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Thread: Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan backs Western Force in Super Rugby return

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    Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan backs Western Force in Super Rugby return

    Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan backs Western Force in Super Rugby return
    Nick Taylor The West Australian


    Western Force are back in Super Rugby — and new Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan intends to keep it that way.

    McLennan invited the Force into the revamped Australian competition where they kick off their campaign today against the Waratahs at the SCG — almost three years since they humiliated the ’Tahs 40-11 in their last Super game.

    The Force resurrection is the feel-good sports story of the year and McLennan wants to co-author the final chapter, keeping the club in the top flight of Australian rugby.

    Whatever that looks like is still undecided as talks continue with the broadcasters.

    It is likely to be a new trans-Tasman tournament but there is intense speculation on how many Australian teams will be included.

    Reports suggest New Zealand could push for three or even two Australian sides or go it alone. Anything less than five would be unacceptable to McLennan but much depends on what broadcasters want.

    However, it is understood that whatever happens, there is little danger of another exile for the Force, the best bankrolled, financially sound club in Australia, thanks to billionaire owner Andrew Forrest. Bringing the Force back into the RA fold is the ultimate irony.

    It is a complete about-face to McLennan’s predecessor Cameron Clyne who oversaw the brutal axing of the club three years ago. Rob Clarke, one of the architects of the guillotining, is RA’s stand-in chief executive.

    They booted the Force, turned down a $70 million offer from Forrest to keep the club alive, saved Melbourne Rebels and then could only watch from afar as the angry mining magnate went it alone.

    He poured millions of dollars into the Force and Global Rapid Rugby. As RA fell deeper into financial crisis, Forrest’s Asia Pacific competition gathered momentum.

    When McLennan took the RA helm two months ago, one of his first calls was to Forrest who had an icy relationship with the governing body since the cull.

    “The waters are very choppy for the game at the moment but I’m starting to see a pathway forward,” he said.

    That pathway includes the Force. “It’s so good to have the Western Force back in the competition. I’m thrilled,” McLennan said.

    “I envisage they will be in for the long term and as we build a national competition it’s really important that we have Western Australia as part of that.

    “We need to field five teams if we are going to build the game.

    “The broadcasters want more teams. If you deliver national coverage you’ll move it away from being a niche sport.

    “If I had my way it would be a trans-Tasman competition with a Pacific island team and possibly over time a Japanese team.”

    The Forrest-RA relationship is warming, with McLennan quick to praise Forrest and his wife Nicola for their commitment to rugby.

    “Both have been superb with their commitment, but even more so Andrew has been supportive of me coming in and I’m eternally grateful for that,” he said.

    McLennan sees a need to invest in grassroots club rugby with pathways right through to the Wallabies, and to build depth in coaching talent.

    The Forrests recently pledged $5 million to WA grassroots rugby on top of the $2 million already donated.

    “The investment in grassroots rugby from Andrew and Nicola is greatly appreciated and is money where we need it most,” McLennan said.

    “The management of the game has been slightly out of kilter in my opinion. We have to open up the pipeline for players to come through the system.”

    McLennan’s ideas also include the radical plan of allowing, Big Bash-style, two overseas marquee signings for Super Rugby sides.

    He is also working on bringing at least one of the planned four Bledisloe Cup matches to Perth this year.

    While happy that RA has a new leader, Forrest issued a word of caution.

    “We wouldn’t talk to them about joining their competition until they had a decent chair. I think they’ve got a decent chair and they are worthwhile talking to,” Forrest said.

    “Hamish McLennan seems to be looking at what is in the best interests of the game. Now we’ve got hope. Rugby Australia approached us to come and play in their competition, had to come back and say ‘we really need you in the game’.

    “We said only if we see real light at the end of the tunnel … that you are going to get rid of this bulldust interstate bickering, you are going to act in the best interests of the game, you are going to bring in new rules which make it fun to watch, more fun to play, high scoring, fast moving.

    “If they veer away from that vision we will go international (GRR) without Australia but I believe Hamish McLennan is cemented to that vision.

    “I’ve always been in favour of a national administration which acts in the interests of the game, puts all the competition on the field and not between the states.

