West Australian rugby razed

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    Rugby union in Western Australia has been abandoned by its supposed parent union, which must now be known as Eastern Rugby Union.

    The blatant and unnecessary extermination of the Western Force, the vital and only – but now extinct – Western Australia team has eliminated a pathway for young WA players to the national side.

    This most appalling and gratuitous act of self-destruction must be acknowledged as one of the greatest betrayals of a parent body on one of its subsidiaries in the history of Australia sport, probably a first.

    I am a Western Australia-bred player, my mother is a second generation West Aussie and my father in an Australian of the AFL persuasion. My brother and I are unequivocally rugby players, coaches and supporters – until now.

    All the great cultural attributes that I associate with rugby union have been abused by the new ‘ERU’. Mates on your team are meant to back you up, ruck over you to protect you, give you an encouraging word if you drop a pass, lift you in the lineout and bring you back to earth safely.

    There is plenty of opportunity for bastardry during a game, but rarely are any of those chances serized. Yet here we are. Betrayed.

    In hindsight none of this is surprising. It has been evident that ERU, over the entirety of the history of ‘Australian’ rugby union, has been at best indifferent, but this must now be seen as deliberate neglect towards Western Australian rugby.

    It must be acknowledged that even the awarding of the fourth franchise to Western Australia over Victoria was begrudging, especially in comparison to the concessions, money and hubris given to Victorian Rugby Union when awarded the Rebels franchise. This was the harbinger of the ERU’s betrayal of RugbyWA.

    I feel so utterly betrayed, so absolutely eviscerated and flayed by the ERU; my first feeling is disbelief of the foolishness of alienating the third largest source of registered players in the nation.

    Beyond the disenfranchisement of 10 per cent of the resource – WA has twice as many registered players as the next state – the state with only two AFL teams, one national football team and no NRL teams, cutting the Western Force is incredibly short sighted.

    Three questions have to be asked:

    1. Does anyone in the ERU really think it can take back this sort of opportunity or community support whenever it wants?
    2. Does the abysmal funding Western Australia has received relative to all over states now decrease further?
    3. Does the ERU only think of New South Wales?

    I can only assume the answer to all three question is ‘yes’.

    The only possible conclusion that can be drawn from all this is the ERU headquarters does not act for the promotion of the game at a national level.

    (Image: AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

    The pathetic arguments for reducing the Australian conference to four teams have been shown to be absolute guff.

    First, the rugby public of Western Australia will not forget. We, whether born here of WA parentage or of our own volition, have been burnt, betrayed, stabbed in the back and are not likely to forgive in a generation.

    Second, the remaining teams will be stronger for only one or two seasons before reverting to the current or a lower ranking due to the reduced player pool.

    Third, the Force are financially secure beyond the level of all other Australian Super Rugby teams for the next dozen years.

    Four, the Force, full of locals and fringe players from the other states, at two-thirds the cost of NSW and Queensland, humiliated both states to win as many games as the Australian conference winner this year.

    Finally, fifth, allegations of a drain on ERU finances by the Force have been shown to be rubbish, and the greatest drains on the adminstration’s purse are still there and likely to become only more needy, no doubt to the further impoverishment of rugby in Western Australia. This was laid bare by the financial investigation by Alison Foskett posted on the Green and Gold Rugby website earlier this year.

    The huge sums of money spent on, the debt forgiven for and the probable future bailing out of the Rebels makes this argument by the ERU seem farcical. In the space of five years they have consumed more money than the Force has in 12 years.

    Where to now for the West Australian rugby fraternity?

    We enjoy rugby and will continue to do so, but we will not be Australian rugby supporters when Australian rugby does not support us.

    I hope my son and his mates will continue to enjoy rugby – playing, watching and mixing with others around the world – but I’m sure he will never feel as proud of the Wallabies from now on as he did before.

    This is the legacy Bill Pulver and his cronies have bequeathed Western Australia rugby, and it is a poison that could afflict the rest of Australian rugby as well.

    I’ll continue to be involved at a club level, but not for the ERU. I’ll be encouraging the local kids to go to France, England, Japan – wherever. The cost would be the same as heading to the east coast, but the experience would be a lot more fun and profitable as the opportunities inside Australia have just been slashed by 20 per cent, the weighted effect in Western Australia by even more.

    I can barely see myself barracking for anyone else other than the Wallabies, but it will be muted, even though I wish the very best for the West Australians in the side – though I’m sure there will be fewer of them over the coming years. I can see my support waning more as fewer have the opportunity to make it.

    The ERU board – all of them bar Geof Stooke – should be ashamed of themselves, and none of this Sydney-based administration is welcome in Western Australia anymore.

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