Sport

Rising above: the WA rugby revolution

Western Force CEO Nick Marvin says the next two years is crucial for rugby in WA.

The Force was said to play its final Super Rugby game when Rugby Australia axed the club from the competition last year before mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest stepped in with a plan.

Mr Marvin hopes the new look World Series Rugby competition will revolutionise the game and reignite interest as it joins forces with the growing popularity of rugby in Asia.

He says Mr Forrest’s actions inspired him to join the club to help grow and influence grassroots rugby in the state.

“Rugby has an amazing tribal-like following in WA,” Mr Marvin says.

“The new WSR and the new look Western Force will hopefully draw more people into the sport and help it build into something bigger.”

The Western Force is the apex rugby union team in the west and Mr Marvin says the club gives ambitious young people something local to aspire towards.

“Having this club in WA is vital to ensure that our talented younger players can stay in their home state and still pursue their love for the game,” Mr Marvin says.

“Keeping the Western Force here can help nourish dreams and aspirations, which motivates players to play better.”

Former Force captain Matt Hodgson says it was during his time as skipper that he found an appreciation for the importance of club rugby.  Photo: Karina Vakil

Wallaby veteran and the Western Force’s head of elite performance Matt Hodgson says he is motivated by how much the community rugby spirit has grown in the last few months.

“They’ve got a reason to play rugby again and the number of kids that are signing up to play rugby and come to the game on Friday night is what drives me now,” Mr Hodgson says.

The Force is set to play a series of invitational games this year starting with Olympic champions Fiji on Friday May 4, followed by Tonga on May 13, with the official WSR competition kicking off next year.

Mr Marvin, who’s the former Perth Wildcats’ CEO, says a defining moment in the growth of popularity for the Wildcats was when the basketball team began working with schools.

Similarly, each Force player will have to complete 350 hours in community rugby as part of a Club Allocation Program which will help grow the game at a grassroots level.

RugbyWA CEO Bob Hunter says the program will foster junior rugby and support club teams at all levels.

“Whether it is through coaching, playing or mentoring others, the time the Force players will spend within these clubs will help to underpin and grow the game of rugby in Western Australia,” Mr Hunter says.

The allocations will see heavyweights such as Springboks veteran Jaque Fourie, former Wallaby Rod Davies, returning Force playmaker Kieran Longbottom and Fijian Olympic gold medalist Masivesi Dakuwaqa take on coaching, mentoring and ambassador roles for local community clubs.

Former Springbok Fourie will work with the Southern Lions and says the program is a good opportunity for rugby to grow.

“I’m really looking forward and excited to work with the clubs and the players,” Mr Fourie says.

Listen to the coach Tim Sampson and the players including captain Ian Prior talk about the importance of the Western Force in community rugby.