Western Force playmaker Bayley Kuenzle is confident the side can match it with the best of Super Rugby Pacific as he looks to solidify his spot.
Kuenzle makes the trip west after debuting with the Brumbies in 2020, joining Reesjan Pasitoa, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Reece Tapine and Harry Lloyd in moving from the nation's capital.
After an injury-filled 2021, the 23-year-old is looking to establish himself in a Force side full of confidence after their maiden finals appearance.
“I’m loving the Perth environment at the moment and the Force boys. They’ve been so welcoming and been loving my time,” Kuenzle told Rugby.com.au.
“(Issak Fines-Leleiwasa) mentioned there was a big family environment like the Brumbies culture and it’s definitely living up to expectations. Also living in WA, the lifestyle is really good, right near the beach. I missed that in Canberra being from Cronulla so it’s nice to be near (the beach) now.
“What he was saying about the club has shown how good it is and I’m really excited to be a part of it and hopefully getting some further minutes.
“It was a big decision to head further away from home but I felt like it was a good opportunity to see Australia a bit more, being out West…on the rugby side of things, I believe if I play well, I can put myself in a position to get some good game time for next year.”
Kuenzle has spent the majority of the pre-season in rehab trying to get over a foot injury, hoping to be fit for the new year.
Having shifted between flyhalf and inside centre, Kuenzle admits he would prefer to try and lock up a spot in the centres, setting up a potential combination with Fines and Pasitoa at 9-10-12.
“I’m not really sure yet (where I fit into the side), being in rehab I haven’t been amongst the boys yet at training. Having played both positions (flyhalf and centre) in Super, I feel like my game suits the 12 jersey a bit more,” he believes.
“In saying that, I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I would like to keep chipping away at ten and building my skill set. I need to build my communication which will also help at 12 but I’m up for anything.
“Wherever Tim (Sampson) sees me in the 23, I’ll be grateful to be there but I’ll keep chipping away at the positions and if not, I’ll keep working on my game.”
Force coach Tim Sampson has already made his intentions clear throughout the pre-season, telling Rugby.com.au they are no longer satisfied with simply being competitive with their New Zealand opposition.
Kuenzle carries a similar mindset after proving victorious in his first start against the Hurricanes in round four of Trans-Tasman.
“That game was very important for me and my confidence,” he explained. “I was really proud of my efforts with that game, not only the result.
"I took a lot away from that. I’ve worked really hard to get to that starting point in the year and I'm hoping I can build on that.
“I know how I felt during that game and the week and hopefully I can replicate that on a week-to-week basis if I’m lucky enough to get a shot at that starting role...that was an awesome opportunity and experience for myself.”
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Having been impressed with the squad's start to pre-season, the Southern Districts product believes the Force can help put Australian sides 'back on the map' as they look to contend for the Pacific title.
“Next year is going to be tough competition but I believe we’re putting in some great work over the pre-season with a good bunch of players and boys so I believe we can really rock some teams next season and really enjoy it," he added.
“We want to put our best foot forward and we want to be a side to be reckoned with. We want to push the New Zealand teams, we’re sick of them beating us.
"We want to put Australian Rugby back on the map and I would love to be a part of that with the Western Force.”