It’s time for a radical solution for the Western Force

Bret Harris Columnist

By Bret Harris, Bret Harris is a Roar Expert

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    The Western Force should switch codes and join the NRL.

    The legal battle between the ARU and the Force could go to the High Court, while the Super Rugby team’s billionaire backer Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is continuing to apply pressure to overturn the decision to cull the club.

    If the Force fails in its bid to remain in Super Rugby, it will have to consider its options. What is at stake is not just the future of rugby in Western Australia, but also the Western Force brand.

    The Force have already indicated they will explore opportunities to play in an Asian rugby competition and this would be a good option, depending on the status of the competition.

    There has also been talk about the Force playing in the ITM Cup in New Zealand, but it is unlikely the Kiwis would have them. The travel and accommodation bills alone would be prohibitive.

    Even if the Force played in the ITM Cup or some other lesser competition, it would reduce the value of their brand.

    Pekahou Cowan Western Force Super Rugby Union 2017

    (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    If the Force want to maintain a high profile in a national football competition, the NRL may well be their best option.

    Expanding to Perth would help the NRL to compete with the AFL juggernaut in terms of a national footprint. A double-header will be staged at the new Perth Stadium in the first round of the 2018 NRL season, possibly testing the waters for expansion.

    Of course, rugby league has ventured across the Nullarbor before. The Western Reds entered the ARL competition in 1995 before defecting to the rival Super League competition in 1997.

    The team was shut down as part of the Super League War peace deal and is now a lower-level club in the Western Australian Rugby League.

    If you wanted to establish another rugby league team in Perth, would you prefer to start from scratch, revive the Reds or convert the Force to the 13-a-side game?

    The main attraction of the Force is their brand recognition. The Force are already known throughout Australia and the rugby-playing world. You cannot put a price on that.

    Individual players are changing codes like never before. Look at Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt. Even the Force have a rugby league convert in Curtis Rona.

    So why not an entire club?

    Last month the chief-executive of the Leicester rugby club, Peter Wheeler, claimed several top English rugby league clubs were considering switching to rugby union because that is where their future lay.

    If the Force do not have a future in rugby, why not switch?

    With Forrest’s financial support, the Force would be one of the most viable teams in the NRL. Why would Forrest back a rugby league team? Well, maybe he wouldn’t. But if the Force are gone, what is left for him in rugby to put his money into?

    The Perth Spirit are playing in this year’s NRC competition, but once the Force players’ contracts expire, it is doubtful they will field a team next year. Then, all you are left with is grassroots rugby with no pathway to an elite, professional rugby team.

    There would be nothing stopping Forrest from supporting grassroots rugby in WA and a professional rugby league team in a national competition, particularly if it would keep the Force banner flying.

    There are hardcore rugby supporters in the Force’s “Sea of Blue” fan base, but many people in the southern states struggle to differentiate between the two rugby codes.

    Western Australians would still have a professional rugby team to cheer for, just in a different code of rugby.

    The Force have the brand, Twiggy’s got the money, and if they could persuade the “Sea of Blue” to come with them, they would have an immediate fan base.

    And that would be a fairly strong foundation to build an NRL expansion franchise in the West.

    Bret Harris
    Bret Harris

    One of Australia's most respected sports journalists, Bret Harris has been a mainstay of sports media in the country for decades. He has written extensively about rugby union, rugby league and many other sports, and is the author of a number of books, including Rocky Elsom: Leader of the Wallabies and Ella: The Definitive Biography, which he co-authored alongside Mark Ella.

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    The Crowd Says (169)

    • Roar Guru

      September 1st 2017 @ 7:45am
      Machooka said | September 1st 2017 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Has the world gone completely effen mad!?!

      • September 1st 2017 @ 9:25am
        mzilikazi said | September 1st 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        Second that…..a strange article…..not in the world of reality.

      • September 1st 2017 @ 11:20am
        ShaghaiDoc said | September 1st 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        I don’t think this is a solution because the players at the Force can read and write and are therefore banned from the NRL.

        • September 1st 2017 @ 12:55pm
          Taurangaboy said | September 1st 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

          This is what I don’t like about Union – its elitist air.

          • September 1st 2017 @ 10:04pm
            Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | September 1st 2017 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

            Reading and writing is ‘elitist’?

            • September 1st 2017 @ 11:17pm
              Taurangaboy said | September 1st 2017 @ 11:17pm | ! Report

              No, the assumption that league players are dumb.

            • September 4th 2017 @ 1:49pm
              Clifto said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

              Haha well played KCOL… reel em in…

        • September 1st 2017 @ 1:41pm
          The Sheriff said | September 1st 2017 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

          Many of them have the tatts for League.

          • September 4th 2017 @ 9:40pm
            Carozza'sNose said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

            More like ‘the tatts FROM league’!!

