The Western Force players hit the tools on the opening week of pre-season with a unique initiative aimed at ensuring their gratitude for their professional rugby careers as they juggled their work and training commitments.
Force head coach Simon Cron was behind the initiative with the players buying into the concept, working a 9am-5pm Monday-Friday week, whilst fitting in their training and gym work around their work commitments.
Twenty-two members of the squad headed to the Wooroloo Muster Task with Parky Care mitigating fire risk, while five players spent time helping out a family of six in Northam who experienced a house fire.
Force lock Jeremy Williams said on-site at Wooroloo: “It’s an initiative from Crono to get us out doing a working week. We’re trying to reflect what it’d be like if we didn’t have a career in football. We’re out here working and at night we’ll go to HQ and train.”
The Wooroloo group helped with fire breaks and clearing properties, including the local school and town hall, before the upcoming fire season.
In February 2021, the area around Wooroloo and Gidgegannup was hit by a fast-moving bushfire that destroyed 86 houses, thus the Force players’ work - whilst not being glamorous - was deeply important ahead of summer.
Parky Care operations director Bruce Watkins, who led the Wooroloo group, said: “They’re out here doing bush fire mitigation, reducing the flammable material in the landscape. In the simplest term, they’re out here weeding. It’s all around the perimeter of the town. If we can help make the community safer from a bushfire point of view, then that’s a good thing.
“First week of pre-season, they’re all super fit. To come out here and do the amount of work that they’re doing would take community volunteers 10 times the manpower and probably four times as long. It’s been a huge help.
“They’ve come out here with a great community service spirit. But not only that, they’re wanting to understand what’s going on, why they’re doing it and being more aware of the menial tasks they’re doing actually means. They’ve been great, all of them, great attitude.”
Williams said the experience had been “eye-opening” for the group, learning about the fire risks and potential devastation in rural areas.
The experience was intended to instill gratitude in the players for the fortunate positions they enjoy as professional footballers, but 22-year-old Force back-rower Williams added that the work they’d done had left them with a sense of satisfaction about their community impact.
“It’s been awesome to get out here and help the community,” Williams said. “We were talking to Bruce at the start of the week, he was talking about 20 blokes being out here and the amount of work we’re getting done in a day is probably about the amount they’d get done in a week.”
Williams added: “It’s been quite tough with the schedule that we’ve got, training before or after a full day’s work, it makes you so grateful for the job that you have… everyone’s got gratitude for the job that we have.
“It’s a bit of a strange way to start pre-season, not the usual way to do it, but it’s been awesome to get out in the community, start our pre-season differently by giving back.”