It’s time to remind Twiggy who Forced court action

Will Knight Columnist

By Will Knight, Will Knight is a Roar Expert

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    When Curtis Rona likened Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest to Donald Trump earlier this week, was it because he thinks he’s the man to bring the “fire and fury” to the Western Force’s fight for survival?


    I can only assume that’s what he meant – along with, perhaps, other characteristics such as a massive bank account – and the Force centre wasn’t alluding to plummeting popularity or his recent loose encounters with the truth.

    But Twiggy’s performance on Sydney radio on Tuesday was a bit disjointed, a touch Trump-like maybe?

    The billionaire Force saviour, it seems, isn’t a fan of litigation.

    “Let’s just make a decision on what’s best for the game,” Forrest said on 2GB.

    “Litigation is not leadership. Litigation is a very weak form – I think almost a cowardly form – of getting any agreement done. It’s the last resort.”

    Well, it should be noted that it was Rugby WA that initiated court proceedings in April after the ARU announced either the Force or the Melbourne Rebels would be axed in a reshaped Super Rugby competition in 2018.

    Rugby WA won an injunction based on an agreement with the ARU that was signed in 2016 when the Force were battling financially.

    So Twiggy believes that the arbitration, the results of which are yet to be announced, wasn’t necessary.

    “I just wanted the ARU to sit down and talk and ask: what do you need out of rugby?” said Forrest.

    “Do you need a really strong support base? Do you need a fabulous grassroots growing movement? Do you need a crop of Wallabies who are being grown in their home state? Do you need a growing crowd? Do you need a sea of supporters? Do you need to know a membership base is growing faster than anywhere else?

    “Well, if they’re all your criteria then the last team you would bump off the list is the Western Force.”

    But the absurdity of this is that given the Force’s financial frailties, the ARU’s intervention meant they were well aware of the club’s vital statistics and their standing in AFL-mad Perth.

    That also goes for the Rebels, who, before being sold to Andrew Cox’s Imperium Group, were bleeding money and needed propping up by the ARU.

    The governing body was very familiar with the Rebels’ financials, which wouldn’t have improved too much – if at all – in the intervening time.

    The financial predicament the two clubs have endured and continue to struggle with is, along with failing to make a significant impression on-field, why they’re on the chopping block.

    (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    So Twiggy points out that leadership isn’t about litigation, but it’s the legal threats and ongoing action that’s delaying a decision; a decision that players, coaches, officials and fans want expedited so they can prepare accordingly.

    Which is fair enough. But everyone needs to understand who’s causing the delays.

    Twiggy is the perfect man to be heading the PR campaign for the Force as well as giving his backing to any action in the Supreme Court, a course that has been floated if the club lose to the ARU in arbitration.

    He’s undoubtedly influential and knows how to get deals done. And the ARU would be keen to keep him in the game, regardless of him coming to the party at a very late hour. The money involved in rugby union in Western Australia would be minuscule compared to what Twiggy deals with in the mining industry, but winning hearts and minds in the community is priceless.

    If Forrest is apparently like Trump, then Rugby WA chairman Tony Howarth would have you believe the ARU is being run by Barron Trump.

    “We won’t be done in by a group of people sitting in Sydney who think they understand the running of the game when they’ve been so fundamentally bad that people don’t want to go to Test matches any more,” he said.

    “They can’t start blaming others for that. There comes a point when they have to take the blame.”

    Rich coming from a club that has few excuses in a 12-season lifespan in which they haven’t once made the Super Rugby finals and have been propped up financially along the way.

    The ARU need to proceed even as the bills mount. The alternative – not cutting an Australian side – would most likely be a lot more costly if the South African Rugby Union came for compensation.

    Will Knight
    Will Knight

    An AAP writer for more than a decade, Will Knight does his best to make sense of all things cricket, rugby union and rugby league, all while trying to have a laugh along the way. You can find him on Twitter @WKnightrider.

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    The Crowd Says (84)

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:22am
      Vince Fenlon said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:22am | ! Report

      Thanks for sharing this Will. Nothing like a good old moan hey. I like how you mention Perth is AFL made. By this maybe we should drop QLD due to being NRL mad, NSW (sorry ARU team) as they are NRL mad and Melbourne because they are AFL mad.