        • September 2nd 2017 @ 11:24pm
          Nambawan said | September 2nd 2017 @ 11:24pm | ! Report

          But do they have any athletic talent and football skills?

        • September 4th 2017 @ 1:17pm
          republican said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

          ……….they clearly can’t comprehend the writing on the wall then, because if they could they would know that Union is a spent ‘Force’ in not only WA but Australia wide.
          Always was and always will be……….

      • Roar Guru

        September 1st 2017 @ 11:23am
        RobC said | September 1st 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Only a few peep, MrChook!

      • September 1st 2017 @ 12:00pm
        steveg said | September 1st 2017 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        If not League why not netball or cricket
        The Western Force Scorchers has a ring to it.
        I’m also crazy!!!!!!!!

      • September 2nd 2017 @ 11:05am
        Norad said | September 2nd 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Lol! Mr Wheeler been banging on about that dream since he said the same thing in 2001 and then later he said Leicester his club would join the Super League!

        8:53AM BST 18 Jul 2001 THE chief executive of the Leicester Tigers has claimed that several Super League clubs are considering switching codes to the 15-man game. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/club/3009143/League-clubs-ready-to-switch-codes.html

      • Roar Guru

        September 3rd 2017 @ 12:09pm
        Sam Brown said | September 3rd 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

        I wonder what their so valuable ‘brand’ will look like when they lose every match in their opening season and that is coming from a ruby fan who would like to see them work something out to stay in place.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 11:11pm
        RugbyTragic said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:11pm | ! Report

        Well the writer appears to write more league articles so I guess personal self interest at work here.

    • Roar Guru

      September 1st 2017 @ 7:49am
      Carlos the Argie said | September 1st 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Wait! Why the NRL? Maybe they should play soccer, or bocci, or volleyball. They definitely have the height for volleyball…

      It is not April 1st, so I am missing the humor here.

      • September 2nd 2017 @ 9:25am
        wag said | September 2nd 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

        BRET HARRIS,

        You have now lost all creditability.

    • Roar Guru

      September 1st 2017 @ 7:49am
      Sam Taulelei said | September 1st 2017 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      A truly radical proposal.

      Given the distinct differences between the codes, where does a conversion to rugby league leave players who’s body types aren’t best suited to play a game that doesn’t contest possession?

      • September 1st 2017 @ 8:12am
        Dave_S said | September 1st 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        All of the backs and backrowers could convert. Some locks are suitable (under 200cm and reasonably mobile, like Brad Thorn) and the more mobile front rowers, also.

        So, not ideal but largely doable, theoretically.

      • September 1st 2017 @ 10:16am
        KenW said | September 1st 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        I would assume that the players mostly wouldn’t be part of this, admittedly very speculative, proposal.

        If this were to happen they’d surely target a few players that could make the switch but mostly this would be about bringing the club itself across – admin, contracts, brand, supporters. Most current players would go and ply their trade elsewhere like they will now anyway.

        If the NRL do have WA in their thinking then at some level there’s sense behind this. It’s probably unreasonably neat to suggest that the Force are picked up wholesale and put in the NRL, also probably disrepectful to the current RL admin in WA that have worked hard for re-admission.

        But all of those staff, sponsors, grounds, corporate partners, etc are going to be there and to pick up some of these pieces would make a WA NRL team far easier to setup.

    • September 1st 2017 @ 7:56am
      blindsid3 said | September 1st 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      I coach U6 Rugby. Every week one of my kids gets the ball and runs at our own, undefended tryline. Our supporters shuffle in embarrassment on the sideline while their son grounds the ball on our own try line.

      Even my best and most skilful player has done it.

      This article is just like that. Contribution which adds nothing to the score line.

      It presupposes that the Sea of Blue actually like Rugby League and that the two codes are somehow interchangeable.

      • September 1st 2017 @ 8:14am
        Dave_S said | September 1st 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Geez talk about glass houses …

      • September 3rd 2017 @ 1:10pm
        kaiviti said | September 3rd 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        Just so sad for Australian Rugby that it has reached this point. What’s wrong with the administrators ???? Are they so gutless that they allow everyone else to tell them how to run their own show. SANZAR says jump, they ask how high. The Western Force and the Rebels deserve to stay in Super Rugby and that’s that, if you don’t like go jump. But then that’s what I would have said and I’m just a simple Rugby fan.

        • September 3rd 2017 @ 1:47pm
          Katipo said | September 3rd 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

          The real problem is the format of the Super Rugby tournament. I can not think of another season-long intercontinental tournament in in any other football code. No other sport is naive enough to even try it.

          The reality is that the Force has paid the price for SANZAAR’s failed tournament. The administrators who created this stupid mess should be paying the price, and not the Force.

    • September 1st 2017 @ 8:00am
      Dean said | September 1st 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Rubbish

    • September 1st 2017 @ 8:07am
      rugger said | September 1st 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

      and that is radical, really?

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