Covid has brought so many sectors of society to their knees over the last three or four months. Professional sport has been at the forefront of these losses with its inflated overheads driven by the ongoing quest for success.
In this country, no sport is in a more precarious position than the great game of rugby union which was already on tremendously shaky ground heading into 2020.
In response to this unprecedented event, Rugby Australia is currently mapping its plan for a season like no other that will initially involve a Super Rugby AU concept that includes Australia’s four existing Super Rugby teams along with the previously outcast and now Andrew Forrest-backed, Western Force.
Forrest has previously announced himself on Australia’s rugby scene as a ‘white knight’, with the ability to aid Australia’s and (in particular) WA’s rugby fortunes. Beyond the creation of Global Rapid Rugby which has provided some form of an ‘elite’ product to WA’s sporting public, his impact in these endeavours to date has been limited.
Now though, with the Force being handed a lifeline by RA – Twiggy can become a saviour of the game in the West while putting Australia in a favourable position to rebuild in this new world that awaits us on the other side of Covid-19.
In short, what we need from Twiggy now is a keen eye for talent and his deep pockets to bring them back to our shores. Let me explain.
While Australian rugby was heading towards rock bottom even before this pandemic hit, it’s easy to forget that Covid hasn’t been discriminating in its savagery. The huge salaries on offer in the northern hemisphere and investment in foreign talent were also under the spotlight before 2020.
It appears that what we’re moving through at the moment is expediting these discussions and bringing them to a head.
Kurtley Beale’s recent modest signing for Racing 92 suggests that the belt tightening is already underway. The Parisian club is set to shell out 400,000 Euros for Beale’s services. He’s obviously at a different stage of his career, but this is half of his salary during his sojourn with Wasps in 2016.
Covid has been a great ‘leveller’ and as those fans of the Reds found out, contracts aren’t worth much more than the paper they’re printed on at the moment with doubts in both hemispheres over whether clubs will have the ability to uphold their deals.
In this weird and whacky world that we’ve entered into, I’ve little doubt that there will be clubs more than open to the idea of offloading some of the international talent that’s currently occupying their books. And with that, enter Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest.
His immediate goal has to be to make it impossible for RA to repeat history and take away what they did in 2017 – a license to compete at the highest domestic level. The best way to achieve this is through success and fortunately for the Force, with Twiggy standing behind them – they’re in a favourable position to attain some if he’s willing to put pen to cheque book.
The Force have managed to build a decent NRC-level list, but now they’re playing at a (Australian conference) Super Rugby level so there has to be question marks over whether they’ll be able to regularly hold their own, let-alone succeed.
RA haven’t given the Force a lot of time but I would have management on the phone to get in touch with Australian talent plying their trade in the Top 14, Top League and Premiership to bring them back home and playing in a mish-mashed team of expatriates.
Imagine the following XV entering into Super Rugby AU as the 2020 Western Force:
1. Paddy Ryan
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sam Talakai
4. Will Skelton
5. Adam Coleman
6. Lopeti Timani
7. Liam Gill
8. Sean McMahon
9. Nic Stirzacer
10. Jack Debreczini
11. Taqele Naiyaravoro
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Samu Kerevi
14. Sefa Nairavalu
15. Jono Lance
With the best of the existing squad supporting them, such a side would have to be described as title contenders at worst.
The Force assembling a strong and reasonably young squad of talent will also have a flow-on effect for the fortunes of Dave Rennie’s Wallabies. Half of these names wouldn’t look out of place in a 2020 Wallaby squad with possibly half of those even pressing for a starting berth.
From the Ashes of 2020, Twiggy’s Force can rise as an on and off field success that demands a presence in Australia’s elite rugby tier, whatever that may look like in the future. Furthermore, some depth to the pool of international-level talent can be added to best position the Wallabies to attain some much-needed success when Test rugby returns.
This certainly isn’t the solution for all of Australian rugby’s woes, but it’s one way that’s well within Andrew Forrest’s scope to have a positive impact on WA’s and Australia’s output while achieving a bit of traction on a couple of important fronts in the required rebuild.