'We are not giving up': Force promises to fight axing
RUGBY UNION: Disenchanted coach Dave Wessels has gone on the attack, saying "an IPL of rugby” would be boldly born out of the Australia Rugby Union's court win to shut the Western Force out of Super Rugby.
Pie-in-the-sky ideas are floated all the time in sport yet few have a billionaire backer, like mining tycoon Andrew Forrest, who ripped into the ARU with renewed venom when promising to launch a rebel Indo-Pacific rugby competition with possibly six teams.
Wessels imagined it as a version of cricket's Indian Premier League, a competition with well-paid hired stars and teams craving a shot at higher-level rugby.
Forrest said he had retained leading silk Allan Myers QC to find a fight plan when he reviewed Tuesday's decision in the NSW Supreme Court that the ARU was entitled to exclude the Force from a new 15-club format for Super Rugby next year.
While the gloves will stay on in that fight, with Forrest aiming to seek leave to appeal to the High Court, he has moved nimbly on another front to quickly fire up another competition for the Force to play in.
"We are not giving up remotely ... I've just begun to fight,” Forrest said.
Forrest is more advanced with his game-changing idea for the future of rugby than anyone might imagine.
"Out of great disappointment comes even greater opportunity ... this is the beginning of the new Force,” Forrest said.
He was speaking to a room of media, Force staff and most importantly a still-united Force playing group at Rugby WA headquarters, where the tears of captain Matt Hodgson spoke for the emotion within every player present.
"Believe me, the Indo-Pacific region is strong and deeply powerful with broadcasters, (has) a huge population and fans for rugby, and I assure you it (a new competition) will start strongly,” Forrest said.
Forrest has been talking to eager ears like those in Singapore, where rugby has a grand state-of-the-art stadium, no team yet big bucks of its own to ignite an Asia Pacific Dragons outfit on more than a part-time basis.
Hodgson was appalled again that he received no phone call from the ARU over the court decision and said it was lip service to player welfare in an ugly stoush that has stretched beyond 140 days since the call was first made to cut a team.
"You see what the Force means to people for 12 years and it is taken away by a little letter of the law,” Hodgson said.
Tears filled his eyes but the Force stalwart delivered a powerful stance.
He expected a protest would flow over to Saturday night's Test between the Wallabies and Springboks at Perth's nib Stadium.
"I wouldn't be surprised if some fans didn't show up at all and others wore (Force) blue ... or black for a day of mourning,” Hodgson said.
Pacific islands nations like Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, plus cashed-up Hong Kong interests, shape as a potential market for new teams in a new competition.
"Andrew has exciting ideas. Players will individually decide what is best for them but I see an IPL of rugby,” Wessels said.
"Andrew has the intellect and the backing to pull it off.”
Forrest called again for ARU chairman Cameron Clyne to resign over the handling of the Super Rugby cull saga.