Ian Prior: World Series Rugby was a gamble, but one I was happy to take

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    This time last year, Western Force scrumhalf Ian Prior was in the worst possible place for a professional footballer: settled in a city he loved, but off contract and suddenly unsure of exactly where his future laid.

    The Force were very much in the crosshairs, still stewing in the ambitious ’48-72 hours’ that the then Australian rugby union had set themselves to decide which of them or the Melbourne Rebels would take no part in a condensed 2018 Super Rugby season. Nearly two months after that lofty timeframe had been set, Prior and his teammates were still none the wiser.

    Over the years, and predominantly since the beginning of the National Rugby Championship, I’ve been lucky enough to speak with Prior at least once a year, either for an interview or nothing more than a ‘g’day, good to see you again’ before an NRC or a Super Rugby game.

    There are a lot of ‘good guys’ in Australian rugby, but Prior is genuinely one of them. I’ve met plenty of players and coaches over my time, and see plenty of them regularly enough to always say ‘hi’ when we cross paths. Prior is one of a handful who always address me by name, and not just the generic ‘mate’. It’s a tiny thing in the grand scheme of things, but it tells you something about them as a person.

    I was really pleased this week to get the chance to speak with Prior again, and he was only too happy to have a lengthy chat about what has been a very up and down twelve months for him, culminating tomorrow on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, where he will marry fiancé Lizzie.

    I might have been doing him a favour, getting him out of jobs that needed to be done preparation, but that doesn’t really matter. Either way, it was him that thanked me for my time once we were done. Still one of the good guys…

    Brett: I wanted to start by going back to last year – when it all went down, and the Force were removed from Super Rugby, a lot of you had to carry on and play through the NRC for Perth Spirit. At the time, you all said the right things, that you just wanted to play some good rugby together and have a bit of fun. But what about in the back of the mind, did it ever feel like a chore at times?

    Ian: No, I wouldn’t say it was a chore, but there was maybe a little bit of subconscious pressure because guys were trying to play for contracts, or impress teams to win contracts. Guys had kids to feed, and roofs to put over their family’s head, so there was a bit of pressure, yes, but definitely not a chore.

    What we all went through really galvanised us as a group; we were already a pretty tight group, but it brought us that much closer. Guys were pretty open about everything, so if they were struggling a bit, or needed some help, or just weren’t felling that great, everyone was just really open and honest with each other. Some guys were torn about where they would go, or whether they’d be redistributed, and all that sort of thing.

    So that NRC period was an enjoyable time; obviously there was a bit of stress attached, with all the uncertainty, but it was a good time and that showed in the way we were able to make the semi-finals and win through by beating Queensland Country when we were missing about nine guys to the Barbarians. It was certainly a unique time.

    Was there any anxiousness within the group, especially when the first few guys started announcing their movements?
    No, not really, because of that openness. Everyone respected guys’ decisions, and we weren’t going to hold anything against anyone wanting to look after themselves and their family.

    We all know what we’re signing up for when we become professional sportspeople, and rugby players, and everything that comes with that, so guys were probably nervous to tell people, because they might have felt bad for guys that hadn’t (announced they’d signed somewhere), but there was certainly no anxiousness or intentionally trying to keep deals on the down-low.

    Because we were so open through the whole year with how we were feeling and what was going on, the led to the whole process being really transparent, and that made it a lot easier for guys.

    Where did that openness come from? Was it agreed to, or did it just happen?
    I think it was just all part of the leadership, with Matt Hodgson and the leaders in the group, Heath Tessmann and those guys, just suggesting that we need to be honest and transparent about everything as we can be, otherwise it’s going to distract us if we’re whispering behind closed doors. We had enough to focus on with the week-in, week-out training.

    Brynard Stander

    Brynard Stander of the Force (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

    Where were you at through all that – did you speak with other Super Rugby sides, were you thinking it was time to head overseas? What were your thoughts?
    My thoughts were pretty much to stay in Perth with the Western Force, or to head overseas.

    I was quite well-settled in Perth, enjoying my time there both away from rugby and inside the rugby circle. So if the Force didn’t get the axe, I was going to stay there, and if they did, I was going to head overseas.

