Force 'surprisingly calm' ahead of NRC grand final: Deegan

NRC
by Emma Greenwood

Western Force captain Andrew Deegan says his team remains "surprisingly calm" heading into Saturday's NRC grand final seeking a maiden crown to bolster rugby in the west.

A West Australian team won the NRC title under the Perth Spirit banner in 2016 but the Force secured a grand final spot for the first time this season while earning the right to host the final after snaring the minor premiership.

Their dominant season - they have lost just once, to NSW Country in the fixture rounds - has earnt the Force favouritism for the title, although Deegan knows it will be no walk in the park against a quality Canberra Vikings team that contains several fringe Wallabies.

Like their rivals, the Force suffered a scare in their semi-final last week, having to survive a plucky comeback from Brisbane City to make the decider.

Force flyhalf Andrew Deegan has guided his side to a win over Sydney to secure the minor premiership. Photo: Getty Images

"We came off quite a hard game last Saturday, Brisbane City really stuck it to us that last 10 minutes but we recovered well and put in a pretty polished performance in our captain's run," Deegan said.

"We've addressed it, we haven't focused on it too much.

"Obviously you've got to play the game for 80 minutes but we've looked at that and looked at a few things we can change up in that last 10-15 minutes but we'll rely on our bench this weekend with eight finishers coming on to really have another go at it."

The Vikings will throw everything at their rivals from the kick-off after falling to a 22-0 deficit at halftime of their semi-final against the Fijian Drua last week.

 

And while they know what's coming, Deegan said his troops remained relaxed.

"It's surprisingly quite calm at the moment, it's quite good, no one's played the game in their head too early in the week," he said.

"We've had a bit of a focus on slowly building to a grand final."

Deegan said the club's axing from Super Rugby would provide "somewhat" of a motivation on Saturday, although the player turnover since then meant few of those in the squad then were still in Force colours now.

"That's two years ago and we've had a bit of a rollover (of players) but there's probably four or five who were definitely here in that era," he said.

"But we've had a lot of new blood coming through and young players from WA coming through."

 

The match is also special for Deegan, who will turn out for the final time for the Force before joining the Melbourne Rebels ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby season.

The result was still vitally important for rugby in Western Australia though.

"Hopefully the crowd shows how important rugby is in WA and how strong it still is here," he said.

"Every home game we get a couple of thousand here and the whole hill is full of blue and that's what we love.

"The sea of blue are very loyal and we hope they come out in numbers tomorrow and cheer quite loud."

Andrew Forrest pledges a $100,000 donation for every Force try in the grand final as captains Andrew Deegan (Force, left) and Darcy Swain (Vikings, right) look on. Photo: Getty Images

The faithful have every reason to cheer, with every try from the club earning a $100,000 donation to Telethon Kids Institute from the Minderoo Foundation, an organisation co-founded by Force owners Andrew and Nicola Forrest.

Each Vikings try will also earn a $25,000 donation, with the attacking football on display from both teams throughout the season meaning a donation of more than $500,000 is a reasonable expectation.

"We love our community and we share their spirit of generosity so I am thrilled to be here this morning to foster both,” Forrest said after detailing the donation pledge at the Force’s final training session.

"This weekend is going to be a big one for all Western Australians, the Western Force and Telethon. Western Australia is going to be centre stage, adding a great and exciting element to tomorrow’s grand final.

"Winning a national title just two years after the Western Force was ousted from another competition would be something that all proud and passionate Western Australians should applaud.

Darcy Swain and Andrew Deegan (right) with the NRC trophy. Photo: Getty Images

"I call on as many people as possible, rugby fans, sports fans, non-sports fans, everyone who loves this great state to turn up to the game and fly the flag for the Western Force and for Telethon.

"How exciting will it be to watch the first-ever professional rugby Grand Final in Western Australia knowing that as the scoreboard ticks over, the Telethon tally jumps to support the amazing work they do for our children."

The Force take on the Canberra Vikings at UWA Sports Park on Saturday, October 26, kicking off at 2pm AEDT (12pm local), with the match broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports and streamed on RUGBY.com.au and Kayo.