|Union||Australian Rugby Union|
|Location||Perth, Western Australia, Australia|
|Ground(s)||nib Stadium, Perth (Capacity: 20,500)|
Western Force is a rugby union team based in Perth, Western Australia playing in the international Super rugby competition. They first competed in the 2006 season and finished with the wooden spoon in that year, however their performances greatly improved in 2007. In 2008 they finished in 8th place, just missing out on the finals again. The team is the fourth Australian team to be accepted into the competition. It was coached by former New Zealand All Blacks coach, John Mitchell for the first five seasons before former Australian sevens captain Richard Graham took charge ahead of the 2011 season.
- 1 History
- 2 Name and colours
- 3 Support
- 4 Stadium
- 5 Western Force Gold
- 6 Season positions
- 7 Current squad
- 8 Coaches
- 9 Statistics
- 10 Controversies
- 11 Firepower funding debacle
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The bid for entry into an expanded Super 12 competition started in the early 2000s, when in 2002, a group was formed to oversee developments in the push for a new Australian franchise. The group's objective was to ensure that if SANZAR agreed to a fourth Australian franchise, that RugbyWA would be ready. RugbyWA were invited to bid for the fourth Australian team, and the union assembled a project team, which was given four weeks to formulate their bid. The bid was backed by the state government, which loaned more than one million dollars to RugbyWA, as well as committing $25 million towards an upgrade of the Members Equity Stadium. It was announced in December 2004 that RugbyWA had beaten Rugby Union Victoria for the right to host the fourth Australian franchise.
The first season
On 10 February the Western Force made their 2006 season rugby debut against the Brumbies at a near sold out Subiaco Oval in Perth, losing 25–10. Since this result, the Force have had a difficult debut in Super 14. A one-sided loss to the Hurricanes and an ugly loss at home to the Chiefs in Perth followed. Many fans were unimpressed, with only approximately 23,000 turning up to watch a match against the Bulls. On 31 March, in front of 24,000, the Force came closest to their first win, losing 26–25 to the Stormers at Subiaco Oval. This was after leading 10–0 early on in the match. This was the Force's first competition point ever, and is the longest it has ever taken a side to get a point in Super rugby history (8 rounds/7 matches).
On 21 April a crowd of 32,231 saw the Force nearly pull off the upset of the year, drawing 23-all with the undefeated defending champion Crusaders. Though the Force were leading 7–0 after several minutes the feeling was still that the Crusaders would win, especially after they scored a try seconds later to make it 7–5. Only when the Force had blown the score out to 17–5 did anyone begin to talk of an upset. Leading 20–8 at half time the Force did not hold on for the win after the Crusaders scored two tries and a penalty within the closing half. At 23-all with seconds left the Force crashed over the line but were denied by the television match official.
Two days after the draw with the Crusaders, the Force were able to sign rising star Matt Giteau from the Brumbies, effective with the 2007 season. Giteau, whose contract with the Brumbies ended after the 2006 season, inked a three-year deal reportedly worth A$4.5 million, making him the highest-paid player in the history of any Australian football code.
On Saturday, 6 May, the Force announced they had managed to sign another player, Red's winger Drew Mitchell. However, during the same week the Force were fined $110,000 after an "independent committee found that Rugby WA had entered a negotiation process with Al Kanaar in a way that was contrary to and in breach of the contracting protocols." The Force notched up their first win by defeating the Central Cheetahs 16–14 on 6 May.
Name and colours
On 19 April, RugbyWA unveiled the franchise team name as well as the logo, at a reception at the Burswood International Resort in Perth. Months of detailed community involvement went into selecting the name for the team. 'Western Force' was chosen as the name, which best reflected the franchise's location (state) and its 'values of strength, energy and community'. The logo was unveiled to be a black swan, which is the state's traditional insignia. The swan is set in a blue background, representing the Western Australia coastline and sky, whilst the gold represented the beaches, mineral wealth and sunshine. Some speculated that the team was going to be called the 'Black Swans'.