    You did end up having a few months in London with Harlequins as injury cover – were you always thinking this would just be for a few months, or were you hoping something might come of it?
    I just saw it as a chance to take it as it was. That I’d head over there and enjoy being out of the bubble that was Perth at the time, and all the uncertainty that came with that. A chance to freshen up, almost.

    I enjoyed it too, I played quite well and earned their respect, and they wanted to keep me until the end of the season, so I ended up extending for another month.

    Then the opportunity with World Series Rugby came up, and at the time with my wedding coming up in May, I just thought that after everything that happened last year, there’s probably more important things in life, and so the opportunity quickly became one that I didn’t want to turn down.

    What did you learn most, or most enjoy about your couple of months in London?
    Just seeing how it is run over there, with the private ownership model and the RFU, and how they balance that in particular. Obviously, they are all quite well funded over there, they’ve got extensive academies, with five or six coaches, five or six physios, five or six strength and conditioning staff for each team.

    So just seeing how well it is run, and the tribalism was quite massive, and I enjoyed that component of it. They are smaller grounds, but they are always packed out with 10,000 or 15,000 quite vocal supporters and pretty tough conditions for rugby, almost Arctic at times. My second game in the UK was played in snow against Ulster, so that was an experience.

    I just enjoyed being in the UK having never really been there and lived there, and being with a really good club in Harlequins, I knew James Horwill there and played against a few of the guys there, Dimitri Catrakilis and Francis Saili, and I had enough in common with a few guys there. And obviously James Hanson, Jonno Lance, Luke Morahan, I got to catch up with all of them, Ben Tapuai too, all ex-Force boys.

    It was a really good time, but at the same time it really freshened me up to come back for the Western Force and for World Series Rugby.

    So there was no hesitation to come home? It was something that you wanted to do straight away?
    I think after last year, and having been there for five years, the Western Force has a special place in my heart, and there was obviously some unfinished business there with how it all finished up.

    In the back of my head, I wanted to be part of the rebuild and launch into World Series Rugby, which at that point was still in its very early days – I don’t even think we had a coach signed on before I signed on – and it was a little bit of a gamble, but one I was happy to take because of where I hold the Western Force in my heart.

    Andrew Forrest with Western Force players

    Andrew Forrest speaks to the media flanked by Western Force players. (AAP Image/Justin Chadwick)

    Were you surprised or impressed at how much had been put into place by the time you had signed on?
    Yes, really surprised at the work that Matt Hodgson had done, as Head of Elite Performance there, and obviously under Andrew’s (Forrest) guidance.

    He told Matt to make it happen and he did. He signed up guys in that short space of time, and the guys were willing to jump at the opportunity; I was really impressed at how quickly it was coming together. Matt was doing a fair bit by the time I got back from the UK, coaching and putting together a program and recruiting, so he was a pretty busy man.

    But yeah, I was really impressed with the games that he had lined up in that short period of time, as well as the coaches that he was talking too and signed a little bit later, and obviously the calibre of players that he has been able to recruit.

    What about in that senior group of players that have stayed over there – ‘Tess’, Peter Grant, Marcel Brache and co – have you all felt like it was right thing to do, to stay around and keep playing on?
    Absolutely. There was that sort of connection there, and in the back of my mind there was unfinished business there and it was the same with them as well.

    Marcel had interest from overseas and in Europe and his fiancé lives in Perth and is completing her PhD, so he was obviously keen to stick around. He has been there for five years now similar to myself.

    Peter Grant has his family there, so he loves Perth too, but after what happened we all had a bit of unfinished business and the Force has been a pretty special place for all of us.

    When did it genuinely sink in that you would get to pull the jersey on again?
    We had a training run at nib Stadium the week before (the first game) to get the guys that hadn’t been there before used to it, and just walking out onto the ground.

    The last time I walked off there was after Hodgo’s last game and my 50th cap, but not knowing if that would be the last time I would get to see the field again. I was the second last player off the field – the last one was Hodgo, signing every autograph like he did – but before I walked off that field, I just wanted to take it in, to take a moment to soak it all in because we didn’t know what was going to happen, or what life was going to through at us.