    “We are nowhere near that yet. You’ll have Queens-land and NSW all arguing crazy against each other. While they do that they will be pulling down the game.

    “While those administrations compete against each other they are putting their players last, themselves first. We’ve got to stop that. We’ve got to nail that and keep the competition on the field. Hamish is going to handle all these crocodiles in the creek.”

    If the Rebels had been chopped they would have sunk without a trace but the tenacity of WA’s rugby community — not to mention Forrest’s millions — played a huge role in keeping the Force alive.

    The game in WA was threatened with extinction as RA chased $4 million costs from the failed legal action launched by RugbyWA to save the Force.

    It tipped RugbyWA into voluntary administration but by the end of 2017 they had leased back the Force name and intellectual property for $1 as part of the deal that took it out of voluntary administration.

    RA had bought the Force IP and licence for $800,000 in 2016 in the alliance agreement that effectively allowed it to axe the club.

    McLennan praised the way RugbyWA had fought the battle.

    “I’d like to thank (RugbyWA chairman) John Edwards. He had to bear the brunt,” McLennan said.

    “He has been a superb ambassador for the game through difficult times. People like him kept the game alive.”

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    Oh The irony!! It’s so good to see all these stories about the Force!! So glad we are still around and even more grateful If possible we had AF to keep us that way!!

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    2016

    From an Australian Rugby point of view, it's not only essential that we continue to support RugbyWA and the Western Force but to ensure the game remains strong at the community level in Western Australia and that the Super Rugby team is given the best opportunity to succeed" - Bill Pulver

    2017

    RugbyWA may be forced into voluntary administration as the Australian Rugby Union pursues it for costs over the two failed legal attempts to save the Western Force.

    2020

    “It’s so good to have the Western Force back in the competition. I’m thrilled. I envisage they will be in for the long term and as we build a national competition it’s really important that we have Western Australia as part of that." - Hamish McLennan.

    Forgive me if I don't start ecstatically jumping for joy just yet.

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    Legend Contributor Alison's Avatar
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    No-one mentions Raelene Castle’s role in helping RugbyWA back on its feet. She worked hard to right the ship over here - just had zero support from her Board and Chairman and was therefore prevented from doing much. Raelene should be respected for what she did manage to do for RugbyWA.

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    Legend Contributor Alison's Avatar
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    I’m with you, Shasta! McLennan has to get NSW and Vic to eat shit before anything will really change.

    And if he keeps Clarke on as CEO, all bets are off!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alison View Post
    I’m with you, Shasta! McLennan has to get NSW and Vic to eat shit before anything will really change.

    And if he keeps Clarke on as CEO, all bets are off!
    The sting is in the tail of this story
    While happy that RA has a new leader, Forrest issued a word of caution.

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    McLennan: “We need to field five teams if we are going to build the game."
    He must be the only rugby administrator on the East Coast saying this.

    Sadly I think that what he's really saying is "we want the Forrest's $$s and unfortunately the Western Force comes with it."

    Andrew and Nicola please don't be distracted by this smoke screen - they don't give a RA about the West!

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    Legend Contributor Alison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by andrewg View Post
    McLennan: “We need to field five teams if we are going to build the game."
    He must be the only rugby administrator on the East Coast saying this.

    Sadly I think that what he's really saying is "we want the Forrest's $$s and unfortunately the Western Force comes with it."

    Andrew and Nicola please don't be distracted by this smoke screen - they don't give a RA about the West!
    Absolutely right!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by andrewg View Post
    McLennan: “We need to field five teams if we are going to build the game." He must be the only rugby administrator on the East Coast saying this. Sadly I think that what he's really saying is "we want the Forrest's $$s and unfortunately the Western Force comes with it." Andrew and Nicola please don't be distracted by this smoke screen - they don't give a RA about the West!
    Bingo Also note, force in any super rugby expansion will most likely include the dismantling of GRR and definitely won't bring any guarantees of continued participation or being treated as anything other than a development team to provide players for the tahs and Rebels. Thanks very much, but no thanks

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    C'mon the

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