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    Giteau key to Force's rising fortunes

    Giteau key to Force's rising fortunes

    By RICHARD KNOWLER - The Press | Thursday, 5 April 2007

    In Australia, they call Matt Giteau "Kid Dynamite". (No really, we don't )

    Now he lives in mineral-rich Western Australia, where explosives are used to mine precious raw materials from the ground, it would seem apt if Giteau earned his nickname after joining the Western Force.
    That, however, is not the case.

    He got the moniker long before he moved to Perth, having earned his professional rugby stripes with the Brumbies and the Wallabies as an inside back with vision, a neat sidestep and accurate goal kicking.

    Last year, Matt, the son of former Canberra Raiders rugby league captain Ron Giteau, shot to prominence when he signed a dynamite three-year deal with the Force for a reported $1.5 million a season.

    Jaws dropped on both sides of the Tasman. Fingers whirred across calculator buttons and more than a few players would have looked west with their mouths half-open.

    To woo Giteau from Canberra to Perth, the deal needed to be stitched together by third-party sponsorship and, in a wealthy city like Perth which is full of corporates brought up with the 15-man code, it was not a problem.

    Big money to star players results in massive expectations, but Giteau's response to being asked if the salary heaped pressure on his shoulders, was to brush it off.
    "I don't know. I haven't even heard about that, so it's news to me," he said confidently about his big wage packet.

    Giteau, who is again expected to play second five-eighths when the Force meet the Crusaders at Jade Stadium on Saturday night, does not cut a physically imposing figure.

    After the Force performed so poorly last year, there were doubts he could shine in a backline without his experienced old team-mates George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Stirling Mortlock, but it has not been an issue. "I've had to take on more responsibility and that was something I looked at when I decided to come to the Force," he said. "I'm a little bit older now, a bit more experienced and I have to take more responsibility."

    There is no doubt Giteau, who has played 41 tests since his international debut in 2002, will be in the Wallabies squad when it travels to the World Cup this year, but just which position he fills is unclear.

    Wallabies coach John Connolly would like to see more of him at halfback but Force coach John Mitchell has used him only at first and second five-eighths.
    Gregan's detractors have said he should be axed from the Wallabies and stated Giteau's unpredictability at halfback offers more in attack.

    Giteau, himself, does not seem so sure about moving out of the No. 10 or 12 jerseys. "I'm enjoying it at first-five here at the Force and I also enjoy inside centre ... Obviously John Connolly likes the idea of playing me at halfback, so it's not really something to worry about here. I'm just worrying about playing the best I can for the Force."

    The 24-year-old was not the only player to join the Force this season.
    Former Roosters rugby league back Ryan Cross has paired up with Giteau and fullback Drew Mitchell was lured away from the Reds.

    Having finished last in 2006, the Force have overcome their injury concerns to be the best performing Australian team in the competition.

    Being tucked away from the eastern state teams and their media may also have helped relieve pressure.
    "We don't so much have a point to prove," Giteau said. "We are just playing the best rugby we can each week. That's all we can do."

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