    When I walked back out there on that Tuesday for that training session, I got goose bumps being back on the field again, I couldn’t believe I was really there. Then before the game in the warm up, I just took a moment to look around because I couldn’t believe that I was back out there in front of a sold-out crowd. It was unbelievable.

    It looked fantastic with nearly 20,000 people over there – the support and the love and the noise was all very obvious. Were you feeling that? It’d be impossible not to feel that when you ran out?
    Absolutely, mate. That week leading up we had fans taking days off work to come and pack member packs and things like that – it was almost incomprehensible, but that obviously shows how much the team means to the community, and how much the Western Force means to everyone in WA. Seeing things like that was pretty special.

    I had no doubt we would get a bumper crowd, but to have a sell-out crowd was something else. We would have had more than 20,000 if it wasn’t for Wolfmother and their stage in the corner taking up a few thousand seats (laughs).

    So tell me about running back out there, and the feeling at full time as well…
    In the warm up there were fireworks and skydivers, and the lights going off in our last drill – we were told during the preparations that was going to happen, so that was interesting, not being able to see the bloke in front of you.

    Running out there and hearing the roar and the Force chant – I get goosebumps just thinking about it now. That will be etched in my memory for a while yet, having that special feeling about that because of last year and the history.

    That was a pretty emotional time, too. I just said to the guys that were here before and the guys that were debuting, that when you run out there to actually take a moment to soak it in and don’t try to ignore it or block it out, just soak it all in because it would be a special moment.

    We did that and refocused and played some good footy after that, which was really nice.

    Loud Force chants all game, the entertainment was pretty innovative keeping the crowd and the fans engaged, a lot of distractions with ‘kiss-cams’ and ‘bongo-cams’ and all that kind of thing on the big screen, so just trying to keep some of the younger guys focused on the job was a challenge.

    The team played well and got the win, which was pretty special, and then having Andrew come into the middle and tell us how proud he was of us, and how proud the WA community are of us, and how well we have done in such a short period of time was really special.

    And then singing the team song in the change room afterwards was another very special moment, and one I won’t forget for a very long time.

    It was still one of the most poignant things I remember from last year, Andrew Forrest coming into the middle of that circle and saying he was going to do “whatever it takes” – I would imagine he would be a pretty satisfied man, but you all must be thinking, ‘how does do this’?
    Yeah, he is a pretty special man. Very generous and very driven and very motivated.

    He came in last year and said that he would back us to the hilt, and I wouldn’t be speaking to you today if it wasn’t for his generosity, and the Forrest family’s and Mindaroo’s support.

    He was pretty pumped after the game, he brought Wolfmother into the change rooms and got involved in our team song and again, just told us how proud he was. He actually got a little bit emotional, I think.

    I think he has been pretty moved and touched by the response of the community, and we have been working hard to put a good product on the field that represents WA and the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes.

    Andrew Twiggy Forrest

    Andrew Forrest talks to Western Force players (AAP Image/Richard Wainwright)

    When Tim Sampson asked you to captain the side – what were your thoughts?
    Really special. I obviously had thoughts and hopes of being in the leadership group, or somewhat involved in leading the senior playing squad, but then for him to ask me to be skipper was a massive surprise and a massive privilege.

    It’s one I thought about and didn’t want to take lightly, because it was going to be a big responsibility after everything that has happened, and with the opportunity moving forward to create something pretty special here. So yeah, really excited about the opportunity and working hard behind the scenes to put things in place to build a world class program and culture over here.

    I have been really lucky that I have been part of some really good rugby cultures and have some of the best leaders in Australia: Matt Hodgson, James Horwill, Ben Mowen, Christian Lealiifano, Heath Tessmann in the NRC.

    I have been pretty fortunate to be exposed to that kind of leadership, and I have wanted to put my own mark on the program so that has been exciting. It’s still early days for me, being only 27, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

    What about now that you’ve got your first two games out of the way, and your next game is another few weeks away – is it a bit of relief now you’re over the first bump?
    (Laughs) Yeah, it is a bit like that, it was a very busy lead-up to the first game.

    I was named captain two weeks before the first game, so I had a lot of work to do in that short period of time, but I wanted to get my head around the distractions that would be happening on game day, around the entertainment and game day experience.

