5th January 2011

JAMES Stannard has discovered just how much the Western Force rugby union club has changed since returning to the side he left at the end of the 2008 Super 14 season. “It is a better environment than the last time I was here,” the Commonwealth Games seven-a-side silver medallist and former Ipswich schoolboy said.

“There is a different vibe. It is a much younger group than last time I was here and everyone gets along.”

A number of the more senior players have left the club, meaning the 27-year-old is now one of the elder sStatesmen.

He will compete with former Wallaby Brett Sheehan and 20-year-old Justin Turner for the halfback spot.

“I'm still learning as well,” Stannard said.

“I'll try and take a leadership role, motivating the boys I guess.”

Anyone who saw him play in the Commonwealth Games will be left in no doubt about his leadership qualities, as he expertly marshalled the Australian players and almost got them home in the gold medal match against New Zealand.

Stannard is impressed with the Western Forces' new rookie coach Richard Graham.

“It is the little things he does,” Stannard said.

“When he shows up to training he says hello in the morning and bye at the end.

“He makes you feel wanted.”

Graham has told his players that starting spots for the opening Super 15 round would depend on trial form, which has encouraged Stannard.

The first game is against The Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

“It would be nice to be starting in the first game, but my goals at the moment are just to be injury free at the trials and just to play well,” Stannard said.