Forrest flags new competition for Force

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Western Force backer Andrew Forrest says he hasn’t given up the fight to overturn the team’s Super Rugby axing, but will move on with establishing a separate competition for the side.

Rugby WA lost its Supreme Court appeal against an arbitration decision on Tuesday morning, that allowed the ARU to cut the Western Force from the competition.

Forrest said he would act as quickly as possible to establish a six-team ‘Indo-Pacific’ competition to be led by the Western Force, kicking off with a game between the Force and an unnamed international team, in what he described as bringing opportunity out of disappointment.

Force coach Dave Wessels described the move as an 'IPL of rugby', addressing the media after Forrest.

Forrest, former ARU board member Geoff Stooke and the first WA Wallaby, John Welborn, would form the key roles of the management committee, with members of his Minderoo Foundation steering the start of the competition.

Though he would not elaborate on the specifics of the teams involved, former Force skipper Matt Hodgson pointed to a few candidates.

Andrew Forrest announcing a new competition. Photo: Walmsley“There are a lot of possibilities, you look at the World Cup, a lot of teams that have played in that, you look at teams like Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, those types of teams,” he said.

Forrest said he was yet to speak to players about their commitment to such a competition.

Wallabies lock Adam Coleman admitted on Monday that players had Plan Bs in place, with the decision still dragging on.

"In honour of their character and in honour of them, I have not formally approached them," he said.

"I've wanted to give this every chance with this decision in the NSW Supreme Court going sadly against us, I am asking every Western Force player to stay strong to allow me the time to be fully briefed by one of Australia's leading high court lawyers we've gone straight to the top."

It’s a structure he said had support from the ARU, bar chairman Cameron Clyne, confident it wouldn’t damage the Test eligibility of any Force players  who opt out of Super Rugby.

The ARU have made some noise about acting in the players' best interests,” he said.

“Let's just ensure that they do that.

“I feel certain that if they're sincere about the game, playing in this competition as a path to the Wallabies or the Wallabies a path to us is something we should both mutually encourage.”

Though Forrest declared he would be investigating a way to take the appeal to the next stage, he admitted for the first time he hinted that it may be an insurmountable challenge.

“I’ve just begun to fight,” he said.

“If the court can not deliver justice I understand that.

“I didn't write that agreement, which the ARU cunningly exploited which was written last year.

“I know the decision was made purely on legal grounds.

“Financial strength, player strength, on-field performance, spectator growth which makes the game of rugby great, was all ignored."