Back in September 2004, it was people power which helped win the day for the Western Force when thousands of WA rugby supporters rallied at Subiaco Oval to support Perth’s bid for inclusion in an expanded Super 14 competition. And in April 2017, it is people power again which can help save the Force from being axed by the ARU.
As we highlighted yesterday, the ARU had, by all indications, clearly hoped for a swift execution for the Force – announcing on Sunday that one Australian team would be cut and then giving the Force just 72 hours to participate in a sham consultation process clearly slanted in favour of the Rebels. That caught the Force on the hop and gave RugbyWA little time to argue its case, let alone mobilise any sort of a meaningful fight.
But in initiating Supreme Court proceedings, the Force has bought time. The 72 hour clock is no longer ticking.
That extra time has provided a window of opportunity for people power to again take centre stage. Just as it did for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who, after being threatened with eviction by the NRL went on to win the 2014 Grand Final. And just as it did across the ditch for the Tasman Makos, who have gone on to play in two ITM Cup grand finals and develop more Super Rugby players than just about any other province since the NZ Rugby Union tried unsuccessfully to get rid of them.
And just like that sunny afternoon at Subiaco Oval back in September 2004, it is now up to WA rugby supporters to rise up.
Like Matt Hodgson’s tearful and impassioned speech after the Kings victory on Sunday, RugbyWA president Hans Sauer’s interview with Alan Jones on Sydney radio station 2GB on Tuesday was absolute gold. Hans hit all the high notes in arguing the Force’s case. And it should never be underestimated how influential Alan Jones is in the eastern states. In fact Jones was so taken by Hans’s persuasive performance that he suggested the former Wesley College dad should be running the ARU. Who knows, there might soon be a vacancy….
Similarly, the article penned by Brett McKay on The Roar yesterday also hit the mark. The headline screamed: Sorry Melbourne. If The ARU is Genuine, The Force Must Stay. You gotta love that….
Maybe, just maybe, the tide might be turning here.
And at the end of the day, like anything to do with politics, it is just a numbers game.
RugbyWA’s Geoff Stooke is reported to be one of nine delegates on the ARU board. So back-of-the-beer-coaster maths suggests that if four of the other ARU delegates can be persuaded to cross the floor and back the Force, the ARU’s cloak-and-dagger plan to axe the Force might end up being all cloak and no dagger.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But we are at least in with a sniff. What can we all do to help? Maintain the rage for starters, in every possible way. Sign up for the Own the Force campaign. Do whatever it takes to let the ARU know that they backed the wrong horse in this fight. Get the ear of every media outlet prepared to entertain a balanced view.
The upcoming Easter long weekend means it is difficult to mobilise any sort of people power rally like that staged at Subiaco Oval in September 2004.
However, depending on how much extra time it has actually bought, the Supreme Court action taken by RugbyWA provides another possible avenue for WA rugby fans to send the strongest message possible to the ARU.
On Saturday week, the Force, coming off a bye, return to nib Stadium to take on a Chiefs team returning from a gruelling road trip to South Africa. Nothing would send a stronger message to rugby’s power brokers over east than an nib Stadium packed to the rafters with loyal Sea of Blue supporters screaming their support.
So, as we say down at Neddies – Be there. Be very loud. And be bloody proud. And GO THE FORCE!!!