Fans give Wessels new reason for optimism

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Force coach Dave Wessels says the Perth community has given him confidence his side could remain in Super Rugby in 2018.

The way the situation is now, neither the Perth side nor the Melbourne Rebels have any clarity over whether this weekend’s matches will be the last in their history.

Arbitration between RugbyWA and the ARU is set to begin on July 31, but there is no public deadline and no guarantee that it will spell the end of the dragging decision.

Wessels made the interesting admission on Friday that his own optimism was waning just months ago, but the reaction of the fans had injected new hope into their prospects.

“They’ve been fantastic for the last couple of months,” he said.

The Force's fans have been galvanised by the 2017 news. Photo: Getty Images“Probably four or five  months ago if you’d asked me hand on heart I probably would’ve said, ‘There’s no way the Western Force is going to survive,’ but I think the way the community has galvanised around the team has given us a real fighting chance,” he said.

“I still see the upside of all of that. If and when we do survive, I think it’ll be a real turning point for this club in the long term because it’s really galvanised everyone behind the team and that’s been pretty special." 

On-field, a Force victory over the Waratahs would hand them second spot in the Australian Super Rugby conference, and potentially level them on wins with the leading Brumbies, but Wessels said that wasn't their main goal.

"I think to be fair we haven’t focused on that too much throughout the year," he said.


"What we’ve tried to do is put a game together and keep improving our game week to week.


"We feel like we’re moving in the right direction."

Wessels said the impending retirement of club veteran Matt Hodgson loomed as the largest inspiration of all.

“It’s (Super Rugby uncertainty) been hanging over us for a couple of months now, so I haven’t really thought about it more than any normal week,” he said.

“The Waratahs provide a very, very big challenge for us and Hodgo provides a very, very big incentive for us.

“Those are the two things that have certainly been taking up my focus over the last couple of days.

The aerial battle will be an intriguing one on Saturday, with Waratahs duo Israel Folau and Bernard Foley scoring off cross-field kicks during the June season and against the Jaguares last weekend.

The Force have their own above-ground weapon, though, in Dane Haylett-Petty and Wessels said they couldn’t be consumed with one tactic.

“Izzy and Dane are probably two of the best guys in Australia,” he said.

“It’ll be a good battle there, if that’s the route they decide to go.

“I guess what I’m saying is they’ve got a lot of other threats.

“We can’t over think that threat because they’ve got a lot of other threats.

“What we’ve got to do , as we have all season is throw some punches of our own, rather than be too defensive minded.”

The Force take on the Waratahs on Saturday night, kicking off at 5:45pm AWST, 7:45pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.