Western Force bucking Super Rugby trend on return
BUCKING the trend of their financially crippled rivals, the Western Force are preparing to open up the purse strings for their overdue return to Super Rugby.
The Force have still not forgiven Rugby Australia's bumbling administrators for booting them out of the competition in 2017 but have agreed to temporarily bury the hatchet and join the four existing franchises in a proposed domestic competition.
Team owner Andrew Forrest said it's the right thing to do to help the game get through the current crisis, but that's where the charity stops.
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Not only have the Force refused to commit to anything beyond this season, but the Perth franchise is planning to rub salt in the eyes of their cash-strapped opponents by going on a shopping spree.
While the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies and Rebels are cutting staff and slashing player salaries, the Western Force are secretly preparing to beef-up their existing squad so they can make an immediate impact on the field.
"The nucleus of our squad is already very strong but obviously we're going to be looking at the player market at the moment because there's a lot of options out there," Western Force club legend Matt Hodgson told The Sunday Telegraph.
"We're not going to add because we need to boost the squad, it's more about increasing our squad size going into this 10 week intense competition.
"There will be some (announcements) hopefully in the next couple of weeks that should excite the Australian public."
The Force are keeping their targets secret for now because Rugby Australia still hasn't reached a broadcast agreement with Fox Sports for the 12-week competition, to be run from July 3 to September 19.
If and when that happens, the Force will be asking new players to put pen to paper, because the one thing they have made clear is they still have an axe to grind after getting the chop so are not just there to make up the numbers.
"Obviously you can't forget the past and that still resonates in a lot of our fan base and a lot of the players who are still from that situation," said Hodgson, the Force's most capped player now working as head of rugby.
"The majority of our group have been together for three years now and they're ready to take the game to the next level and perform on that stage.
"They're excited to showcase the different style of play we've developed over the three years at Global Rapid Rugby so the players are ready to go and ready to unleash themselves."
While the last few years have been miserable for Australian rugby, the Force have been on a hit streak, winning regularly, albeit playing in weaker competitions than Super Rugby.
Even so, in 2019, the Force won both the National Rugby Championship and the Global Rapid Rugby titles and think they could have an advantage over their Super Rugby opponents because of the adversity they have dealt with and the attacking game style that the tweaked rules of their competition encourage.
"Just because it's a different competition, we don't want to change the style of rugby we've developed," Hodgson said.
"We want to put our mark on the competition with the style of football we're going to do, which we hope we turn rugby on its head a little bit."