Western Force

Things are going from bad to worse at the Melbourne Rebels who are operating by little by little now. First of all, they’ve entered voluntary administration 1-2 weeks ago while they were owed lots of money in debt. Now not only a few of their staff including the board were forced to leave but also they have just $17,300 left with just a few pieces of office furniture, gym equipment & two cars. Although they will be playing out this season since the fixtures have already been laid out for the over the next few months as there’s no way back, but still no guarantee the Rebels will return in 2025 which will be highly unlikely. 

It will be devastating to see Rugby leave Melbourne where they’ve been the host of the three-day annual Super Round weekend for a few years, which isn’t too far away now for Round 2 at the start of March. They also hosted the home Bledisloe Cup games when the Wallabies v All Blacks over the last two years (2022 at Marvel Stadium & 2023 at MCG) & will be hosting Wales during the 2nd mid-year tour match in mid-July at AAMI Park. Yes, they have also produced a few Wallabies players of their own over the last few years & not being able to play for a local professional team like the Rebels like underage level & then into Super Rugby before stepping up at International level would see them end up elsewhere. Regardless of what happens, there will always be some people wanting to play rugby from a young age in Melbourne & across Victoria.

But if you look at the on-field results however, they barely do anything good apart from the rare 9th placed finish back in 2018 when they benefited from Western Force’s axing from Super Rugby at the time. You might also tell that they do have a great line-up of players too from the off-season despite a huge mess off the field lately, but don’t think it will make much of a difference when all of the players’ contracts including the coaching staff under Kevin Foote will last through the end of June.

Look it’s so hard to tell having looked at options to see the Rebels live on such as merging with another team like the ACT Brumbies from Canberra and even Moana Pasifika. But no matter what you think whether or not if the merged squad would be even stronger, it’s unfortunately not a good idea when merging two teams would see plenty of uproar amongst fans in the Rugby community here. That means, you will be taking out the history they’ve built for such a long time like 27 years & it won’t be good to see that kind of value go, who fear the team they support will soon be gone under a different location & new team identity. It means a lot to them & that will be irreplaceable as Rugby Australia never wanted to do it anyway.

Now here’s what will happen if the Rebels meet their comeuppance, as said, it would be so sad to lose an Australian Super Rugby side as RA always wanted to keep all five teams in order to have a national footprint, which is understandable. 

But the results and lack of silverware including their worst ever World Cup last year is still weighing against them over the last 20 + years as the question is can they support five teams? The answer is no unfortunately because RA proved that they are unable to make room to support themselves financially for all five Super Rugby teams in order to have the best success as we will be down to four after this with the Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies & Western Force. Yes, there were rumours about the Brumbies also entering the same way (voluntary administration) as the Rebels, who are also running tight on funds. But considering their strong on-field presence year-long round that includes making the Finals every year where they went all the way as the only Australian team here to the semi-finals meaning it will be too difficult to see them go.

Even so with four teams here that was done on more than a few occasions, they still haven’t translated much success into International level as the Wallabies used to enjoy dominating on the field with just three Super Rugby teams of Reds, Waratahs & Brumbies back then in the 1990s & early 2000s. So is abandoning the national footprint plan for a pro-rugby state strategy that would finally see the Wallabies return to winning ways just like Rugby League does mostly in NSW & QLD? This could finally be the answer with the Western Force from Perth either playing in Japan or relaunching their own comp in Global Rapid Rugby considering Andrew Forrest has lots of cash in the bank. They are a side that has been in and out off the comp for a long time since 2006 whose form weren’t bad during most home games last year but still yet never made the finals.

In the meantime, Rugby Australia has lots of issues to address where the silverware cabinet has been mostly empty other than the rare 2011 Tri Nations & 2015 Rugby Championship as time will tell soon enough with or without the Melbourne Rebels.

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We are about to enter the 28th year of Super Rugby & yet things are still not the same as it once was back in the glorious 1990s-early 2000s when Australia (Wallabies) benefited so much success right until the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Yes, they won just three Super Rugby championships ever since but that doesn’t mean they are on the same standard as their Tasman neighbours, New Zealand. There has been so many changes through the off-season with regards to musical chairs at players and coaching staff amongst multiple teams. Waratahs handed over control to Rugby Australia recently while the Reds got a new head coach. Plus, Brumbies staying strong as the leading Super Rugby team here, as well as Western Force who are looking to return to the finals with the recruitment of some experienced players. And this week, the Melbourne Rebels entered voluntary administration even though they will continue to play just for this season, despite some star hirings of their own.

