The Pride of rugby in the west
The Western Force is the pride of rugby union in Western Australia.
As a professional entity, the Force has a short but proud history, having been formed in 2004 and making its Super 14 debut in 2006 against the Brumbies at Subiaco Oval.
The club has spawned several star Wallabies in Matt Hodgson, Nathan Sharpe, Matt Giteau, Cameron Shepherd, Ryan Cross, Drew Mitchell, David Pocock, James O’Connor, Scott Fava, Nick Cummins, Richard Brown, Tai McIsaac, and local products Kyle Godwin and Dane Haylett-Petty.
Despite its brief existence, this flagship team represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a rugby community whose roots date back more than a century to 1893 when Rugby WA, the governing body for rugby union in the state, was founded.
WA’s rugby community is built on passion, determination, and a never-say-die attitude that has provided inspiration in the toughest of times.
In 2020, the Western Force played in the Super Rugby AU tournament alongside the other four Australian clubs. Their participation heralds a deserved return to the highest level after they were controversially excluded from the wider Super Rugby competition, featuring teams from South Africa and New Zealand, at the end of the 2017 season.
Their removal was necessitated by a decision to reduce the number of participating teams from 18 to 15, with Rugby Australia (RA) ruling that the Force be cut despite the club having completed one of its most successful Super Rugby seasons ever, finishing second in the Australian conference.
Rising from the ashes
The 2017 decision did not signify the end of the Western Force. It was a new beginning.
Enter one of the team’s biggest and most ardent supporters, entrepreneur and proud Western Australian Dr Andrew Forrest AO.
Vowing to do everything in his power to keep the Force alive, Dr Forrest declared in 2017: “I want to be very clear to Rugby Australia, You try to cut the Western Force, you have to go through me first, and then all of our players, and then our supporters, and then all of the parents of young players and, indeed, every Western Australian.
“The Western Force has heart. It is punching way above its weight. It is producing a crop of Wallabies. It is growing its junior player base. It has the backing of its community.”
These powerful words captured the ethos of rugby in WA and made it abundantly clear that the Western Force would not lie down and continue to play.
The birth of global rapid rugby
Stranded on the Super Rugby periphery, the club reinvented itself, capturing the attention and imagination of the rugby world in the process. Just six months later in April 2018, with Dr Forrest’s personal and financial backing, the new World Series Rugby competition, featuring the Force in seven matches against international opposition, was born bring different rugby cultures to Perth from Fiji, Samoa and Japan.
Building in 2019 to the Asian Showcase Series and Pacific Showcase Series, the competition ensured that rugby’s heart in WA was firmly beating and planted the seeds for the creation of a brand-new professional rugby concept involving the Western Force and teams from the Asia-Pacific region.
The Global Rapid Rugby competition followed in 2020, bringing with it a host of exciting innovations designed to make the game faster, keeping the ball in play longer and create more entertainment for the fans. The competition was viewed by many as the biggest shake-up in rugby union in 23 years of professionalism.
Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic cut short Global Rapid Rugby’s inaugural season, it created a precious silver lining for the Western Force to make its return to Super Rugby competition.
The club has come full circle, from its successful bid to attain Super Rugby status in 2004, eleven seasons of competition from 2006 to 2017, and three years in the Super Rugby wilderness.
With decisions still to be made on the future of Super Rugby and Global Rapid Rugby in the wake of Covid-19, the next chapter in the Western Force saga is yet to be written.
Given the club’s history, the quality of its rugby pedigree, the passion of its fans, and the weight of its community, the Force will be ready and well-prepared to tackle whatever challenges and opportunities lie ahead.