Western Force backrower Richard Hardwick says the relative security of knowing he has a place in 2018 Super Rugby helped him to his first Wallabies squad spot, as teammate Adam Coleman played down reports of a looming club switch.
The Force released a statement on Wednesday night, saying Coleman was committed to the Force, following reports that he had signed with another Australian franchise after a contract moratorium was lifted this week.
“I’m excited about the direction we’re taking as a team. We have a great group of players and staff and I’m excited about what the future holds," Coleman said in a statement.
“The Force is my home and gave me my opportunity, I will endeavour to put my heart and soul into this club and my full focus is on winning with this team.”
Hardwick said players weren’t totally across the changes that Monday’s ending of a contract moratorium would bring, though knowing that he was contracted for 2018 had given him a slice of peace of mind amid the turmoil.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones, I have a contract next year, so that’s really been a key player in this year in being able to settle my mind and more so helping out the other guys that are off contract and try and trying to get them in a good head space, which is pretty hard to do,” he said.
The backrower said, though, he couldn’t imagine playing anywhere but Perth should the Force be the team to go in 2018, echoing the thoughts of fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, who re-signed in February.
“I have not thought of playing anywhere else,” he said.
“It’s a big thing for me this is my home, this is where my family is, this is where I’ve made my home, this is there I’ve done all my rugby and this is where I’ve succeeded.
“I don’t want to leave. I’ve been asked (before) but Perth’s my home and you just wait for the decision to be made and I’ll make my decision from there.” - Richard Hardwick.
“I know there’s a few people that have been pretty happy with it, happy they can start moving forward in negotiations and settle their minds,” he said.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty with players, especially those that have families and have bought houses here,” he said.
Despite that uncertainty, Hardwick said the WA pathway was showing it had the depth of talent to turn players into Wallabies, after a handful of representatives last year, with the 23-year-old the newest addition.
“I’ve had young players in colts coming up to me and asking should I stick around and I’m saying, ‘You should, because there’s an opportunity in Perth now’.”
“The coaches have proven they’re going to use players that are built here if you’re good enough.”
“It’s good for WA rugby but not only WA rugby, it’s Australia in general.”
Hardwick has become the latest poster boy for the WA pathway, in his emergence from the Force fringes to the Wallabies’ June Series squad, though that wasn't even a surprise after Test coach Michael Cheika sang his praises so often in the lead-up.
That didn’t stop the youngster from searching for concrete proof of his inclusion when an intern passed on the news after Tuesday’s training.
“When I got invited (to the April Wallabies camp), I took it as I was doing the right things but I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be part of this June series,” he said.
“One of the interns came up to me and started congratulating me and that’s when I found out.
“I didn’t believe it, I needed to get some proof up and then I read it on Twitter.”
Now, he’s pinching himself that he will be training alongside guys that he never thought he would, like Michael Hooper and Scott Higginbotham.
“They’re these guys you sort of look up to and you’ve been watching them play and you never think you‘ll be playing with them, even though it’s your dream, it’s unreal,” he said.
The Wallabies play their first June Test on June 10 against Fiji. Buy tickets here.