Over in New Zealand, most of the five teams (Blues, Hurricanes & of course Crusaders) except Chiefs & Highlanders will now have new head coaches where most of them from last year have joined Scott Robertson at the All Blacks as the Crusaders will begin a brand new era in 2024 without him. He was the one who delivered so many Super Rugby championships including last year’s final v Chiefs & it remains to be seen if the Crusaders can keep on winning including delivering another championship under former Waratahs coach Rob Penney. And for the Highlanders, they are under a big rebuilding phase with Jamie Joseph back onboard to try & return to its former glory as the head of rugby after they missed the Top 8 finals bubble in 9th last year.

We also don’t forget the two Pasifika teams to round off the line-up with Fijian Drua coming off from a great second season before they were elminated by the Crusaders in the last 8 as winning away from home would be the great next step to stay in the Top 8 & Moana Pasifika needs more time so they can really win games after they finished last over the last two seasons.

This year could be a great opportunity to see an even/level playing field where it’s Australia’s time at last to catch up to NZ but despite there will be some really close games, the outcome won’t change much where we will see a New Zealand winner once again whether it’s going to be the Crusaders or Blues or Chiefs by surprise whereas the Brumbies will continue being the best Australian Super Rugby team. Likewise in previous seasons though, the Brumbies will unfortunately still be nowhere near the Grand Final radar either in the quarter or semi finals. Yes, Rugby Australia is going with the high performance centralisation system alongside Joe Schmidt as their new head coach in the hope of also winning games again following a disastrous group stage campaign for the first time ever at last year’s World Cup in France. But the question remains to be seen whether or not if they can support five teams, having seen the Rebels fall into trouble off the field this week? While there will always going to be some Victorian/Melbourne born talent, there’s no guarantee that the Rebels will continue to play at AAMI Park going into 2025 and beyond. For now, the new season will start on Friday 23rd February right until mid-June where every game is live and Ad-Free on Stan Sport while there’s always a Saturday night game being simulcast via free-to-air on 9Gem.

Predicting ladder 2024

  1. Crusaders (champions)
  2. Chiefs (then semi-finalists)
  3. Blues (runners-up)
  4. ACT Brumbies (then semi-finalists)
  5. Hurricanes
  6. NSW Waratahs
  7. Queensland Reds
  8. Highlanders
  9. Fijian Drua
  10. Western Force
  11. Melbourne Rebels
  12. Moana Pasifika
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Yes, first and foremost I agreed with Stephen Hoiles that our Super Rugby system here in Australia is broken. But I don’t agree that one team should be dropped out like it was 5-6 years ago when we didn’t win a lot with four Australian teams from 2006-2010 as well as 2018-2020 until COVID has changed things unexpectedly from there.

Instead, I think that dropping two teams would be for the best for Rugby Union in Australia where the Western Force & Melbourne Rebels can get International experience elsewhere, while we go back to the system that worked so well for us before with just the ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs & Queensland Reds. That way, you only need three top-quality teams in order to do well not just against our New Zealand counterparts, but it would also help our Wallabies get back to their best again where we can win silverwares regularly & be Top 3-4 instead of sitting around 9th-13th right now.

We also know & understand that Rugby Union here is an International sport. How come New Zealand has lots of Rugby teams where they got five in Super Rugby & the rest down to the Tier 2 National Provincial Championship comp? We should do the same with three Super Rugby teams & the rest elsewhere. But otherwise, there’s always the Top League over in Japan, who should bring both the Rebels & Force over from Super Rugby. It’s the kind of standard that suits them (Rebels & Force) perfectly when facing a bunch of other Japanese teams that includes the same day time zone as well. 

So all in all, we’d be all for it if Rugby Australia downsizes from five to three Super Rugby teams going forward. At the same time though, we want the Force & Rebels play in Japan and/or through a new National 2nd Tier comp as we have nothing against them. It’s just the fact that they’re both not Super Rugby standard and it’s been hurting us for a long time.

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It’s time to be very honest and upfront to the board at Rugby Australia that this isn’t working where we keep on losing matches time & time again without any regular silverware for a very long time. 

