How has the Western Force’s 2016 shaped up?
16th overall (5th Australian conference, 10th Australasian group) 2 wins, 13 losses, 5 bonus points, PD -181
What went right?
The Force have never lacked fight. Even in a poor year on the field, the Western Australian franchise have managed to grind teams down and compete with some of the best sides. If rugby was a 60-minute game, the Force might even have a few more wins to count this season. They had five players in the Wallabies squad, with Adam Coleman and Dane Haylett-Petty making their Test debuts in the England series.
What went wrong?
Just about everything in the end. There’s no hiding the difficulties the Force have had this season on and off the field. A two-win season and a new alliance with the ARU dominated the headlines and the club will continue to undergo structural change with a new head coach set to take over. Off the field, some of the franchise’s most high-profile players were caught up in a bizarre alcohol-related incident in Bloemfontein a fortnight ago, in pain that compounded an already difficult year.
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There is little contest with this one. Dane Haylett-Petty turned himself from a good Super Rugby player into a genuine Test stayer. The Force fullback matched up statistically with players like Israel Folau and finished the season with the most metres gained of any player in the competition (1283). Haylett-Petty could be the key to a possible Wallabies positional reshuffle, if Michael Cheika decides to move the Waratah into the midfield. Any Force success will come with Haylett-Petty at the back, that is for sure.
Who is going?
Kyle Godwin looms as the Force’s biggest loss ahead of the 2017 season. Interim coach Dave Wessels gave the first official indication that the skilful centre would be leaving Perth speaking in the post-match press conference after the team’s loss to the Brumbies on two weeks ago.
The Force might be losing some players but they’re gaining a handful as well. Ben Daley is moving from the Queensland Reds in what will be a handy boost for their forward pack as well as former Reds lock Ben Matwijow who will join the Force following his stint in the ITM Cup. Looking further afield, the Force have brought in Gloucester centre Bill Meakes for the next two seasons. Meakes has shown an abrasive edge in the Premiership and will be a useful addition to the WA side in the seasons to come. Once a coaching appointment is finalised, recruitment will likely be easier as well.
He hasn’t had the chance to play too much this season but Jono Lance always provides some entertainment in the social media stakes, once again showing some strong banter this season.