All Quiet on the Western Front - Western Force kicking a few goals pre-season
Rugby

All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front
Brett Sheehan & Sam Harris in Swan Laager

Brett Sheehan & Sam Harris in Swan Laager

The Emirates Western Force have been quietly going about their business without too much fuss, kicking a few goals on the way.

Unlike some other franchises, they’re relatively cashed up and have recruited wisely over the summer. They may surprise a few people next year.

Apart from their Wallaby players who have been resting after the Spring Tour, the playing squad have been training hard for the past eight weeks of the pre-season.

There’s some relatively good news on the injury front as well. You’ll remember that winger Nick ‘Peter Frampton’ Cummins ruptured ligaments in his foot in Sydney as a member of the Wallabies Spring Tour training squad.

A team mate accidently landed on the back of his ankle during a contact drill. It is looking likely that he may return in the early stages of the 2010 Super 14 season.

And of course Nathan Sharpe withdrew from the tour due to a shoulder injury. He had surgery on it and is preparing to come back for the first trial game in South Africa late next month.

Brett Sheehan had some maintenance done where a bit of bone was cut from his ankle and a screw taken out of his knee. There were complications from that including some clots in his leg but they have cleared up now. He was back running a few weeks ago.

Slammin' Sammy from behind

Slammin' Sammy from behind

Meanwhile, the Force have released a new 2010 playing strip with the alternate jersey enjoying an overhaul from previous seasons. The new jersey designs reflect the fans’ desire for blue to be the predominant colour.

The new away strip maintains the sky blue on the front, but has white sleeves and a white back with the Swan remaining a feature, silhouetted in grey. This new jersey will replace the gold and black version for the 2010 season.

White has been introduced as a secondary colour (as required by SANZAR) to avoid clashes, and best compliment the ocean blue.

The traditional home jersey has small changes to the shape and cut, but retains the strong blue and black presence of the past four seasons. The iconic black swan on all apparel maintains the heritage of the club.

The Force have also moved to a new rectangular stadium located close to the centre of Perth. Members Equity Bank Stadium is currently undergoing an upgrade and will feature six home Super 14 games in 2010.

ME Bank Stadium will allow for more than 21,000 patrons to attend each fixture with the addition of temporary seating.

The move has been long awaited by Western Force fans having to put up with playing at Subiaco Oval, which is designed as an AFL field. Sure, capacity was 43,500 but not much use if you can’t see the action.

The fan base has been dwindling from early large attendances and a lot of this has been put down to the ‘user unfriendly’ Oval.

Some of the $2 million improvements to the stadium which will be ready for the Force’s first game against the Brumbies on 12 February include: ME_Bank_Seating_Map

  • Major improvements to the lighting including the installation of 2 new lighting towers (mainly to meet broadcasting requirements).
  • New temporary stands being installed parallel to the eastern side line, in the south-eastern corner, and adjacent to the existing southern stand.
  • New terracing for standing room members on the hill at the north eastern corner.
  • The installation for of 2 new ‘big screens’ at each end of the stadium.
  • New corporate suites being installed at both north western corner and alongside the grandstand on the south western side.
  • Major upgrade works to the existing change-rooms.

Here’s hoping the Force run through into a smooth and disruption free season – we don’t want a repeat of the ‘player power’ dramas of the last one.

I’ll be taking a special interest in the Force through 2010 and look forward to writing more good news stories on their efforts.


  • Bobas

    Recruited Wisely?

    The Brumbies got Giteau and Elsom and the Tahs got Barnes.

    The Reds somehow managed to keep Cooper and Ioanne.

    But who did the Force get/keep JOC, Shepherd, Andre Pretorius?

    Surely the Force could have come to the party and stolen a few quality players who chose to go to Japan?

    • Noddy

      front row depth is huge. Dunning, Hendersona and Fairbrother is fantastic.

      Sheehan too is an excellent signing, and I’ve always been a fan of Andre P.

  • Paris Tah

    Hopefully a new stadium will improve their home game performances.

    I barrack for the Force, except against the Tahs of course, and expect 2010 will be a rebuilding year with new 9 10 12 and front row combos. They could be genuine force in 2011.

