressing room.
He said: “James (Penman) is up here, but to be honest the first day I turned up there were a lot of new players and we all bonded.
“They have been there now three weeks and there’s a real bond and everyone’s very settled and get along really well.”
Putt and Penman will get the chance to return to Brickfields on October 15 when Albion host Darlington Mowden Park.