Emotional Hodgson responds to Supreme Court call

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips and Beth Newman

An emotional Matt Hodgson fought back tears while vowing to fight back with the Force, after Rugby WA's appeal was dismissed in the Supreme Court this morning.

Hodgson, mining magnate Andrew Forrest and coach Dave Wessels all fronted media in Perth this morning, in response to the Supreme Court decision.

Fighting back tears, Hodgson spoke with pride when asked about the Force's future in a rebel competition, which was announced by Forrest moments before the ex-captain fronted the cameras.

With the ARU the owners of the Force's intellectual property, there are concerns they mightn't be able to don the Force logos in a new competition, but Hodgson dismissed those.

"We will always be known as the Force," Hodgson said.

"We will always represent WA, we will always wear the blue proudly and we will always wear the gold as well.Matt Hodgson, Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest and the Force won't be part of Super Rugby in 2018. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"We always want to represent what we have done here in the last 12 years, we don't want to forget what we have done, we are just pushing forward as a club and as a unit.

"We may not be called the Force, they might take that away, we might send them a bill for it but we will always be known as the Western Force and as long as Western Australia is in our name somewhere we will be proud to put that on."

Hodgson expressed his frustration, once again, with the way the decision has been handled by the ARU board.

"Again, today, they're not here," Hodgson said.

"No one has called me, no one has talked to meI thought I did good for the sport for 12 years, representing and captaining my country and no one has spoken to me about this.

"A phone call would be nice, a reason would be even nicer again.

"Apparently there is a Test match on this weekend that both of them will be watching so I am free Friday night if they want to come over for dinner and we can talk about these decisions."

Asked how fans would react, Hodgson said he expected them to wear blue or black - as a sign of mourning - to the Wallabies' clash with the Springboks on Saturday night.

"Fans will be angry," he said.

"The process, the reason, the transparency, the corruption, it's been frustrating.

"I don't think the fans or the players will deal with it well.

"Shrinking the game, taking away half the country and the fastest growing juniors, 5000 people on the hill to watch the Perth Spirit, you're taking that away from them."

What's next for key figures in the Force decision?


RUPA CEO Ross Xenos spoke to media in Perth on Tuesday afternoon, saying players' cases would be dealt with on an individual level as the dust cleared from the decision.

"Our advice to the players this morning was to take their time," he said.

"Naturally, it is a highly-distressing situation, as Adam Coleman had discussed openly yesterday that there have been discussions going on in the background for some players in terms of what their futures might hold.

Ross Xenos addressed the media in Perth on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"Ultimately we need to take emotion out of this for them in order to make them best prepared to make a good decision for their futures and I think whether the players decide to stay solid in terms of committing as a group to the Indo-Pacific competition or whether they decide that actually they'd like to have groups move to other Australian Super Rugby teams is soemthing that will naturally play out based on what each player feels is best for them."

The RUPA board would have to vote to include any players in the new competition under their jurisdiction, which currently only includes the five Super Rugby teams and the men's and women's Sevens squads.


If you would like to read the full explanation of the appeal and the subsequent decision, click here.

In the discussion part of the document, Justice Hammerschlag explained the basis of his decision by delving into the legalities of the Alliance Agreement.

"It may be accepted that it would have been commercially sensible for the parties to have provided that the Alliance Agreement would end earlier only if the last of the SANZAR Broadcast Agreements ended earlier," the discussion reads.Rugby WA have had their appeal dismissed. Photo: Getty Images"But it would be equally commercially sensible for the Alliance Agreement to end if the commercial terms of one of its underpinning broadcasting agreements changed in some commercial respect, even, and maybe particularly, one which advantages ARU.

"It may be commercially sensible for parties to agree a provision of broad import in the face of future uncertainty. It may be equally commercially sensible for them to agree in the face of uncertainty, a provision which operates only in stringent circumstances."

Justice Hammerschlag then explains, in more detail, the contrasting views of the agreement.

"It would be faulty to proceed to construe the Term from an assumption that the parties had an identity of interest in the longevity per se of the Alliance Agreement.

"First, the longevity which they had in mind is reflected in the formulation they chose.

"Second, the parties do not have identical interests in the longevity of the Alliance Agreement, although hopefully they both had the interests of furthering the game of rugby union in mind.

"It is to be remembered that ARU owns the Force. If the alliance comes to an end, it owns the Force unconditionally without any potential obligation to sell it back in the future, and can do with it what it likes, even destroy it.

Chance Peni, Marcel Brache and Ben Daley watch on. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"As the facts of this case demonstrate, they were supposed to be allies, but they were not friends."

The bottom line, per Justice Hammerschlag, was the definition of the commercial term itself, given that it had already qualified, before the arbitration decision was handed down.

"One can readily understand that in a given case there might be difficulty in determining what is a commercial term and what is not a commercial term of a broadcast arrangement. Any term may have commercial ramifications.

"However, no such difficulty arises here, because it was conceded before the arbitrator that the renegotiation of the last of the SANZAR Broadcast Agreements as earlier described, qualifies."

Rugby WA released a statement on Tuesday morning, flagging their intention to consider taking their appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal, though the tone seemed less defiant than the past.

Whether they would be able to prevent any moves by the ARU to begin shutting down the franchise, and relocating players, would likely be based on whether Rugby WA can win an injunction, along with approval for an appeal.

They did not require an injunction ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, with the ARU agreeing to wait for the decision to be handed down.

It seems unlikely that would happen this time around, should they take the next step, given the length of time for which the saga has already dragged on.

“RugbyWA will evaluate its legal options and consider grounds to seek leave to appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal in the coming days,” the statement read.

“RugbyWA also welcome the proposed Senate inquiry proposed by Senator Linda Reynolds into the conduct of the ARU.

WA Premier Mark McGowan has also threatened at points to sue the ARU should the Force be cut, given its investment in stadia within the state for rugby, and the statement "welcomed" the call from WA senator Linda Reynolds for a senate inquiry.

“It would appear the ARU’s decision to cut a team has once again been based on prioritising the preferences of the SANZAAR’s partners rather than a respect for the domestic game and ARU’s own strategic vision of inspiring all Australians with the game of rugby union,” the statement read.

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