    I did a lot of homework with the commercial stuff upstairs to see what was happening, so I could make sure the guys were focused and motivated and ready to go on game day.

    I can breathe again now, a bit of a sigh of relief to get through the first two games. We played some good footy having only been together four weeks, but still played a pretty positive brand of footy and entertaining brand which we enjoyed, so it’s nice to take a breath and look back on what we have done, and pick out on what we can work on in the build up to the next couple of games.

    So now you are focused on the much less stressful detail of getting married this weekend…
    That’s right (laughs). I can take a bit of a back seat this weekend. I am much more of an Indian this weekend, being told where to go and what to do by the Chief!

    A unique opportunity though, not having to play Super Rugby every weekend, and have a break to do some more of the enjoyable things in life like getting married.

    After last year it put life into perspective, about where rugby sits in your life and those that support you in your life. Really special to be able to enjoy that moment with my parents and fiancé’s parents, and all our family and friends, and we have a lot of them coming from Perth and ex Western Force players coming for what is a really exciting time for us.

    And what about the future then – are you excited about where World Series Rugby could go next year and beyond?
    Yeah, one hundred per cent.

    I think you’ve seen over the last two games their vision and their strategy and what they are thinking, and the biggest positive has been the change in the way some of the media has been portraying us as a team and organisation.

    At first, there wasn’t much attention and a thinking that these guys are just going to throw the ball around and have a bit of fun, but I think after having the first two games under the belt and seeing what we are here to do, I think people are going to take it a bit more seriously which is a really positive note.

    It is no secret that Super Rugby has had its challenges, and with the rumours of South African teams and what they might be doing moving forward, it makes for some pretty open dialog.

    It will be pretty interesting couple of years with the 2020 broadcast deal and the global alignment of the rugby world calendar. It’s very exciting to be a part of this new product and this new competition, and I’m very excited to see where it goes it moving forward.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (94)

    • May 18th 2018 @ 7:41am
      Angus Kennedy said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      I feel sorry for these players. It is the Emperor’s new clothes. So many want it to succeed they are ignoring the reality. The low standard and unpreparedness of the teams the Force are playing for a start. The fact that the Force themselves would get beaten by a decent Premier Rugby team as well. Plus the crass entertainment and the spectre of the omnipresent billionaire ringmaster. Is this really great for rugby in Australia? It seems a bit like ‘work for the dole’. Create a scheme that resembles proper employment in the hope it might lead somewhere worthwhile, but hardly ever does and costs a fortune.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 8:09am
        James said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

        You’re right, better we all just give up. That way we can never fail!

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:03am
        Ex force fan said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:03am | ! Report

        Angus, WSR is just the stop gap to stem the demise caused by RA decision to axe the Force. The collapse is junior registration, reduction in participation and the loss of players that relocated as they could not see a pathway to professional rugby in what was the state in whixh rugby was growing the fastest should be considerred as a national rugby disaster. This competition also ticked most of its objectives including re-engaging with the WA Rugby public, fans and provide players with aspirations to play professional rugby with a visible pathway to the Wallabies.

        It is remarkable what was achieved in such a short period of time while dragging RA’s to where we are today. Now, I hope that the rugby public and media can get behind this competition so that Twiggy get the opportunity to improve the Force and visiting teams with marque players and the quality of rugby in 2019 and beyond. This competitions have the potential to fill a gap in areas that is currently neglected by other competitions. Within this context, the quality of rugby played was pretty good for teams that have only been together for a couple of weeks. The entertainment value exceeds what Superugby currently delivers in Australia. The quality of Superugby is also not top notch either.

        If you want to watch top quality rugby, watch a reply of the AB-Lions series.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 9:27pm
          Lol said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:27pm | ! Report

          This force outfit does nothing for community rugby.
          They are players who cannot get a gig at the higher level but waltz around community circles in WA as if they are gods gift!
          All they do is train and play these sub standard games and think the game owes them something!
          Get real Ian Prior , you get shown up weekly in club games*when you have permission to play) with an inabilityto tackle and zero xfactor hence why no super side offered you or your teammates a contract, Which doesn’t say much considering the poor state of Australian super sides.
          This force group do not represent WA they only represent themselves and only tell the WA folk what you want to hear.
          The same as the coachs, couldnt get a gig anywhere but turn up in WA preaching about how good they are and what they are going to do for the community. Same bullshit as all the previous coaches. Where are all the super coaches from the force now? Zero have stayed, so same shit from these people different day.
          Hodgson more fool you for trying to get your mate Foley back on bosard and more fool you for getting more outsiders who pretend to change the world of rugby in WA.

