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Bradford Bulls squad left stunned by Craig Kopczak departure ahead of season-ending loss in France
Elliott Whitehead felt Craig Kopczak had “done the dirty” on his team-mates after the Bulls’ play-off hopes were ended by a 50-26 Super League defeat in Perpignan on Saturday.
Home-grown Wales prop Kopczak withdrew from the squad to face Catalan Dragons after terminating his contract with the Bulls.
He looks certain to have played his last game for the club and could now join Huddersfield Giants, although a bitter legal wrangle lies ahead.
Whitehead, speaking after the Bulls’ first-ever away defeat to Catalan, had no problem with the player’s decision to leave but felt his colleagues deserved to have been told by Kopczak himself.
He said: “To be honest, I think he’s done a bit of a dirty on us really. Fair enough for what he’s actually done but I just thought he would have told the boys before he did it and explained his reasons.
“Instead, he did it on the quiet. None of us even knew about this until we got on the plane on Friday. Then everyone started discussing it among the group.
“It would have just been nice if he had let the boys know because we would have understood a bit better.”
The build-up to Saturday’s game was completely overshadowed by the sudden departure of 25-year-old Kopczak, who is under contract to Bradford until the end of 2013 but opted to resign when the club’s takeover went through.
The player’s agent, Martin Shuttleworth, confirmed Kopczak had taken legal advice, drawing on legislation used in the recent Rangers case, namely the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations 2006 (TUPE).
Shuttleworth said: “Craig was notified by the joint administrators by letter dated September 3, 2012 that his playing contract had transferred with effect from August 31, 2012 to OK Bulls Ltd.
“He then served notice on the administrators that he objects to the transfer of his employment under the relevant TUPE legislation.
“The net effect of having served the notice is that he is deemed to have resigned with effect from August 31, 2012 and his employment with the club is automatically terminated.”
Bulls coach Mick Potter, who all but ruled himself out of the running to succeed the departing Trent Robinson at Catalan, said: “The player didn’t tell me. His manager told me that he’d withdrawn his services and terminated his contract.
“It’s another disappointing episode in this saga, which has gone on for far too long.
“The timing was bad but there is no good time to go into administration and you can track it back to that and how the administrator handled himself.
“You’re beyond blaming anyone – Koppy has done what is right for himself. He’s made a decision and it’s heading down a track which is going to be legally fought.
“Koppy is still on the up as a player and could now reach his potential at another club, which isn’t a good thing for the Bradford fans.”
Significantly, Potter said he expected his own future to be decided early this week and admitted several more of the 17 out-of-contract players could find clubs elsewhere.
Catalan’s victory over the Bulls at the Stade Gilbert Brutus secured fourth spot and a trip to Wigan in the play-offs on Friday.