The 55-6 scoreline appeared damning for the endangered Western Force when the Highlanders ran rampant at NIB Stadium.
Despite the outcome of the game being predictable from the beginning, the sea of blue was out in force to watch a high-class rugby side. We clapped and cheered as Marty Banks put the admittedly woeful Force to the sword.
It was the appreciation of rugby that impressed me. In a Super Rugby season where no Australian teams beat a New Zealand team, it was an appreciation which demonstrated the special something that lives inside of Western Australia. The innate love for rugby that is the only way Australian rugby can progress.
Yes, it’s great when the Force wins. That happened six times this season, the highest return since 2014. The huge victory against the hapless Waratahs was played out in front of 10,000 fans. This showed not only the ability of the Force but the strength of the rugby community in WA. That victory, in club legend Matt Hodgson’s last game, propelled the Force into second place in the Australian conference. The win also meant the Force finished on the same number of wins as conference winner the Brumbies.
I expect the Force to be cut from Super Rugby. Losing the arbitration case is not the final nail in the coffin due to Andrew Forrest’s millions. But, the sale of the Melbourne Rebels to the Victorian Rugby Union most likely condemned the Force to their fate. In a state where AFL and NRL are growing and grounds are selling out, the Melbourne Rebels are not needed. There’s a reason crowds have been meagre for them. Sadly, their inability to play rugby at the high standard of Super Rugby is not the only one.
Due to the geographical location of the Force, the pathway for more young players like Wallaby Richie Hardwick and breakout winger Alex Newsome will simply not be there.
Western Australia has produced many key players for the Wallabies over the years. Original franchise captain Nathan Sharpe and current locking star Adam Coleman read for a formidable second row. The promising James O’Connor was for a time one of the most sought-after players on the planet. And then there is the incomparable David Pocock who may go down as the greatest ever openside to play for Australia. Big statement, but he is there or thereabouts.
While All Black fans may not wish for the day that the Wallabies take back the Bledisloe, it is imperative for world rugby that the Wallabies are strong. I just cannot see how this can be the case if approximately half of Australia is cut out from rugby programmes.
The 31-22 victory for the Force against the Rebels was symbolic. Symbolic not only of the performance issues of the Rebels but also the outstanding young talent Western Australia is producing, with Richie Hardwick and Adam Coleman starring.
Keeping the Melbourne Rebels to maintain the four East Coast teams is the easy way out for the ARU, but it is the illogical decision.
Author: David Lind
David lives in Perth, Australia, but is a born and bred Kiwi. He spends his time between studies and running the drinks for his cricket club. His articles on the 1014 allow him to let out his rugby feelings online rather than at his mates.