In July at function at the same venue as where the logo was unveiled to the public, the Force's jersey and naming rights sponsor was revealed. The home jersey was unveiled on Brendan Cannon, being blue with a black swan. Lachlan MacKay emerged with the side's alternate strip, which was gold with a black swan; black and gold being Western Australia's sporting colours. The team's first jersey was auctioned off for $30,000, and the first alternate strip was then also auctioned off for $30,000 as well.
Shortly after RugbyWA won the fourth Australian franchise, an on-line register was set up for members to record their interest. In the space of weeks, 10,000 people had registered. When membership was officially launched in July, more than 13,000 were registered, with around 400 companies expressed interest in hospitality packages. Soon the Force had the largest membership base of any of the Australian Super 14 teams. By the time pre-season had started, the Force had 16,000 members.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Gary Flowers told the media that "people power" was a key factor in Western Australia being awarded the franchise ahead of Victoria. Prior to the announcement, more than 25,500 Western Australians signed a petition in support of their state's bid. In addition, 5,000 people, including the state's premier Dr Geoff Gallop, attended a rally at Subiaco Oval, organised by two rugby mothers "the Scrum Mums" (Jennifer Hoskins and Irma Cooper) to show how much the people of Western Australia wanted the franchise. By the end of the first season, the Force finished with the highest crowd average out of all the Australian teams, despite finishing in last place, the fans still came out to see Wallaby stars such as Matt Giteau, Drew Mitchell and Nathan Sharpe (though Mitchell and Giteau were not in the 2006 line-up).
The club moved into the 18,000 seat nib Stadium for the 2010 season. The reason for the move to the smaller venue is that it is a rectangular field, as opposed to the oval at Subiaco which is poor viewing for rugby fans. The Force, along with association football club Perth Glory are pushing for an upgrade to Members Equity Stadium, which would create a rectangular venue for the two clubs. The Force were given a limited grant by the government to improve facilities at the stadium, and this saw its capacity increase to 20,500 in time for the 2010 Super Rugby Season.
Between 2010 and 2011 the State government developed a masterplan for an improved rectangular stadium and then completed a business case which saw $88million dollars allocated to the first stage which was to include a new permanent East stand, new lights, two video replay boards, LED signage at pitch level, replacement of the playing surface and replacement of the south scaffold stand with new scaffold. A Project Definition Plan was then completed and following this, the government allocated a further $7.14million to add corporate amenity including 48 corporate boxes and a 250 seat BBQ deck to the new Eastern stand.
In June 2012 builder BGC were awarded the head building contract for the project and on 7 June 2012 the Minister for Sport and Recreation Terry Waldron MLA announced that hard work by the project team, led by the Department of Sport and Recreation, and a keen price by builders would enable the south stand to become a permanent, unroofed structure rather than new scaffold. Work begins in early July with expected completion in March 2013.
Western Force Gold
The Western Force Gold team was formed in May 2006 to play matches in the post-Super Rugby season. They wear the traditional gold and black colours of Western Australia. In their first year, the team undertook a two-week tour to South Africa playing the Golden Lions and Blue Bulls before returning home to Perth to play Manu Samoa, and Japanese Top League teams Toshiba and Yamaha.
The team is selected from Western Force squad players not involved in national duties, and Force Academy players from elite youth programs and Perth club rugby. In 2008, the Force Academy beat the Singapore national side by 113–7.
Season Pos Pld W D L F A +/- BP Pts 2006 14th 13 1 2 10 223 373 −150 4 12 2007 7th 13 6 1 6 276 282 −6 6 32 2008 8th 13 7 0 6 247 278 −31 5 33 2009 8th 13 6 1 6 328 275 +53 10 36 2010 13th 13 4 0 9 258 364 −106 3 19 2011 12th 16 5 2 9 333 416 −83 5 37 2012 14th 16 3 0 13 306 440 −134 7 27 2013 13th 16 4 1 11 267 366 −99 5 31 2014 8th 16 9 0 7 343 393 −50 4 40
The squad for the 2014 season:
(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes player is internationally capped. 1 indicates Extended Playing Squad or Wider Training Squad players that appeared during the season and 2 shows players who were signed as short-term injury cover.