          • May 19th 2018 @ 1:19am
            Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:19am | ! Report

            Stop sniffing Cameron’s bum Lol

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:21am
        MrTommo said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        Angus – You sound incredibly jealous haha

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:36am
        Stevo said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        Angus, you should note that the force team as well has not had much preparation for these games. The real test lies ahed with the Rebels and Crusader without their international players. I have not found the level to be poor at all, I have seen some great tackling and handling. Time will tell if you are right but I bet you one thing is that the Spirit of the West will prevail.

      • Roar Rookie

        May 18th 2018 @ 9:42am
        Boatie said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        What a patronising comment, Angus, typical of those who orchestrated the demise of the Force in the first place. I’ll bet you have “I love Cameron Clyne” bumper stickers, too.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 10:08am
        Brian said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

        Yes, totally agree with Angus

        • May 19th 2018 @ 1:22am
          Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:22am | ! Report

          Yeah you would Brian you parasite.

      • Columnist

        May 18th 2018 @ 10:11am
        Brett McKay said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

        Angus, the game against the Tongan side last Sunday was perhaps a step down, but there was nothing wrong with the standard of the first game against Fiji – it was very much a Fijian national team, with the national coach in charge looking at players as he starts to build toward the RWC.

        Comparing WSR to a work for the dole program is more than a bit disrespectful.

        • May 18th 2018 @ 10:42am
          Ex force fan said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Brett, thank you for a good article, it is definitely worth the read.

          I also thought the quality of the Fiji game was high (surprised) and the 1st half of the Tonga game. The next two games should also be good as the Force get some more time to prepare. To improve the quality it is important to bring marque players that is currently playing in Europe home to play for the opposition and the Force.

          Rugby Australia should embrace this competition, it provides them with a strategic alternative to SANZAAR however is still dragging their feet and being obstructive. As the competition’s integrity improve, the Force and others will be able to attract more quality players.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 10:35am
        El Gamba said | May 18th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        When was the last time a premier side got 19,000 to a game? Oh…. wait…. when was the last time an Australian super side had 19,000 to a game?

      • Roar Rookie

        May 18th 2018 @ 11:54am
        piru said | May 18th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        Angus – we don’t care what’s great for rugby in Australia

        We were told we weren’t needed – this is a WA product for the WA community

        • May 18th 2018 @ 12:29pm
          Angus Kennedy said | May 18th 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

          Ok, no problem. if I was in WA it still wouldn’t appeal to me. I would just focus on my club team and competition and support that. But, if you are into it, all good, enjoy it.

          • Roar Rookie

            May 18th 2018 @ 1:00pm
            piru said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            That’s good news Jock

            • May 19th 2018 @ 1:27am
              Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:27am | ! Report

              Ha ha Piru dead right and I heard the clubs are losing numbers as Rugby players don’t like paying levies to the RA.

        • Roar Pro

          May 18th 2018 @ 12:44pm
          Crazy Horse said | May 18th 2018 @ 12:44pm | ! Report

          ^^^^ What Piru said. We don’t care what Easterners say or do anymore.

          • Columnist

            May 18th 2018 @ 1:20pm
            Brett McKay said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

            Good to know, Crazy.

            For what it’s worth, it’s exactly this same kind of insular tunnel-vision that has plagued Australian rugby for decades.

            • Roar Rookie

              May 18th 2018 @ 1:29pm
              piru said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

              Brett – we tried to play nice with them, they kicked us out

              WA rugby initiatives are looking good at the moment, if the East wants to get involved I’m sure Twiggy would welcome them

              We’re not following the pied piper anymore

              • Columnist

                May 18th 2018 @ 1:57pm
                Brett McKay said | May 18th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

                And this is entirely my point, Piru. There’s going to have be give and take on both sides, for the long term benefit of the game nationally. The more everyone keeps trying to look after their own patch and damn all the others, the more we keep digging down..

