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Force a Fighting Chance Against Rebels
By: Kirstyn MCMULLAN

Published: 11/05/2012

Emirates Western Force will soon return from a two game tour in South Africa to face closest rivals, the Melbourne Rebels, next Sunday, May 20.

Western Force fans are hoping the combination Napolioni Nalaga, returning from injury, and new coach panel will push the team to not repeat their one point loss against the Rebels earlier in the season.

The team has had an unfortunate season with high injury rates, in team scandal and coach problems resulting in only two wins for the season, so far putting them at the bottom of the ladder.

Pre-season preparation was thrown off course when Willie Ripia, who was planned be a key player in the season, was found to be stealing from his team mates and left the team.

“Willie Ripia was a great fly half and that is exactly what the club needed. He had the ability to control the game and lead the team around the pitch. Since then we have used three different inexperienced fly halfs who have done well under the circumstances, but not good enough for the Force to be dominate,” critical Western Force supporter Jason Vassily said.

Late last month, the Western Force team was again disrupted when the RugbyWA board stood down head coach Richard Graham, after discussing his plans to move to rival franchise Queensland next year. The decision was seen as giving the Western Force the best chance for the second half of the season, with a coaching panel of Nick Stiles, Phil Blake and Andrew Scotney taking over until a new coach is found.

“The coach announced he was leaving at the end of the season, so the players and board decided they didn't want him for the rest of the year. Announcing he was leaving and continuing to coach would have affected the teams on-field performance,” Mr Vassily said.

Western Force supporters say the team still needs development and a balance of acquiring new players and not losing existing strong players.

“They need some quality backs. The forward pack is strong. I think that they need to buy two really good established backs. This will also attract good youth to move from Queensland and New South Wales. As we are not a rugby state, there isn't much local talent that can perform at this level. The Force finds it really difficult to attract players to make the move west. And when they do, it’s for huge sums of money, and they only stay for two years before they go back home. To address this, they need to create a really strong culture where players want to play here,” a Western Force supporter said.

With only five games left of the season, the Force will have to concentrate on individual games and player developments. Regardless, The Western Force supporters are sticking with the team through thick and thin.

“I don't see them improving this year. It’s going to be another development year. We don't have the quality of backs, especially the fly half, and without a proper coach the Force are just trying to hang in there until next season,” Mr Vassily said.

The Western Force will play the Melbourne Rebels at 2.35 pm Sunday 20 May at the nib stadium, Perth.