Chairman says Western Force was ‘set up to fail’ amid reports of axing

Curtis Rona in action for the Western Force. Photo: Getty
Curtis Rona in action for the Western Force. Photo: Getty

Western Force chairman Tony Howarth says the club’s efforts to succeed have been undermined by Australian rugby powers.

But he dismissed reports the Perth-based franchise is on the Super Rugby chopping block as speculation.

Howarth has criticised the Force’s treatment, likening it to that of the cross-code rivals the West Coast Eagles, which were perceivably less favoured than Victorian teams by the AFL in its early years.

“When the Force was set up, in some ways, it was set up a bit to fail,” he told Perth radio station 6PR.

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“The AFL at the time (of West Coast’s introduction) were quite happy to see a team in Western Australia, but the last thing they wanted it to do was to beat an Victorian team,” Howarth said.

“We’ve had the same thing in Super Rugby, even to the extent where the ability for us to get talent here in the west is severely challenged. We’ve been addressing that in growing our own.”

News Corp Australia reports the Force will be cut from the current 18-team Super Rugby format as SANZAAR seeks to reduce the bloated competition to 15 teams.

Howarth gave an impassioned plea for the Force to be spared the axe.

“I suppose I struggle a little bit to see how a good strategy for the game is to shrink it. Nevertheless, that’s what the ARU has to look at,” he said.

“That’s one thing we say to the Australia Rugby Union, ‘if you want to make it a national sport, look at what the west is doing. We’re actually growing Super Rugby players and we’re growing Wallabies’.

“On any measure, when Australian Rugby union looks at Western Australia, they’ve got to say that the support’s live and healthy over here.”

Since governing body SANZAAR met in London two weeks ago to discuss its preferred Super Rugby format, there’s been intense speculation about which Australia clubs are in the firing line.

The Force, Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels are considered vulnerable.

SANZAAR will only proceed with the planned competition changes if South Africa agrees to cut two of their six teams, according to News Corp.

They’re due to make a decision by April 6, with the Southern Kings looking vulnerable along with either the Cheetahs or Lions.

The Force launched a new franchise ownership campaign last week with interested parties asked to buy shares in the club.

– AAP