It’s getting late, I look outside my office window to the west, an unobstructed view across Kings Park, the western suburbs (for those who reside in the East Coast, the Western Suburbs is not a derogatory term) and out to the beautiful Western Australian coast line.
The sunset is terribly pretty I think to myself, hoping this serenity will inspire me to write this season review. Nothing. The clock has hit the hour of 6pm – arghh more coffee will do the trick.
After battling through the fine spread of Nespresso pods, I finally return to my office, recharged with caffeine, looking to be inspired to get this review started. “Sigh”
They say writer’s block is never easily overcome—like stopping Richie McCaw breaching the offside law at the breakdown.
It’s been a rough and difficult season for all supporters, and indeed the players, coaches and staff of the club. Where do I start?
It almost seems the Force season played to a script.
Scene 1: lose the first game at home in a tight contest to set the tone for the rest of the season.
Scene 2: play decent rugby in the first halves of three tough games in NZ in a row; but get well beaten in the second halves, including suffering rugby murder against the Chiefs.
Scene 3. by contrast play good rugby in the second halves in three of the last four games, but lose anyway.
Murdered by the Chiefs in second half
The performance of the Force in 2016 has been well documented in the media and by the GAGR podcast – a.k.a the East Coast Elitist Club, but we have to look at the factual reality of the Force season.
Firstly they snagged only two wins for the season and did not win a game at home. For any professional sporting club, this is simply not good enough. Even their bunnies, the Waratahs, beat them.
Even their bunnies, the Waratahs, beat them
Secondly, the Force have lost the autonomy and now lie under the auspices of the ARU. The reality of centralisation of control in politics keeps us awake at night in WA – and now it is the same in rugby.
Thirdly, and probably the most prominent issue, was the termination of yet another unsuccessful coach, and the reasons for it.
Fourthly, like many seasons before, the Force lost players in key positions to injury.
If these generalities were negative, their particulars were unimpressive also: they scored the fewest tries in the competition due to a combination of being the worst, or near-worst Super Rugby team at making breaks, beating defenders, getting over the gain-line and turning their own ball over.
The also missed more tackles and lost more lineouts than most other teams.
Not many scenes like this – after beating the Reds
It is easy to be ultra-critical of the Force but as a passionate supporter of the club and WA Rugby, I see positives that can be taken away from this season.
Matt Hodgson has committed to another year at the club. Hodgo is the cornerstone of the Western Force, each and every game he plays his heart out! Although age and time isn’t on his side, he’s consistently ranked amongst the best loose forwards in the competition.
He missed four games this season and still finished second in the competition for tackles with 175 and first in tackles per game averaging 15.9. Hodgo is critical for the culture of this club, and his presence at the Force at this time of transition is invaluable!
We saw Dane Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman debut for the Wallabies this season. What an impact these two guys had.
Dane Haylett-Petty – best Western Force player
Haylett-Petty was so impressive he will be a permanent fixture in the Wallabies’ team. Coleman who had limited game time was also dynamic and I expect him to be in the Wallabies squad for the Rugby Championship.
After Haylett-Petty returned to the Force from international duties he picked up exactly where he left off: displaying his dominance in last three remaining fixtures of the Super Rugby season. His massive year finished with him ranked first for run metres (1,238), first in carries (200), and fourth in defenders beaten with 54.
I have huge wraps on Jono Lance—his kicking game is superb and for a small bloke he doesn’t mind taking the ball to the line. Unfortunately he was injured for the majority of the season, and whilst Peter Grant did a decent job, the absence of Lance was a major contributing factor to an unsuccessful year.
Luke Morahan had a good season but did not get enough ball and young Harry Scoble showed that he is on track to be a cracking Super Rugby hooker.
Jonno Lance – deserves huge wraps
But as Newton said with every action there is an equal reaction. The Force said goodbye to two key players from the roster. I’ve had the pleasure to play rugby with and against Perth product, Kyle Godwin, at schoolboys, club and rep level and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
And a close friend of mine, Chris Alcock, has signed with the Brumbies for next season. He will have a big assignment helping their backrow to cover for David Pocock.
Kyle Godwin – all the best to him – he did his bit
As it stands the Western Force are coachless with little direction. Like each and every supporter, I’m sure, I hope for a premier coach to come on board. The reality of modern day rugby is that a premier coach will attract premium players.
A massive shout out must go to the ever so loyal “Sea of Blue”. With them, this club is still in with a fighting chance.
You guys are the most passionate supporters out of all the Australian Super Rugby Franchises.
Onto bigger and better things next season!
Go the Force!
Statistics courtesy of Opta Sports