  • Seb V

    Dont they have Nathan Sharpe and Pocock as well? There side is a bit underrated but they could be the dark horse in the competition. And my prediction is Pocock is going to absolutely kill it at Super 14 level. I bet he’ll force a heap of penalties and i think pretorius might be a decent kicker so that could work out pretty well with the recent kicking style game play.

    • Newb

      the one and only sand castle maker himself

  • Nipper

    In addition to developing some serious depth in the prop dept., they’ve added some experienced campaigners (Pretorius, Sheehan, Harris, Bartholemuz, Henderson, Dunning, and Fairbrother). They’ve also added some up-and comers to the Academy, such as Bam-Bam’s little brother and Stefano Hunt.

    The hooker spot is of some concern, but if they can get their 9-10-12 combos sorted, I think they’ll do quite well.

    • Lance Free

      That’s five players they’ve recruited who have played international rugby. Sure, a few are past their best but add that experience base to Cowan, Sharpe, Pocock, Hodgson, Brown, Cross, O’Connor, Shepherd and up and comers like Cummins, McCalman, Wykes and Whittaker – and you’ve got a pretty balanced mix.

      I’m picking big things for these guys in 2010.

  • Sideshow

    The Force are a Wallabies factory.

    • A Factory? I guess they have contributed recent Wallaby greats such as James O’Connor (alergic to black), Pek Cowan (lightweight unskilled prop/hooker), Bam Pocock (awesome) and Dick Brown (shithouse).

  • Juan Cote

    Looks like Sammy is taking a piss in that photo.

    The Force will no doubt be strong up front but there are questions as to whether they will have the nous in the backs to do the business.

    The team stacked full of name players but most have never really shown their full potential – a bit like the Force in general.

    • Nipper

      I agree on that front – -they’ve never really played to their potential. They seem a bit mentally fragile, and can’t win the games they need to.

      The ‘Canes last year, when they gave up the last second try, the Stormers game to officially knock them out of any change at a playoff spot, etc.

      They win tough games, play well against the Crusaders every year, but tank on the sitters — especially at home. Maybe the new stadium will help them out ;-)

  • Pedro

    It’s so hard to predict how teams will go but their squad looks better than I thought. They’re gonna miss gits, they shouldve signed liafano or toomua to cover.

  • rugbyfanatic

    Beware the Force!!
    You could practically pick a Wallaby side from their ranks – check out their player profiles and see the names.
    For the rest, they have some awesome “up-and-comers” who are always hungry and angry!!
    There is nothing in it physically at that level between players. What makes the difference is what the coaching staff can bring out in the team. I rate John Mitchell as one of the best coaches in the world – he has an eye for talent and is a masterful tacticion. I reckon at least a couple of new Wallabies will be emerging from the Force in the next year.
    Do not be surprised if they are AGAIN the top Aussie side of the S14 comp!!

    • john mitchell has had unlimited resources and hasnt really done that much, the up and coming players they have “turned into wallabies” have all been very keenly identified youth already identified in other unions (mostly the reds)

      mitchell set the team up, i would say its about time he started actually getting results, and beating the aussie teams but struggling against everyone else isnt really progress, consistancy is.

      • Robson

        Well let’s not forget that Mitchell spent the season coaching by remote control. He didn’t have full rein over the side because a few highly paid Force players don’t like being talked nasty to.

        I don’t think Mitchell has changed since the days he coached the Chiefs and he did a great, even brilliant, job with them. The thing is that kiwi boys mainly from the farm lands of the Waikato and roughies from the Bay of Plenty just got on with the job that Mitch wanted them to do and the side reaped the profits accordingly.

        Apart from one match in the WC (the one that counted against the WBs) he also did a pretty good job as AB head honcho too. On his Super rugby creds he deserved to be AB coach.

        The seams started to come undone because a few, some, one of two of the Force player hierachy are spoiled kittens who like their milk warm every morning.

    • The force have never finished a Super 14 as the top placed Aussie side.

