Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau says Saturday’s drawn Test was emotional for reasons on and off the field, in what may well have been his farewell to nib Stadium.
Polota-Nau, whose future is unknown after Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision that allowed the ARU to continue in its axing of the Force, said the match, with many fans donning Western Force jerseys, had plenty of feeling beyond a regular Test match.
“I definitely felt, especially seeing the locals who I always saw in every game for the Force, happy, but sad at the same time that this could possibly be the last time I see them,” he said.
“It was just great that they really enjoyed the match, which was probably the most important thing that we wanted to show, especially with the news on Tuesday, because it definitely affected, particularly the boys that were involved, quite emotionally.
“In saying that, I guess we just had to pick up the pieces and prepare accordingly for the Test match.”
Polota-Nau put the Wallabies 10 points up with a rolling maul try that lit up the WA crowd, and said he could feel the passion as the fans began Force chants through the match.
“It was so good when they started screaming 'Force, Force, Force' because there was definitely some adrenaline running through me at that time,” he said
“I think a lot of the other crowds need to take a leaf from their book because that's what you call support, right from the first minute to minute 80.
“And that's what we need, to show them that we're playing for them as well.
“Hopefully that little meaty was just a token of what they've given me throughout this whole Super Rugby season.”
It wasn’t just local players who felt the crowd support, with skipper Michael Hooper praising the passion of the crowd as well.
“Passionate fans is a great thing for rugby. How can you look at that as a negative?,” he said.
“They were very vocal out there, and even though they weren't chanting Wallabies, it was still for an Australian team and every time Adam got the ball, first half in particular, they're screaming for him.
“I was really happy to see the passion in the crowd and even though it started to throw a little bit of rain out there at the start of the game, everyone stayed strong and really keen to see all the players after the match.”
Force and Wallabies lock Adam Coleman said the ‘sea of blue’ added an incredible feeling to the match.
“I don't know if it is going to be the last outing for the Western Force crowd,” he said.
“A lot of water's still got to go under the bridge and everyone's staying positive in that space.
“It was an amazing feeling running out in front of the sea of blue again, something I'll always cherish.
“Almost had to check which jersey I was wearing because there was so much blue in the crowd.”
Though Coleman said he still felt there was more to play out in the Force’s fate, he hoped if this latest decision was final, that the next tier had a concrete strategy in place.
“It'd be a great shame for the talent pool to be lost in WA,” he said.
“If the Western Force was to be no longer, I'd definitely like to see a strategy put in place to ensure the grassroots rugby (future).”
Coleman’s own future is uncertain, though the Rebels have loomed as his most likely destination.
The Wallabies head to Canberra on Sunday ahead of next Saturday’s Test against Argentina in the nation’s capital.