      The process the ARU went through was flawed as all teams are losing money without the ARU topping them up.

      I would love if you come to Perth next year to watch a game with a support that doesn’t drop like NSW when other sports have games at the same time.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 11th 2017 @ 10:54am
        piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        I volunteer to pick him up from the airport

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:36am
      blindsid3 said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      Full disclosure: I am a one eyed Force tragic. But let’s not let my bias stand in the way. Unfortunately Will, you have been unable to see past yours.

      It’s unfortunate that once again the facts have got in the way of a good story when it comes to reporting on the sorry mess that is the cutting of a super rugby franchise.

      Will argues that the Force “have been propped up financially along the way” yet the ARUs own reports show that the Western Force, between 2011 and 2016 enjoyed the least amount of ARU funding support of all of the franchises. See for a full rundown of those numbers.

      Over and above these numbers, RugbyWA has been able to grow grassroots in WA with less income than any other state, including Tasmania.

      The one time that the Force went cap in hand over this 12 year period, they were forced to sell their License and IP back to the ARU. No other licensee (including the Rebels who have literally bled money since their inception) has been required to sell their license to obtain a handout. They have not made the finals in this period, nor have they enjoyed the financial support of the ARU, an equal salary cap, or parachuting in of star players that other franchises have.

      I bet if the playing field had, in fact been level, there would have been more silver in the trophy cabinet.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:00am
        Buk said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        Thanks Blindside 3 for providing facts on the funding support.

        “Do you need a really strong support base? Do you need a fabulous grassroots growing movement? Do you need a crop of Wallabies who are being grown in their home state? Do you need a growing crowd? Do you need a sea of supporters? Do you need to know a membership base is growing faster than anywhere else?

        “Well, if they’re all your criteria then the last team you would bump off the list is the Western Force.”

        I realise some of those statements may be cherry-picked, but it seems to me like at least they should be fully investigated and the ARU should fully address them.

        The idea of chopping a rugby franchise that is currently growing the game seems counter-productive

        • August 11th 2017 @ 12:38pm
          Jack Russell said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

          Probably, so you cut the Brumbies instead? Good way to reward the best run Australian club.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 11th 2017 @ 12:40pm
            piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

            No, you don’t cut anyone

    • August 11th 2017 @ 10:38am
      bigbaz said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      I guess this critique of the Force would be much more powerfull if the heartland clubs in NSW and QLD hadn’t torn up more of our ( the ARU) money than the Force could even dream of.

    • Roar Rookie

      August 11th 2017 @ 10:53am
      piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      The ARU forced this fight

      No one else

      The simple fact is that the ARU thought they’d cut the Force and go on their merry way, they weren’t expecting a fight at all (mainly due to their own incompetence in reading a contract).
      They thought they’d cut WA loose, divvy up our players and then throw a few scraps to WA to keep us happy.

      They backed WA and the Force into a corner and now want to cry foul that the bullied kid is fighting back.
      They are now shocked to find the kid they thought they’d push around knows a few tricks himself, in short they want to be the victims, dragged through a court process they never wanted just because they wanted to destroy professional rugby in WA.

      The nerve, the outright, blatant, entitled nerve of people to blame the Force for fighting back is indicative of the bias in some people.

      Well we will continue to fight for our side – if the were to announce today that no teams will be cut, all the court action goes away.

      We never wanted this fight, we just want to support our team.

      But as my grandad always said – if you have to fight, win.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm
        Dave_S said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Well put piru, the premise of the article is BS.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 2:40pm
        Boris said | August 11th 2017 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

        Yes the ARU has been unbelievably naïve and incompetent throughout this process. And their non-existent PR has made the situation worse, it’s like they are the chosen few and everyone else are the mushrooms.

        I mean, who would have thought that a team to be tossed in the bin would want to fight for their survival? The ARU did not see that coming at all so it doesn’t reflect well on their intelligence or savvy.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 11:01am
      Fionn said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

      What I want to know is why we’re getting rid of a team considering it looks like the South Africans might all leave Super Rugby in 2020 – what’s the plan then, to re-expand to wherever is cut??

