The Force officially returned to top-flight rugby on Friday night, with a win over the Fiji Warriors.
What are we talking about after that?
1. The Force returns
Eight months ago, Perth rugby fans were left frustrated and saddened by the axing of the Force from Super Rugby. Though those wounds are far from healed for many in WA, the response to World Series Rugby has given them a reason for hope. A sold-out nib Stadium, with 19,466 in the stands, was the Force's second-largest crowd at the stadium ever, behind a 22,000 strong crowd in a 2011 game against the Crusaders.
2. Gimmicks galore
There were lights under posts. Wolfmother and a pre-match address from billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest.. There sure was plenty to look at in the first iteration of World Series Rugby, with a focus on entertainment as much as rugby, whether you were at the ground or watching on TV. Though the rule innovations were much-hyped during the week, they didn’t have much impact on the match. Neither team was able to score a power try, though set piece generally flowed, but overall, the game didn’t feel all that much more attacking or fast-paced than usual. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, but it’s not at game-changing level yet. Worth noting, their proposal of upping substitutions to 12 per game is also yet to be ticked off.
3. Potential for success
A handful of these players were part of Perth’s NRC championship side in 2016 and though it might be an early crow, World Series Rugby cold be the perfect lead-in for another provincial championship. If the core of these players continues through the year, they’ll have played as much if not more high-level rugby than any of their opponents in that time, and all of that together. There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic as 2018 goes on.
4. Fiji stands to benefit as much as Force
As much as World Series Rugby is good for the Force, it also proved to be a good opportunity for the visitors. The Fiji Warriors rarely play high-level opposition, or experience a professional gameday environment. The Force is playing a number of Paciifc Island teams in the coming weeks and they will relish the opportunity to play on a stage like this.
5. Next step the critical one
It was a positive start for the Western Force and World Series Rugby, on and off the field. The first game, though, was obviously going to have a novelty factor. The next step will be ensuring fans continue to vote with their feet and show their support for the side. There are six more World Series matches to come and the challenge for everyone is to ensure they harness this momentum through the rest of the year.