The day you are handed the keys to your first home should be one of the most satisfying moments in your life. But for Kevin Larroyer, the Million Pound Game turned it into a living nightmare. The French international revealed all in a special interview for Rugby League World.
On September 29, 2016, Kevin Larroyer turned the lock and entered his new home.
Four days later, he was sat in his new living room staring into oblivion, unemployed and fearing how he would afford to live in his new abode.
That date in September may seem insignificant, but it was just two days before the Million Pound Game, which featured his club at the time, Hull Kingston Rovers.
What happened next doesn’t need to be explained again. But the consequences of the events that unfolded that day have been scarcely publicised.
The repercussions of relegation for the Robins had inevitable impacts. But for Larroyer, they were perhaps the most excruciating.
He was under contract for another two years, earning a healthy salary that would help him plan for the future of himself and his family. Or so he thought.
“I was told by Hull KR that I was no longer needed by them, despite the fact I had two years of my contract left,” he told Rugby League World.
Rules state that clubs have the power to terminate contracts of players should they be relegated. The contract that was to set him up for his life, to pay that new mortgage, was gone.
“To be honest, I really thought my career was over,” he said.
“When I was told I lost my contract, I was speechless. I remember being in the house and I was just sitting and staring. My partner came to speak to me asking what happened, but I just couldn’t speak because I was so shocked and ashamed.
“It was the first time in my life I’d been unemployed. I had always worked since being 17-years-old, but that was the day that finished. There were so many feelings mixed together.”
There was nothing Larroyer could do about it, either. Although the club was allowed to rip up his contract at will, the fact that he was under contract meant he couldn’t speak to other clubs in case the worst happened.
“In my head I couldn’t believe we would go down, but I still had two years contract, so I was fine.
“So after the Million Pound Game, I’m just unemployed. I had two years on my contract, so I couldn’t afford to lose my job. Something is wrong with that.
“It’s not like I’d been unprofessional or made a mistake, we’d been relegated. Even in football, they will lose a percentage of their salary, but they don’t lose their contract. I think this is really unfair that players lose their contracts.
“The RFL and the clubs organise loads of meetings on how to plan your life and so on. And I did that, I saved up and bought a house.
“I had the keys to my house two days before the Million Pound Game, and two days after it I lost my job. I was really scared.”
Inevitably, the outcome had huge implications on his life, both financially and mentally.
“When I signed for the mortgage I had a three-year contract, so all my payment plan was based on this contract, and then two days after getting the keys it is all gone.
“For the first week I just stayed at home. I was so ashamed to go on the streets, especially when I read in the press they were re-signing most of the squad, that made it even worse.
“I almost felt like I was the reason for the relegation. Even though now I know I’m not, I felt like I was the cause of everything.
“When I rang my agent and he said he had nothing for me, I just felt like the worst player in Rugby League. Nobody wanted me.
“If I didn’t have my partner or my son I don’t know what would have happened because I was that down, I was starting to have some bad thoughts.
“Mentally I was really weak, but I had my partner telling me I was a good player who would get a contract and my son was there to focus on. But without those two people I don’t know where I would have ended.
“People asked why I didn’t go back to France and get a job. But it’s not that easy. I had just got this house, my partner is from England and my son was born in England. I couldn’t just ask my family to move to France and my partner leave her job. I was desperate, that’s the best word for it.”
At this point, Larroyer was free to speak to other clubs. But getting a deal in October can almost be an impossible task.
“Because it was already the off-season, most clubs had signed their players,” he explained.
“The teams in the top eight are fine because they know they’ll be in Super League, and they can recruit straight away, but that means that people in my situation are limited.
“If the club had told me in the summer that I wasn’t in the plan in Super League or if they went down and given me permission to look around, then that would have been great.
“Instead it was the end of the season and after the Million Pound Game. Even though I have to remain loyal and honour my contract and not speak to other clubs, they didn’t have to do the same. That’s wrong. When you sign a number of years you think you’re safe, but you’re not.”
Finally, after four months of uncertainty, Larroyer was eventually handed an opportunity at Castleford, having spent the off-season linking up with Hull FC for part of their pre-season. But even now, despite his appreciation towards the Tigers, there’s still no happy ending.
“Even now, I’m really struggling because yes I have a new contract, but the mortgage was based on my old contract,” he said.
“I still have the damage to deal with. I had no confidence at all, that’s something I’m still working on.
“I’m happy, but now I’m still traumatised over this contract, and because I only signed a one-year contract with Castleford I have the same fear that this could happen again. I don’t know if I could handle that situation again, I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody, it’s just awful.”
Larroyer’s path back from the brink currently looks bright.
But he admits that he will never truly get over the events that unravelled his life before, and now he believes the Rugby Football League must ensure that such circumstances never repeat themselves.
“I think the Million Pound Game is a brilliant concept. It brings more attributes to the game. But I think it’s everything after that needs to be looked at.
“I don’t blame the concept, but I don’t think it should be up to the club to decide whether I am unemployed or not if they are relegated. I really hope the RFL will look at this, but I don’t think there has been change because I’m the only one. Maybe if 10 players were in the same position they will look at it differently. I don’t think it’s right that the club can just do what they did. I know that they lost a lot of money by going down, but the club is still there.
“It should be like it is in football, where there is a transfer market window at the end of the season. If you go down you get a percentage off your wage or something like that.
“But something must change. My life and my career could have ended, and it was completely out of my control. That can’t be allowed to happen to other people.”
Rugby League World is a monthly magazine full of exclusive interviews, investigations and stories from around the world. Get your copy every month in all good stores or online at totalrl.com/rlw.