The West Are “Force’d” To Play a Big Season
2017 is the biggest season for the Force, they will be fighting for survival. Their backs are against the wall financially and, many minds think it beggars belief the franchise will still have a future after this season. The Sea of Blue have always played their part, displaying unyielding loyalty and expect them to be behind the boys for the titanic 2017 campaign.
Through the ‘Own The Force’ campaign, the administrators in the Force organisation have done a fantastic job to raise much needed funds to keep the heart of Rugby Union beating in Western Australia for another year. Despite the tireless efforts of the administrators and fans the reality is simple, the future of the Western Force all boils down to their performance on the field this season.
David Wessels – two years younger than Matt Hodgson – old head, young shoulders
Luckily for the Force they start with a fresh new face in David Wessels, who will be pulling the strings as head coach. Although Wessels has been around the setup for a number of years now, he is a fairly unknown commodity. The competition will most likely be unsure what he is going to bring to the table and perhaps this unpredictability will work as asset.
One thing is for certain, the direction will be different from coach Michael Foley’s era. Teams sometime respond well to a new face and a new direction, they relish these opportunities. Coaches’ prior prejudices and grudges from previous seasons should be alleviated and allow players to seize on new opportunities.
Tatafu Polota-Nau – big signing for the Force
New faces at the Force
The Force have lost some experienced players such as Kyle Godwin, Steve Mafi, Alby Mathewson, Nathan Charles and Ben Tapuai, but Wessels has got straight to work adding 14 new faces to the 2017 squad. The recruits are nicely balanced with youth and experience.
Among the experienced new faces are Wallaby-capped prop Ben Daley and utility Robbie Coleman, who have both played in 80 Super Rugby games, and 68-time capped Wallaby, Tatafu-Polota-Nau. The Force have also dipped their hands into the NRL and signed former Canterbury Bankstown Bulldog’s star Curtis Rona. And to shore up the centres since Godwin’s departure, the Force have signed former Gloucester centre Bill Meakes.
The 2016 debutants Richard Hardwick, Harry Scoble, Anrau Rangi and Matt Philip have been rewarded and upgraded to the senior squad. In addition to the promotion of local talent to the senior group is Nedlands scrumhalf Michael Ruru who has been rewarded with his first contract after an impressive season for the Perth Spirit.
Jono Lance – will be like getting half another player
There will be no shortage of international experience with the Force squad boasting nine capped Wallabies including Tatafu Polota-Nau, Adam Coleman, Tetera Faulkner, Luke Morahan, Ben McCalman, Ben Daley, Matt Hodgson, Pek Cowan and Wallabies Rookie of the Year, Dane Haylett-Petty.
Jono Lance was on the Wallabies bench in Paris but didn’t get on the ground. He has participated in the pre-season matches after breaking his arm against the French Barbarians a few days after the test match; so expect the flyhalf to be commanding the Force around the paddock come Round 1. He’s like getting another half of a player because he played only six games last year.
The South African influence of Wessels is already quite evident, he is building strong set piece this season. The additions of Polota-Nau and Ben Daley provide a solid platform in the front row. Wessels will work on improving the Force lineout because it was one of the worst in the competition in 2016. Adam Coleman always is always a good target but other aspects, and players, will get a lot of attention in that element of rugby.
Expect the Force to competitive at the breakdown and grind teams like they did last season but that activity, and the set pieces, will have to generate more tries year because the Force scored the fewest in 2016.
Force scrumhalf Ryan Louwrens playing for the Force in Brisbane 10s
The Force defeated the Rebels comfortably 27-5 in their pre-season match on the Gold Coast. New recruit Chance Peni impressed the coaching staff and pushed his case forward for selection.
The Force showed decent form in the Brisbane 10s last weekend before bowing out in the quarter finals. These results can’t be relied on as true indicator of a team’s performance for the regular season, but a reasonably successful tournament will help Force’s confidence.
The biggest takeaway from Brisbane was Curtis Rona who is a genuine threat out on the wing. He showed his X-factor scoring a brilliant chip and chase try. Luke Morahan showed that he is lethal in space. Chance Peni was again a solid performer, and Michael Ruru was given a lot of responsibility and took his chances. The skills of the Force forwards seems to have improved from last season, and again showed that their defence will be a strong feature of their game.
Curtis Rona for Bulldogs – good acquisition from rugby league
The main goal of the Force this season will be to score more tries and to improve those elements that can achieve that. They have the squad to finish mid-table this season, and certainly have the potential to steal a few wins from the stronger teams in the competition.
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