First of all, please go back to having just three Super Rugby teams – NSW Waratahs, Queensland Reds & ACT Brumbies. It’s something that worked before in the past and they should look to either create a national 2nd tier comp involving both Western Force & Melbourne Rebels or send both teams to some Asia-Pacific comp or even the Top League in Japan where they can compliment each other very well at that kind of standard.

Have a look at South Africa when they had to cut back 2 Super Rugby teams & sending them over to Europe at the same time back in late 2017? It actually worked out well for them, having went on to win a World Cup a few years ago while being able to beat the All Blacks occasionally which is what we should exactly be doing. They’re even one of the four favourite teams to take home this year’s World Cup too & despite not having the Cheetahs onboard when playing against International opposition sometimes in an annual European rugby comp right now, things are currently on the up for them.

Now yes, not everything we suggest can be perfect as we all see Rugby as an International sport compared to Rugby League & Aussie Rules Football. But then with League, they don’t have a Perth & Adelaide team & yet it’s going so well for them being as the fastest game in the country & even on earth. You might also argue that the Melbourne Storm is one of the most successful teams out in League but that sport is also observed by all Aussies, not Rugby where Melbourians would rather pick up a Football and play AFL, VFL or League with the Storm than playing Rugby for the Rebels. 

So no room to have another footy code there sadly no matter how much effort they put in to have an annual Super Round as well as the home Bledisloe Cup test match v All Blacks. The same goes to Perth where they’re not a traditional Rugby state despite a whole heap of investments thanks to Andrew Forrest, but the results isn’t there to back it up compared to our traditional state teams as it’s best if the Force & Rebels play elsewhere – nothing against them. All we want is for Rugby Australia to realise their potential in Super Rugby that would in turn help them win games again v the top International teams as not only we’re frustrated but NZ Rugby as well when the ABs are beginning to slip away from the Top 3-4 thanks to us here.

Please do us a favour and go back to the way things were that made Australia once successful in all fronts before both in Super Rugby (you only need three teams to be really successful v NZ teams every weekend in order to win championships) & Wallabies (selection structure would help too) while maintaining the national footprint by having a National Tier 2 comp or send both Western Force & Melbourne Rebels to another comp as well as investing more in grassroots elsewhere.

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We didn’t see that coming when Folau Faingaa just defected teams from the ACT Brumbies to now the Western Force starting next season on a two-year deal, while remaining with Rugby Australia for Wallaby selection at the same time. He also reunites with a couple of ex-Brumbies who now play their trade in Perth – including Reejan Pasitoa, Bayley Kuenzle, Issak Fines, Kyle Godwin, Toni Pulu, Harry Lloyd & Angus Wagner.

It’s a great sign of ambition being shown there from the WA-based Super Rugby side – who wants to make the most of themselves in the long-term at Super Rugby level – and be a competitive front on the pitch. Plus, it will be great to see Faingaa get the chance to show his full 80 spells ahead of Felati Kaitu’u for the leading hooker position after he always start half-games often, before he was replaced by Lachlan Lonergan every time later during the 2nd half in a Brumbies shirt.

They have came from a long way since their shock axing back in 2018 before COVID changed everything three years ago, and Rugby Australia has came to their rescue once more as the 5th full-time Super Rugby Team here alongside the Melbourne Rebels, ACT Brumbies, NSW Waratahs & Queensland Reds.

From the Super Rugby AU Qualifying Final in 3rd last year to a near Top 8 finish in 9th this season in the Super Rugby Pacific; They’ve gone from strength to strength, having replaced Tim Sampson with one of the emerging coaches from New South Wales in none other than – Simon Cron – as the new head coach.

Not only he knows the NSW Rugby system & talent pool very well like current Tahs head coach Darren Coleman, he also most recently worked with Steve Hansen over the last three years as Director of Rugby at Toyota Verblitz in Japan.

There’s also a talented youngster in Jeremy Williams coming over from the Tahs where he will replace the now-retired Jeremy Thrush on the second row, while they convinced experienced Flanker/Number 8 Michael Wells to move back home from the Rebels.

The best is yet to come when Faingaa’s vast 63-cap Super Rugby and 25-cap Wallaby experience will change the way how the Force executes their throw-ins and driving maul come line-out time.