              • May 18th 2018 @ 2:14pm
                Council said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                We’ve copped plenty from the RA over here in the West, and the attitude has been abysmal from RA.

                Hold off on any talk of giving and taking and making up untill RA decide to engage and apologise for the way they handled the Force situation.

                After that then they will deserve to sit down and talk with the WA public, Twiggy and the WA Rugby board to kiss and make up.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 18th 2018 @ 2:10pm
                piru said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

                That’s not how we see it over here, Brett

                It’s not about digging in and damn the rest, it’s about having been cast adrift and having to fight for ourselves.

              • Columnist

                May 18th 2018 @ 2:21pm
                Brett McKay said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                I get that Piru, I do. I don’t even really blame you, considering what happened.

                But you’re also helping make my point for me.

                Your prime interest is looking after rugby in the west, just as the ‘concentrate on Syd/Bris’ types are only worried about their patch, too.

                That’s all I’m saying.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm
                piru said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

                There’s no problem with that either, provided that ‘look after X region’ types aren’t the ones running the game as a whole

              • May 18th 2018 @ 2:50pm
                Markus said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

                The ‘concentrate on Syd/Bris’ types don’t have the prime interest of looking after rugby in the East, though. Or even of looking after rugby in Sydney or Brisbane.

                All they care about is maintaining their individual little patches of power, even if it means watching the slow and painful death of the game as a whole and ultimately their piece along with it.

              • May 18th 2018 @ 3:04pm
                Campbell Watts said | May 18th 2018 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                “Your prime interest is looking after rugby in the west”

                Brett this certainly wasn’t the attitude BEFORE the Force were discarded, rather a direct result of the way we were so poorly treated during the whole fiasco.

                You can hardly blame us now if we have a wee bit of a FU RA attitude! 😉

                I think everyone (WA) is looking on WSR as a life-line for our rugby stoke and it’s got little to do with RA or super rugby.

              • Roar Guru

                May 18th 2018 @ 7:28pm
                Timbo (L) said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

                It is an exercise in Take and Take.

                RA are still making it hard for Twiggy. Stuff like demanding that Fox have Exclusive TV rights as an example.

                If they were supportive about it and helped with the launch, do you think us Rugby Castaways would have the same venom against the Sinking ship that is the SS Pulver.

                I predict that RA will have their begging bowl out after the RWC and will be demanding 2 east coast to be let into the IPRC.

                I would Imagine that Twiggy will let them in, but it will cost them a lot of money and control.

              • May 22nd 2018 @ 1:29am
                Grug M said | May 22nd 2018 @ 1:29am | ! Report

                Where is your evidence about exclusive rights for Fox by ARU?

              • May 22nd 2018 @ 1:31am
                Pik Botha said | May 22nd 2018 @ 1:31am | ! Report

                The first I’ve heard that claim about RA with Foxtel.

              • May 19th 2018 @ 1:33am
                Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:33am | ! Report

                Council I live by the fact that apologising is just words and waffle. People lost their jobs and livelihoods over this so words aren’t going to cut it. Actions are more useful. Getting rid of de Clyne and the Friends of Sydney Uni Football Club nomination committee are the first step so we actually have a truly representative board that is focused on Australian Rugby and its constituents.

            • May 18th 2018 @ 2:47pm
              Perthstayer said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report


              Great article, thanks.

              You probably know but Sampson says WF seeking 40 minutes play time. SR average is 33. Fiji game was 38 minutes (according Wayne Smith).

              40 minutes is tall order but 20% more would make the game union more commercially attractive. Could that widen some tunnel visioned eyes?

              7 point try is possibly a step too far, but as Smith said, WA won’t die wondering.

              • Columnist

                May 18th 2018 @ 2:56pm
                Brett McKay said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

                PS, I heard over the weekend that Super Rugby was trying to break 40 minutes in the short term too, but even the NRC, some of the more open rugby we’ve seen in Australia struggles to get to 40.

                I wish anyone trying to get or wanting to get to 40 minutes the very best, I genuinely do.

                40 minutes ball-in-play would literally be like nothing we’ve seen before. Absolutely it would, or *should* open some eyes!

