Western Force target April return

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Western Force could be back on the field as soon as April, after news the rights to the name were transferred back to the state.

Rugby WA had its debts forgiven by Rugby AU and its lawyers on Friday, and will receive the intellectual property it sold to the then-ARU in 2016, as part of the announcement.

WA billionaire Andrew Forrest has also pledged $2 million to the cause, which has helped Rugby WA ensure it can stay in its current headquarters.

The Future Force Academy will also be revived and expanded, with a view to ensuring three female rugby players are training fully professionally there alongside the existing men’s program.

Perth fans turned out in numbers on Sunday afternoon. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyWA’s NRC team will almost certainly be re-named the Western Force from 2018, with plans for the team to function all year round, playing invitational teams and tournaments, new chairman John Edwards said.

“The NRC team will  extend its season either side of the NRC and have a side that can play invitational teams in WA or overseas,” he said.

“We've already had indications from sides that would be well-matched with a Western Force NRC team, together with some extra super charge on the player front,” he said.

“We've had an approach from Eden Park in New Zealand to go over and play a Pasifika-type side.

“The Asia-Pacific Dragons float around, they're the type of sides we can organise matches with.

“Then there's 10s tournaments and other events that happen around the region anyway.”

Former Force skipper, now Minderoo high performance manager, Matt Hodgson said the team would consist of local academy products and possibly former Force players who have remained in Perth, hinting that they could be in action as early as April next year.

The Sea of Blue were behind their suits on Friday. Photo: Getty ImagesLet's aim for April - it all depends on what market we go into and again we want to look at teams that are going to push us and teams that the crowds can come and watch and actually enjoy a game of rugby,” he said.

Though Hodgson was appearing under the Minderoo banner, he was quick to distance the day from the Indo Pacific Rugby Championship, which has hit recent snags in negotiations.

That competition has been slated to begin in 2019, in the Super Rugby window, though it is still not clear where the bulk of their talent pool will come from.

Hodgson wrote a scathing criticism of Rugby AU in a Facebook post earlier this week, when explaining why a planned Rugby WA rally to announce more IPRC details would not go ahead.

On Friday, he was reluctant to speak about the competition at all, though negotiations are ongoing.

“Today's not about the IPRC at all, it's all about Rugby WA and the success we're going to have from here on in,” he said.

“Today's aligning the stand and where we're going to move forward as a club, pretty exciting. Today's nothing about the new tournament.

“We'll go to Sydney and negotiate that but today's all about positive news for Rugby WA.”

Edwards said Rugby WA was in a better position financially than when it had the Western Force Super Rugby side in its ranks, with a chance to start on a clean slate in 2018.