Former Wangaratta coach Luke Morgan has vowed to continue his career elsewhere after the club wanted a non-playing coach.
Morgan was officially told on Tuesday night the Pies will pursue an off-field mentor, citing next year's proposed salary cap reduction, due to the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, won't allow a playing coach.
Half of a playing coach's salary (up to $20,000) is included in the salary cap, while a non-playing coach's wages aren't included, therefore making it a favourable option for a number of clubs under the revised cap.
In 2019, the O and M salary cap was $160,000, but was slashed to $80,000 for this year, prior to the season being cancelled in late June.
A decision on next year's figure is likely before the end of the month.
"I feel I've still got something to offer, that won't be in black and white next year, but there's nowhere yet, up until about 7.30 last night (Tuesday), my mindset was Wangaratta footy club," Morgan said.
"Footy's a lot of downs and very few ups and, at the moment, this is one of those downs."
Footy's a lot of downs and very few ups and, at the moment, this is one of those downs.Luke Morgan
While naturally disappointed the two-year relationship has ended, Morgan again showed the class which has defined his long career.
"The football club is obviously bigger than any one person and I thank the Wangaratta Football Club for the opportunity in 2019 and the interrupted 2020," he said.
"I'll miss the playing group, they're a very nice bunch of guys and I'll keep in contact with the vast majority."
Quite often when a coach and club parts company there's bitterness, but this is COVID-related.
"It's a terribly difficult situation and we don't like being in it," president Tony Goodison said.
"Luke's very professional and well liked around the club, we enjoy him leading the group, but Luke's preference is to play and coach and unfortunately, under the current restrictions, we can't deliver that at Wangaratta."
Always a mature person, Morgan was first appointed as a 23-year-old at Benalla in the neighbouring Goulburn Valley League.
The Saints made the grand final in his second season in 2014 and claimed the premiership the next.
"Family's first and foremost now for me," he said.
"For the last eight years my time's been dictated by footy clubs about what my movements are, but I've got a one-year-old daughter now and my wife is a working mum, so my family must take precedence over everything else."
North Albury and Corowa-Rutherglen are without coaches for next year and Morgan has shown an ability to rebuild a club at Benalla, with the two O and M clubs in the early stages of a revamp after difficult times.
But the 31-year-old's first aim is to regain form.
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"I wasn't happy with the performance I put out on the field in 2019 and probably only played two or three (good) games," he said.
Morgan hasn't ruled anything out for 2021.