It could be a game changer under his watch that will provide plenty of competition across the Trans-Tasman in the hope of beating some New Zealand teams, as well as an extended shot via the Playoffs as long as they can finish Top 8 in the regular-season ladder every year.

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Leicester Fainga’anuku is such a wonderful standout player tonight for the Crusaders on the left wing with a hat-trick of tries from the first-half. He struck a fantastic balance between pace & physicality where he can track back and forth that is being defensively, as well as finish off the attack. And it came at the right time when the Crusaders were patient with the ball off the back of the Western Force’s lack of support numbers, before his team called him up & bit back the Force that made them pay the price in return.

Another standout Crusader player to look at is Will Jordan in the No.15 shirt at full-back where he dominated the 2nd half with a hat-track of his own, just like team-mate Fainga’anuku from the other 40 minute spell. These two players both young and talented in their early 20s; they also share the same height, physicality and pace. All Jordan does is track back and protect his men defensively where he was tested with the tackling & read, before he knows what to do with the ball and that word is to dominate where he was just too good.

Both players are just sensational to watch
where any opposing team will have a tough time dealing with Jordan and Fainga’anuku at their defensive territory, based on the lack of support numbers/communication before it’s ripped into shreds.

And Tim Anstee put his best tonight throughout the full 80 for his Western Force team at No.8. He provides so much physicality, talk-up and tall reach when smashing his way through the Crusaders defensive blocks with the ball on hand. He also provides that athletic ability when running back and forth where Anstee made a name for himself back in the 7s days. Although, his contribution benefitted with a number of winning penalties and advantages. But his team’s poor communication & execution in the attack let him down, where the Force had to pay the price for their defensive damages at the hands of the Crusaders in the end.

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Western Force welcomed the Crusaders at HBF Park in Perth earlier tonight in Round 12 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific. The home side briefly snatched the lead earlier on, before the Crusaders dominated the first-half at 8-18. They tried to catch up with another TRY from Fergus Lee-Warner not long after half-time, but the Saders are just too good with a 15-53 win.

It’s been a tough night in the office from the Western Force after a huge defeat on home soil v the Crusaders. They weren’t bad in the first half when the Force briefly snatched lead for a while at one point, thanks to Kyle Godwin’s cross-kick where Jake Strachan ran the ball in time for their opening TRY. Although, they’ve benefitted from a couple of winning penalties/advantages along the way. However, their lack of support & communication in the attack couldn’t keep the standard that the Crusaders set up tonight, which is too much to catch up where their defense was heavily exposed. They have a long trip now to Dunedin in New Zealand ahead of the Week 13 opener on Friday night v Highlanders.

And congratulations to the Crusaders on an easy win away from home after a shock defeat last week in Sydney v NSW Waratahs. Now they still need to work on some ill-discipline where they lost some penalties on a couple of occasions. They will need to be on their best if they want to beat the best Australian Super Rugby team next Friday night v ACT Brumbies in Canberra. But they’re just simply outstanding where the Crusaders took advantage of the Force’s lack of finishing opportunities, before they cashed in with plenty of hat-trick tries from Leicester Fainga’anuku & Will Jordan.

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What a way to finish Round 9 of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific as we turn our attention between the Australian and New Zealand teams battling each other with six rounds left to go. NSW Waratahs were off to a stellar start in the 1st half with a decent lead ahead of half-time at 7-24, while Western Force began to make up lost time with three tries on the board in the 2nd half alone. However, the game has already handed over to the Tahs by that stage when they’re too good to pull off a comfortable win at HBF Park in Perth. The final score is 24-41.

NSW Waratahs looked outstanding; left, right, center, tonight; on all fronts. Their first-half spell was unbelievable when the Tahs rack up three tries on the board off the back of the Force’s poor start, such as; Mark Nawaquanitawase, Lalakai Foketi & Michael Hooper. And they continued to extend their winning margin alongside the double try brace from Alex Newsome after the half-time break, even though there were some mistakes with the ill-discipline and that blunder at one point from Dylan Pietsch on the left-wing. It’s nice to see the Tahs high & flying now in 5th on the ladder under new coach Darren Coleman; players such as Michael Hooper & Jed Holloway, who have returned from overseas, will play a key role in their playoff push & the development of the Tahs youngsters.

