Force a Super franchise in the balance
The date was April 28, 2012, and life was good for the Western Force. Sure, they were struggling near the foot of the Super Rugby table. And sure, they had just copped a 17-3 hiding at the hands of the Stormers.
But all that didn’t matter, because star Wallabies halfback Will Genia had just agreed to terms with the franchise for season 2013 and beyond, and Force skipper David Pocock was poised to re-sign.
Fast-forward to the present day and the Force are a franchise in crisis.
Genia reneged on the Force deal in order to stay at the Reds, Pocock jumped ship to the Brumbies, veteran Nathan Sharpe retired, and coach Richard Graham defected to Queensland.
Michael Cheika’s decision to reject the Force head coaching role was an extra slap in the face.
It’s left the Force with no coach, no captain, no spiritual leader and a playing list bereft of any X-factor players.
Sure, they still have a creditable forward pack.
But forwards set the foundations – not win you games.
Blokes like James O’Connor, Kurtley Beale, Quade Cooper and Genia do that.
Pocock’s defection is the biggest blow the Force have ever been dealt.
The Force have lost star players before, like O’Connor who joined Melbourne last year, but they’ve never lost a player like Pocock.
The 24-year-old has arguably surpassed Richie McCaw as the world’s best flanker.
But it’s Pocock’s standing off the field that will be equally missed.
Star players can be replaced in time, but star human beings are worth their weight in gold.
Pocock was a figure the Force wanted to build their squad around – both in terms of talent and attitude.
Now the Force must start again.
Last season reaped just three wins from 16 games.
That’s unacceptable for a franchise that’s been in the competition for seven years now and should be going from strength to strength instead of finishing second last on the table.
With Pocock, Sharpe and Graham all gone, it seems doom and gloom at the moment right?
Well you could argue it kind of is, but it’s never healthy to be overly pessimistic.
The Force are set to appoint a new coach in the coming weeks, and in turn it is hoped he will be able to lure some top-line players to the franchise.
Although the Force must be hating the Brumbies right now for stealing Pocock, the Canberra-based franchise should also be viewed as a source of inspiration.
When Jake White arrived last year, he tossed out the team’s ageing stars in favour of youthful exuberance.
The Brumbies were meant to be the whipping boys of the competition in 2012, but shocked everyone by coming within a whisker of a dream finals berth.
The problem is, punting on youth normally takes several years before it bears fruit, and the Force simply can’t wait that long.
Appointing a quality coach and snaring some absolute stars are now a priority for the Force.
Their loyal fan base has stuck firmly by the franchise to date, but their patience won’t last forever.
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