              • May 18th 2018 @ 3:00pm
                Perthstayer said | May 18th 2018 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

                I forgot to mention that Smith said the world record is 42 minutes!

              • May 18th 2018 @ 7:01pm
                Barry Crocker said | May 18th 2018 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

                The Elephant in the room that has hindered more game time is the sub-standard of Refereeing we are subjected to every week. This is a direct result of a decade of “Referee Education” at both a National & International level.
                Having sat through countless Ref meetings & ARU/RA seminars, the prevailing message is an us/them mentality between Refs & Coaches/Players.
                Don’t talk a player out of a Penalty, just blow your whistle was the message from the top of Ref Ed! (e.g. Jamie McGregor, nice guy but…)
                Lost count of the Ref Coaches who have complimented me on facilitating a great game of Rugby, BUT I shouldn’t be identifying infringements & using terms such as “no hands”, “ruck formed”, “Penalty advantage blue/green”. They say this is ‘coaching’ & in the last instance I’m told to only rarely play advantage & not to vocalise it!!

                AFL, RL, Touch Footy etc flow as a result of good communication from Officials.
                WSR has the opportunity to turn play the game as the players/coaches want it played, just ask them for a change!!

              • May 18th 2018 @ 8:19pm
                ScottD said | May 18th 2018 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

                That’s disappointing feedback Barry. As an ex ref myself it sounds like there is a disconnect between the “leaders” and the worlds top refs (and you and me).

              • May 19th 2018 @ 1:45am
                Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:45am | ! Report

                Scott and Barry it is not. May be the case in Australia and NZ (Ben O’Keeffe who had a decent record last year was again atrocious in the Canes v Reds match) where refereeing standards have declined but it isn’t elsewhere. I have been to associate referees courses led by a referee who is now about to break on to the full IRB panel and what he was teaching contradicts what you were told. He said if it is immaterial to the game no need to blow the whistle.

                There is a but and he didn’t really give a clear answer despite it being a blight on the game. I said to him I understand where you are coming from however referees aren’t blowing offside to lazy runners who are blocking overlaps by running in the opposition backline. The half back is having to run around offside players who shouldn’t be there or having to go the other side where there are more defenders which allows the defence to reset and the referee is allowing play to continue. He said they should blow and my retort was they aren’t so the players are getting frustrated.

                To me inconsistent refereeing like this leads to players getting frustrated as seen in French club matches often leads to dust ups.

            • May 18th 2018 @ 2:51pm
              Ex force fan said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

              Brett, why would WA trust rugby Australia? The only give and take so far has been WA give and RA take.

              The 2017 debacle and especially the disrespectful way it was handled will plague Australia Rugby for years if not decades to come. Trust us lost in week but it takes years to rebuild. The ball is in RA hands to rebuild the trust and that can not start by ignoring the past (draw a line in the sand BS)

            • May 19th 2018 @ 1:29am
              Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:29am | ! Report

              The problem is Brett the RA’s idea of centralised thinking and operations is to axe sides. This led to voluntary administration and if it wasn’t for Twiggy and John Edwards the state governing body would be liquidated by now.

              Can you blame them really…..

            • Roar Pro

              May 19th 2018 @ 4:50pm
              Crazy Horse said | May 19th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

              Not tunnel vision but a massive dose of reality that made it clear to everyone in WA that, just as in many other fields, the East Coast rugby establishment simply doesn’t care about the Western third of the country. That being the case we wil do our own thing.

              If Rugby (East Coast) Australia wishes to rengage with us the ball is in their court. First they’ll have to demonstrate to us that they genuinely intend to run as a true national organisation. Especially clean out the current Board and replace it with one that truly represents all the major rugby communities in Australia.

              Until then we thank them for demonstrating so convincingly that we don’t need them and allowing us to discover that we can do just fine without them.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 12:52pm
        Barry Crocker said | May 18th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

        “Create a scheme that resembles proper employment in the hope it might lead somewhere worthwhile, but hardly ever does and costs a fortune.”
        That’s actually a perfect description of RA’ performance of recent times…good job!

      • May 18th 2018 @ 2:25pm
        sheek said | May 18th 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report


        This is a narrow-minded & defeatist attitude.

