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Super Rugby 2012 preview: Western Force

Elisha Pearce Columnist

By Elisha Pearce, Elisha Pearce is a Roar Expert

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    The Western Force are the Australian rock band Eskimo Joe. They are from Western Australia, started out a bit scratchy, got really flashy for a while, then settled into that comfortable cousin status.

    Eskimo Joe took a little while to get going on the big stage with their first album not registering in a big way across the country. For their inaugural season the Force managed to poach the rising star Matt Giteau, but didn’t play too well.

    ‘A Song is a City’ on EJ’s second album reached number two on the charts. The Force was more competitive than ever in year three and started challenging the good teams.

    Then came ‘Black Fingernails, Red Wine’, a massive hit that won ARIAs and is one of the best songs of the last decade. It really put the Eskimoes on the map. The Force signed James O’Connor to go with Giteau, giving people reason to think they were really going places.

    Since then Eskimo Joe and the Force have settled back. We all know they are there, but only remember to pay them any attention every once in a while.

    I like the Force. They are plucky; they fight hard and are one of the teams that have traditionally been hard to close out, right until the 80th minute. They never cause me to turn off a telecast, but at the same time haven’t really played too many games I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

    Sam Wykes is a player to watch going into the 2012 Super Rugby season. He was named the captain of the Force squad that went on an end of season tour last year. He is being given a bigger leadership role within the team by the staff and has been consistently improving.

    He would have considered himself unlucky to not get more of a look in with the 137 new Wallabies caps Robbie Deans has given out in the last couple of years. He will want to prove his point this year.

    The real weak point in the team this year will be the halves. They don’t really have anyone of class in those positions since O’Connor was allowed to take his talents to Melbourne.

    A certain amount of credit should be given to the Force for making that tough decision. Without being inside the situation, it certainly looked as though O’Connor had a very American athlete-esque list of requirements to agree to stay in the smaller market.

    He clearly wanted to have a position of power, and management thought it best to let him go rather than risk putting one player above the rest of the player group.

    Instead, Ben Seymour and Kyle Godwin are the players listed to play fly-half on the Force roster.

    (Waiting…)

    (Still waiting…)

    I’m not hearing many bells ringing out there as those names hit home. I can’t really comment on those players much more than to say that I’d predict they’ll play better than expectations. They are going to overachieve because we haven’t got much expectation at all.

    Winston Stanley, shunted from the Blues and picked up by the Force, could be a good acquisition. He may take on some playmaking abilities from number 12 if he settles into the team. He debuted for the Blues in 2009 so has good experience but is young enough to improve.

    There are two sides to the Kiwi import story: The Willie Ripia experience from last year doesn’t bode well for Kiwis bedding down quickly at the Force but Mike Harris shows that a good buy can quickly turn into a killer bargain.

    James Stannard (who may get time at 10) and Justin Turner are both works in progress at scrum half for this level. With the ceiling for improvement very high the play can only improve as the season wears on for the Force in those crucial positions.

    If the halves direct play well I think the Force really do have some great ball-runners out wide to make hay. Nick Cummins, Patrick Dellit, Cameron Shepherd and Rory Sidey all run the ball very straight and hard. That always works well. Gene Fairbanks may provide some spark off the bench also.

    The engine room of every rugby team is the back-row. We all know that. And the Force have arguably the best back-row combination of any Australian team. They boast David Pocock (new captain), Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown and Ben McCalman.

    The problem is that besides that back-row the Western Force will be outclassed at almost every position, on every night. The back-row can keep things close all by itself, but that won’t be enough to beat any really good teams on a consistent basis.

    Fearless Predictions
    Australian Conference: fourth
    Overall: Making up the numbers

    Elisha Pearce
    Elisha Pearce

    Long-time Roarer Elisha Pearce joined us as a rugby union expert in 2015. He also works for Fairfax Media and has confused more Roarers with his name than anyone in the history of the site.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • February 20th 2012 @ 10:43am
      rl said | February 20th 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

      Only a brief look at the Force’s results last season confirms they are a very dangerous team that clearly loves proving the doubters wrong. And there’s certainly one fixture this year they will have circled – that 30-odd point loss at home to the Tahs last year is a blot on the copybook that Sharpey would DEARLY love to rectify.

      This article will find it’s way to their dressing shed wall, beside numerous others that write them off – keep ’em coming!

    • February 20th 2012 @ 11:07am
      mudskipper said | February 20th 2012 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      The back 3 will win the ball only to see it kicked away… all season… The Force once again has a halves crisis

      Captaining and keeping his team focussed on a game plan may be a massive distraction to Dave Pocock while he is busy sticking his head in each ruck looking to steal the ball…

    • February 20th 2012 @ 5:46pm
      SAMURAI said | February 20th 2012 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

      I really hope the Force do well this season, they need to repay the faith of their fantastic fans.

    • February 20th 2012 @ 8:04pm
      Mark said | February 20th 2012 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

      The Force need some home grown talent coming up through the Perth competition.

      This will always be their problem, someone needs to stand up and grab it by the balls!!!

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download The Roar’s iPhone App in the App Store here.

    • February 21st 2012 @ 9:30am
      Crazy Horse said | February 21st 2012 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      The home grown talent is on the way. The Force A side that demolished the Australian Barbarians last week is full of it. Kyle Goodwin, mentioned in the article, is a local, a member of the Australian school boys .

    • February 21st 2012 @ 1:20pm
      PeterK said | February 21st 2012 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

      Force will be struggling not to come last in the aussie conference.

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