      • Roar Rookie

        August 11th 2017 @ 11:13am
        piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        It’s pure bloodymindedness now.

        They wanted to tell us it was about money – they don’t say that anymore

        They wanted to tell us it was about performance – they don’t say that anymore

        So what is it about?

        Just getting their way?

        • Roar Rookie

          August 11th 2017 @ 11:30am
          Paul D said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

          I imagine it’s now about having made a commitment to the broadcasters that there will only be 4 teams next year. Could a round robin S16 work? Would the other SANZAR partners and the broadcasters agree to it?

          • Roar Rookie

            August 11th 2017 @ 11:43am
            piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

            We won’t know unless we ask

            But apparently asking the question is far worse than court action and killing rugby in an Australian state.

            I’d like to see Pulver / Clyne / whatever other shiny bum making the decision pop down to Perth Bayswater as Kick Chase did the other night and explain to all the kids there why their favourite team has to be axed.

            They can then head to all the other clubs and explain to the thousands of other kids why they are taking the team away. See how the spreadsheets and calculations go down

            • Roar Rookie

              August 11th 2017 @ 1:12pm
              Paul D said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

              Not saying it has, but surely the question would have already been asked? The ARU would be looking for the path of least resistance, whichever that is.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm
                piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                They could easily bypass all this angst by saying so, if indeed that discussion had taken place.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 11:45am
          Treetops said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Perfectly put piru.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 11:59am
          Matt M said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          According to the ARU at the time the cut was announced, Australian rugby doesn’t currently have the depth or revenue to support 5 teams.

          It seems the Force now have a benefactor but will this help generate revenue at the other 4 clubs?

          And other than appointing Kafer to a new high performance role, what is being done to address the poor performance of all the Australian teams over recent years?

          From a neutrals perspective it would seem the reasons given previously by the ARU still stand?

          • Roar Rookie

            August 11th 2017 @ 12:15pm
            piru said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

            Forrest is not looking to prop the Force up, we actually don’t need him to.

            He’s simply putting his weight (and money) behind the fight for survival.

            The depth argument always seems silly to me.

            You don’t build depth with less teams. You might temporarily pump a few good players from the cut team into the remaining ones, but what then?

            You have less scope for growth

            • August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm
              Matt M said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

              If the ARU is serious about creating depth, they should start by removing all players from their Super rugby teams who are ineligible to represent Australia.

              • August 11th 2017 @ 12:43pm
                Jack Russell said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

                Which would reduce standards in Australia, resulting in Australian teams getting smashed even more. How does that assist with depth?

              • August 11th 2017 @ 1:24pm
                Hannes said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

                With one less team there is less room for foreign players and I made this argument yesterday. The ARY will have to increase their restrictions on foreign players that will weaken our Superugby teams.

                However do not through the baby out with the bathwater: foreign players can fast-track the development of young players e.g. Grant with Meakes and Rona and some foreign players can become eligible to Wallaby selection in the near future.

                Another reason why Australia is better off with 5 teams.

        • August 11th 2017 @ 1:19pm
          Hannes said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

          Well put

      • August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm
        Bravo said | August 11th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

        Yep, Super Rugby is pretty much dead in the water.

        I don’t know why anyone would bother watching it next year, as it means nothing for the future.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 4:37pm
        Dave said | August 11th 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        Well the ARU isn’t welcome to have a team in Perth anymore if they do go back.

        Time to support the inevitable NRL team then.

    • August 11th 2017 @ 11:27am
      Jules said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      Wow blame the Force for fighting for their survival!! Should just taken it huh!! I would like to know what you would have liked your team to do if it was them and how desperately you’d want your State union to fight!!

      • August 11th 2017 @ 11:43am
        Treetops said | August 11th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        Agree wholeheartedly with you Jules,

        I’m fine Will, don’t worry about the rest, pull the anchor in lets go!

        Rings a bell from a movie some years ago……..called Titanic or something?

      • August 11th 2017 @ 1:29pm
        Hannes said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

        If you give someone no other option, they will take that option. Spot-on you cannot blame the Force for not laying down to be executed if you have not provided a workable alternative.

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