Western Force just still held on to their place within the Playoffs bubble in 8th; they need to start acting fast now if they want to stay there, especially with the New Zealand teams around the corner for the remaining six rounds this season beginning next weekend. There’s no problem with their defensive shape that helped the Force win a couple of penalties. Although, they can be patient when building some pressure with the ball going forward. However, they only dominated the 2nd half alone with three tries on top of one lone big score in the first 40. They need more support with the executions & cut the ill-discipline from the start if the Force wants to stay in this fight by winning games.

The Tahs will open the Super Round at 6 pm AEST with the Chiefs from Waikato in Hamilton, NZ, where all of the Round 10 games are held at AAMI Park in Melbourne next Friday. Meanwhile, the Force has an opportunity to strike back when they take on Moana Pasifika straight after this Tahs v Chiefs match-up at 8.30 pm AEST.

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You cannot fault Michael Hooper’s all-round contribution 100% down on the openside back row at No.7 with such a great read noticing the Force’s conversion struggles. He was there to cancel the opposition team’s opportunities with a couple of his Tahs support numbers defensively; before the ball came to them & Hooper played a brilliant role when helping out the attack, having scored one of the team’s tries in the 1st half. It’s great to see Michael Hooper back home at the right time under new coach Darren Coleman & new a crop of youngsters that helped the Tahs become a winning Super Rugby team again.

The next Tahs spotlight player after Michael Hooper is Alex Newsome, who started in the No.15 shirt at full-back. How good is that two-minute demonstration with the two tries he scored in the 2nd-half? He’s happy with the way the Tahs fired off when his team spotted a couple of Western Force’s weaknesses in the attack before they cashed in & did some damage in return. Not only he’s a brilliant finisher thanks to the number of turnovers & penalties won that made his life easier, but he’s also a decent contributor defensively when Newsome nailed down the Force’s lack of numbers at their end. It’s also another good reason Newsome helped the Tahs dominate possession with the ball, which means more try-scoring chances & demolishing the Force’s defense that played a huge role in their big-scoring win tonight.

And Reesjan Pasitoa’s move to Perth from Canberra proved to be the right place for him to develop at first five-eighth, despite the one rash decision he made with the yellow card in the 2nd-half. He worked with his No.9 of Ian Prior very well when launching the attack together for the Force; that way, Pasitoa calls his numbers by dictating the game & put the pressure back on the Tahs with the ball on hand. Although, the executions worked with three tries in the 2nd half alone in addition to the lone 1st half TRY from himself. However, a poor first 40 left them way out of reach when their chances of winning from out of nowhere were slim to none.

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It’s been a long time coming after 287 days, as Melbourne Rebels get to play at home in Round 2 of the Super Rugby Pacific v Western Force at AAMI Park. The first 20 minutes may be quiet for both teams, with the Force up ahead early in the first half, while Rebels just took the one three-point goal. But it’s the away team (Western Force) who found it too easy to nail down v Rebels by 25 points, 3-28.

The Force looked stronger than ever off the back of their 2021 season, even though they were so close to upsetting the Brumbies with the narrow loss last week in Canberra. They showed patience and teamwork for the majority tonight that led to a couple of successful big points, having dug deeper after the first 20 minutes of play when the Rebels lacked their attacking fire & possessed messy discipline. That’s how the Force took control of this game with Tim Anstee onboard with the first-half TRY. And they continued to increase their winning margin after half-time through Kyle Godwin via the penalty scrum feed, where the Force wrapped this up comfortably through another five-pointer touch score by sub utility back, Byron Ralston.

Meanwhile, the Rebels always know how to get the ball rolling defensively. They won a few penalties along the way including the three-point goal between the sticks from Matt Toomua at fly-half. However, they made plenty of ill-disciplinary mistakes, mainly full-back Reece Hodge, who received a double yellow card that turned into red. And the Rebels were also disorganized when trying to get the job done with the ball on hand despite the winning penalties, which is disappointing to reflect through a 25-point loss after full-time.

Rebels will now head off to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, QLD on Friday night v Fijian Drua where they both seek their first victories of 2022. And the Force will host their first home game this year at HBF Park in Perth, also on a Friday night local time v Queensland Reds, which is straight after the conclusion of Drua v Rebels match-up.

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