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First Matt Giteau, now Drew Mitchell. Both are leaving leaving the Western Force at the end of this season. According to Mitchell his recently announced move to New South Wales is not about money. Rather, it’s about being nearer his family in Queensland and it’s about the opportunity to win a Super 14 title.
The Western Force have won all three encounters against Australian opposition this year, an achievement made all the more meritorious by two of these wins being achieved away from home in Sydney and Canberra.
Indeed, the Force are the highest placed of the Australian teams in this year’s Super 14, and but for a Normanesque choke against the Hurricanes, they would be in the top 4, and therefore would have a decent shot at what is a very open title this year.
Unquestionably their (full-strength) backline is the best in Australian rugby.
We already knew they had two amazing young talents in the form of David Pocock and James O’Connor.
Then in the recent 55-14 thrashing of the Lions young Sam Wykes was fully revealed to the rugby world. I had heard this (massive) kid had talent, but who honestly knew he was that good? Has there ever been a better game of running rugby from an Australian second-rower?
For that matter, one would have to go back to the Brumbies in their heyday – which is quite a few years ago now – to find an Australian team putting on a performance of running rugby like the Force’s against the Lions.
Even in its dreams, NSW has never played as spectacularly as this.
And yet Drew Mitchell says that he is going to NSW in order to have a shot at a Super 14 title?
Don’t get me wrong, NSW has a very solid side. But Blind Freddie can see that they lack the magic dust that is additionally needed in order to win the Super 14.
OK, OK, NSW has contested two of the last 4 finals. But the point is that they lost those finals, they never really looked like winning them, and that was even with the services of Mat Rogers, Dan Vickerman and Rocky Elsom, who do have a bit of magic about them. Now these three are gone, and the volumes of angst from NSW supporters on this website suggests that fans are far from convinced that there is any magic on the way.
If there is any Australian team that presently looks like it might have the magic to win a Super 14 title, it surely is the Force. Indeed, throw in a high quality prop and they might already be there.
But with the departures of Giteau, Mitchell and possibly other quality players, it unfortunately looks as though this golden opportunity will be lost.
Undoubtedly this is the chickens coming home to roost, what with snake-oil peddlers offering players Monopoly money, with a succession of troubled CEOs, with fisticuffs and other discipline problems off the field, and with a coach rumoured to be highly unpopular with his charges.
However, I still find it a tremendous pity that a beautiful and great team in the making looks like it will disintegrate before it has amounted to anything.