  • I smell a rat, far too much praise coming from the Eastern Front…

  • Farva

    The Force will really miss Giteau. For all that people have said recently, he is still one of the best players going around, and was the form flyhalf last season (DC was injured). Pretorius is a fine replacement, but he is injury prone, a little old and doesnt have the same attacking nouse that Giteau has. And if he goes down its either Harris or Hunt to step in at 10.
    The front row is strong but Cowen couldnt go ahead with it at Wallaby level (he will be fine at S14 level), Henderson is on the decline, Fairbrother Im not sure about yet, but he couldnt get a starting berth at the Canes, and Dunning is still one of the better props in the country. However, that front row will get eaten up by The Brumbies and the Tahs – remember there is no starting hooker yet, with Whittaker or Tyrell the only hooking names on the books.
    The second row is fine. People seem to think that Sam Wykes is a little small. And he is, for international level. He will be fine at S14 level. Plus he could always play 6, where he will excel, and provide another lineout option. And he is massively skilled. Also, Sharpe will be making the lineout calls, he is the best in the country at that. Hocking will hopefully really step up this year, he certainly has the potential.
    The backrow speaks for itself – Pocock is fast catching Smith as the best openside in the country, Hodgson was the best 6 in Aus last year and Brown is a very good S14 player, regardless of his international performances. Then there is McCalman as the up and comer.
    The centres are also fine, with JOC and Cross establishing a good combo last year. Tatupu is also there and I like to think of him as a similar player to Pelasusa. The outside backs are a worry. Shep is injury prone, Cummins is out for at least the start of the season, Bartholomeuz is a hundred years old, Sare is a journeyman and DHP is still in nappies.

    All in all, I dont see them finishing ahead of the Tahs or the Brumbies this year, who both have excellent teams, and should challenge for the title. The Force look to me to be a solid mid table team. Disappointing cos they are the team I follow, but 2011 and 2012 should be very good years, with quality everywhere emerging.

  • piggies 7

    I hate to be a party pooper, but i can see Andre getting a season-ender early on.

  • Here is my take on the probable 1st XV (with a few exceptions added).
    While they may not be world beaters they are a good mid table combination while still in a rebuild phase following an exceptional year of coming and going for the Squad.
    Look forward to others posting their versions.

    Burgs’ 2010 Force 1st XV:

    1 Pekahou Cowan/Matt Dunning
    2 Ben Whittaker
    3 Tim Fairbrother
    4 Tom Hockings
    5 Nathan Sharpe
    6 (Ben McCalman-Filipe Manu)/Matt Hodgson
    7 David Pocock
    8 Richard Brown

    9 Brett Sheehan
    10 Andre Pretorius
    11 Nick Cummins/Mark Bartholomeusz
    12 James O’Connor/Sam Harris
    13 Ryan Cross
    14 Dane Haylett-Petty
    15 Cameron Shepherd

    16 Ryan Tyrrell
    17 Matt Dunning/Pekahou Cowan
    18 Richard Stanford/Sam Wykes
    19 Matt Hodgson/(Ben McCalman-Filipe Manu)
    20 Chris O’Young
    21 Sam Harris/James O’Connor
    22 Mark Bartholomeusz/Haig Sare

    Notes:

    #1- Undecided if they will show faith in Cowan to continue his development with Dunning cover on the Bench for LH & TH (assuming Fairbrother has TH stitched up) or Dunning will start and move to TH late in the match if required. I doubt Henderson would be in the 1st XV but will no doubt get an opportunity due to injury.

    #6- There is plenty of debate on TWF as to the use of Hodgson. He may continue as a light Blindside or move to the Bench as the Backrow “super sub”, allowing for a larger #6.

    #11 & #22- Nick Cummins would be an automatic selection for one of the Wings once fit again. I imagine Bart will cover there, bringing Haig Sare onto the Bench.

    #12- Many, including myself, believe James O’Connor’s best position is Inside Centre however, he is perhaps a season away from having the defensive game against the likes of a Nonu. 2010 may be better spent furthering his apprenticeship from the Bench, covering #10-15, and allowing the stronger Harris to start.

    #18- Undecide who they will use here by choice but injury in the Squad will probably step in first.
    __________________

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