Extended playing squad
- Robbie Abel (hooker)
- Ross Haylett-Petty (number eight)
- Brad Lacey (wing)
- Ryan Louwrens (scrum-half)
- Francois van Wyk (prop)
Wider Training Group
The following players were named in the WTG for 2014:
Most points in a match
Most tries in a match
Most points in a season
Most tries in a season
- First pre-season game – vs the Cheetahs (lost 19–29)
- First season game – Round 1, 2006 vs Brumbies (lost 10–25)
- First try – Scott Fava vs Brumbies
- First points – Scott Daruda (3-point penalty kick) vs Brumbies
- First conversion – Scott Daruda vs Brumbies
- First draw – Round 11, 2006 vs Crusaders (23–23)
- First drop goal – Matt Giteau vs Cheetahs
- First penalty try – Pre-Season 2006 vs Cheetahs (19–29)
- First win – Round 13, 2006 vs Cheetahs (16–14)
- First home win – Round 6, 2007 vs the Hurricanes (18–17)
In November 2007, Western Force players Scott Fava and Richard Brown were fined and ordered to do community service for mistreating protected native quokkas at a team bonding session on Rottnest Island, 19 kilometres (12 mi) off the coast of Perth.
Eye-witness accounts stated that the players had mishandled the animals, including trapping and throwing them, though none were known to be seriously injured. Alcohol was said to be a factor.
As a result of the actions, Australian Wallaby number 8 Fava was ordered to pay $11,000, attend a week of community service and undergo counselling for alcohol abuse, while flanker Richard Brown was sentenced to a $5000 fine as well as seven days' community service. Both fines were payable to the Rottnest Island Conservation Foundation.
In February 2008, Matt Henjak and Haig Sare were involved in a fight at a pub in Perth. Henjak hit Sare and broke his jaw and was sacked by the Force for misconduct. Haig Sare returned to play for the Force at the end of Season 2008 once his injuries healed.
Firepower funding debacle
Sponsorship payments from the fuel technology company Firepower were a major factor in luring Wallaby star Matt Giteau and others to play for the Western Force in Perth. The luckless Giteau was one of a number of sportsmen owed millions of dollars by Firepower, a new consortium offered to cover the Firepower money if Giteau extended his existing contract, however he chose not to, and returned to Canberra to play for the Brumbies.
- "Force hold Crusaders to a draw". planetrugby.com. Retrieved 15 September 2006.[dead link]
- "Western Force win race for Giteau". planetrugby.com. Archived from the original on 30 April 2006. Retrieved 15 September 2006.
- "Force Fined $110,000 For Breach". New Zealand: MSN. Retrieved 15 September 2006.
- Major Stadia Taskforce – Background
- "The "Empire" strikes again?". ruggaworld.com. 16 May 2006. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "Tatupu claims outside centre berth". rugbywa.com.au. 7 May 2008. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 7 June 2013.
- "2014 Western Force squad". Western Force. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- "Haylett-Petty and Lacey promoted to Force squad" (Press release). Western Force. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
- "Force finalises 2014 playing roster" (Press release). Western Force. 9 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- Gray, Wynne (12 March 2007). "Rugby: Force win as TV replay shows officials' frailty". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 March 2007.
- Chadwick, Justin (27 May 2008). "Firepower debacle hits Matt Giteau, Western Force". The Sunday Times. UK. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- Magnay and Ryle G The game's almost up for Firepower Rugby Heaven (Fairfax) 28 May 2008
- Matt Giteau rejects $1.6m Force offer PerthNow, 1 November 2008
- Giteau to return to Brumbies ABC News, 21 February 2009