Relocation not the answer for Force

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Relocation is not the answer to the Western Force’s problems but former Force player Ryan Cross says keeping five Super Rugby franchises isn’t much better.

Cross’s comments came in a week when outgoing Waratahs CEO Greg Harris suggested the Force should relocate cross-country and take up residence in Western Sydney.

The ex-Force and Waratahs representative, who also played NRL for the Sydney Roosters, said that reducing the number of Australian franchises could be a better alternative.

“I suppose from an outsider now it’s hard to say but the less teams the better because then those teams would be stronger,” he said.

“In a sense, I agree with Greg Harris that they should get rid of the Western Force but that’s a pretty big call.”

Cross said there was certainly a niche market for Rugby in WA, but competing against AFL powerhouses West Coast and Fremantle, who both made it deep into finals in 2015, was always going to be tough.

In his four seasons in Perth, Cross said the WA franchise had found it increasingly difficult to grab hold in the state.

“When I first went over in the second year of the Force there was a bit of excitement about the possibilities over there, then there were a few dramas with sponsors and that sort of thing,” he said.

“I think we’ve taken our eye off the ball and really concentrated on the East Coast and it’s a really tough market to do, especially without the governing body."Go West. Former NRL, Waratah and Western Force utility back Ryan Cross. Photo: Getty ImagesWhether Rugby fans would support a second Sydney franchise is an altogether different debate and one about which Cross was not overly optimistic.

“I think Tahs supporters are a bit like most Sydney supporters, they’re a bit fair weather they turn up they turn their back on the team,” he said.

“I think it’s been a pretty tough Rugby market and it’s struggling as it is, so trying to put another team in Sydney would be tough.”

Former Wallaby Jeremy Paul has embarked on a head coaching stint with Penrith in the Shute Shield, seeing first hand the battle for hearts and minds in the Western Sydney area.

Paul said rather than looking to shift the Western Force, focus needed to be on continuing to bolster talent in traditionally strong states, in a similar vein to the NRL’s Melbourne Storm.

“I think with the success of Western Sydney Wanderers and GWS they love their sport out there,” he said.

“You see four teams in the NRL as well that cover the west ,they’ll be the  fastest growing suburbs in Sydney over the next five years.

“I don’t think we should relocate, what we need to do is bolster the competitions locally.”

Paul said talent would be an ongoing issue for any Perth franchise.

“Always one of the major issues there during the early days when they were deciding to put a franchise there was deciding whether they could financially support themselves but the talent pool side of things was always going to be difficult to bolster.”