Rugby’s loss could be League’s gain in WA

Ed Nixon Roar Pro

By Ed Nixon, Ed Nixon is a Roar Pro

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    Every Western Australian rugby fan’s worst nightmare was confirmed today as The Australian Rugby Union announced the Western Force will be axed from Super Rugby.

    After a decision was made in April this year that the competition would revert back to a 15-team format, as opposed to the 18-team model, it was either the Force or the Melbourne Rebels who were to be cut.

    Unfortunately for the Force, their time is up.

    As someone who lives in Western Australia, and has been a keen follower of the Force since 2009, I am saddened by this news.

    Although the Force never pulled huge numbers, the team performed admirably this season, finishing second in the Australian conference, only behind the Brumbies.

    WA rugby has produced some of the most exciting, young players in recent times, with Wallabies Adam Coleman, Kyle Godwin, Ross Haylett-Petty and Curtis Rona all coming through the Force system at some point in their development – not to mention up-and-coming stars Nick Jooste and Clay Uyen.

    Despite the best efforts of West Australian businessman, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, the damage had already been done.

    Arguably though, rugby union’s loss could be rugby league’s gain.

    At this moment, WA does not have an NRL team and hasn’t had a team compete in the primary Australian league since the Perth Reds in 1997.

    This could all change.

    With there being growing calls for the NRL to be less ‘Sydney based’, the idea of an expansion to include a WA team and possibly another Brisbane team has been discussed.

    With the axing of the Force, and no professional rugby being played in WA, there has never been a better time for West Aussies to see their state represented in the NRL.

    Let’s take a look at some numbers.

    In May and July, nib Stadium in Perth hosted two NRL fixtures – Rabbitohs vs Storm and Sea Eagles vs Warriors.

    The games attracted a combined figure of over 17,500 people (mainly due to terrible weather).

    Compare this with the majority of Force home games where you get between 7,000 – 9,000 attendees and you see the numbers are fairly similar.

    Taking a further look back into games held at nib, and you will find that four of the top five attendance figures the stadium has ever had for sporting fixtures all came from rugby league.

    20,283 – Kangaroos vs Kiwis (October 2016)
    20,272 – Rabbitohs vs Warriors (June 2015)
    20,267 – Rabbitohs vs Warriors (June 2014)
    20,220 – Rabbitohs vs Warriors (July 2013)

    This shows there is a market for a WA based rugby league team – a market which the NRL should tap into.

    Current Force stars Curtis Rona and Chance Peni both started out playing union in WA before making the switch over to the 13-man game.

    The reason for this?

    There was no NRL team in WA. The only options they had to pursue a career was by moving over east.

    The concern for WA rugby will be the retention of young talent. With no Force, what is keeping these young players in WA and away from the Eastern states?

    All eyes will be on Rugby WA, as we wait to find out more.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • August 11th 2017 @ 8:47pm
      Chooks said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

      Sorry, but League has already kicked us in the guts. I’m a Union man through and through.
      I despise AFL. Now the only sport I will watch locally is the cricket .

      • August 12th 2017 @ 11:39am
        republican said | August 12th 2017 @ 11:39am | ! Report

        ………despise AFL, or the indigenous code chooks?

      • August 15th 2017 @ 1:18am
        Ex force fan said | August 15th 2017 @ 1:18am | ! Report

        Cricket works for the summer. As a winter sport is now between AFL and solitaire. If the Force appeal is not successful, I will try an AFL membership at the new stadium. Rugby will not see me again.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 8:56pm
      Justin Kearney said | August 11th 2017 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

      The nrl does not have the guts intelligence or intestinal fortitude to take advantage of this situation. Sad but true.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:56pm
        matt jones said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:56pm | ! Report

        maybe you should be in sports admin?

      • Roar Pro

        August 15th 2017 @ 1:09am
        Ed Nixon said | August 15th 2017 @ 1:09am | ! Report

        I would love to disagree with this statement, but sadly feel that you may be right.

    • August 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm
      Bob said | August 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      “Although the Force never pulled huge numbers” in the forces first two seasons there crowds where good 20+k. to bad the ARU never encouraged sone walabies to move to pertg on dual contracts

    • August 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm
      Bob said | August 12th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      “Although the Force never pulled huge numbers” in the forces first two seasons there crowds where good 20+k. to bad the ARU never encouraged sone walabies to move to pertg on dual contracts

      • Roar Pro

        August 15th 2017 @ 1:08am
        Ed Nixon said | August 15th 2017 @ 1:08am | ! Report

        Good point. In recent years it has been quite disappointing. I’ve been a few times this year where there mustn’t have been much more than 7,000

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