        Yes, WSR might not be much in the whole scheme of things, but it allows the Force to live, until they’re embraced in a genuine comp once again.

        The hope is that the Force will be back with the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies & Rebels in spite of, & not because of, anything RA, SANAAR & the rest of those no-hopers do.

        Super rugby may well be punted in favour of a domestic comp. I don’t even think a Trans-Tasman comp is any longer feasible. Australian rugby is becoming too weak even for that.

        We need to come up with a new international comp involving fewer than five nations.

        That’s how come we were so good at rugby league (traditionally 4/5 countries only) & Australian football (no opponents).

        We’re really not as good at sport as we think we are (said sarcastically).

        • May 19th 2018 @ 1:05pm
          Gav said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          Don’t be sa

        • May 19th 2018 @ 1:06pm
          Gav said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

          Don’t be sarcastic Sheek, it’s true

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:56pm
        KFar said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

        And the Australian SR teams are just doing so well this year.

      • May 19th 2018 @ 1:17am
        Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:17am | ! Report

        Complete and utter rubbish Angus. Twiggy knows what he is doing the RA and the ASIC Inquiry cohoots the MRRU haven’t the foggiest. The Force have so far looked better coached and cohesive than the Brumbies and Rabble so far this year.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:04am
      ForceFan said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      Thanks Brett – Ian very worthy of your feature article.

      Ian Prior – a genuinely good bloke who has already showing himself to be a good captain to lead the Western Force into this new chapter for professional rugby in WA.
      Showed his versatility by making an impact within days of his arrival at Harlequins.
      Not a showy player but teams play better when he’s on the pitch.
      One of the better kicks on goal in Australia.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:09am
      rugger said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      RA needs all the help it gets.

      But governance and block voting via NSW and QLD needs to change and current board culled before changes that need to be made can be made.

      Bring Twiggy on the board and get into public schools, drive game bottom up and not top down.

      Asia/Americas is the way forward due to economies of scale in Europe and France but Clyne has to go.

      • May 18th 2018 @ 9:58am
        leftarc said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        That has been one of my gripes all along. ‘Rugby is failing’ scream the mob from the Sydney North Shore. But asked them to help out for the greater good at their own expense? No, No , No, No, No.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:11am
      Ex force fan said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      WSR is an excellent start but the real competition with be with be IPRC next year. I could not wish for more, good rugby, fantastic atmosphere and packed stands with sponsors standing in line to support the competition. Twiggy is addressing a gap just like BBL did for cricket. The purest will object, just like they did with BBL, but the fans will turn up.

      Compare Twiggy’s clear vision for the IPRC and WA Rugby with patheays from Rugbyroos, via the Future Force to the Western Force side to that of the ARU’s Castle. Then ask yourself where is the quality, who are the professionals and who are the amateurs.


      • May 19th 2018 @ 1:51am
        Bakkies said | May 19th 2018 @ 1:51am | ! Report

        What is impressive is that Twiggy has already signed up Uber, Qantas, PWC, Programmed, Bankwest (who he got back on board to sponsor Rugby I believe they sponsored the first Rebels Academy when there was no side in Melbourne to promote to), Channel 7 to televise, clubs are promoted on the sideline advertising all in the space of a few months with a small team of people.

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:23am
      MrTommo said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:23am | ! Report

      Bumped into Ian at bar a few weeks back before the fiji game; was happy to chat and seemed like just a genuine all round good bloke; Hope he leads the Force and WSR/IPRC into a successful future!

    • May 18th 2018 @ 9:35am
      wag said | May 18th 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Interesting to see that Twiggy has already locked in the “World Series Rugby” title — for future use??

      With the failure of the current Super Rugby competition, and calls for a more entertaining product for the spectators, maybe, just maybe, Andrew Forrest will do a “Packer” for Rugby, and produce a product that will bring back the spectators, the TV deals and the media.

      It will indeed be interesting to see what eventuates. I am just one of many who are rapidly losing interest in the shambles that Southern Hemisphere Rugby has become, — and it is not just because the Aussie teams cannot beat the Kiwi teams.

      Crowds are falling, not only in Aust, but also in NZ and SA. Will Twiggy be Rugby’s saviour? A major change is needed !

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