Super Rugby Preview
Force unlikely to advance much further - Growden
Greg Growden and Brittany Mitchell
February 13, 2014
Can Western Force finally defy expectations for more than a game at a time? ©
Force's Super Rugby 2014 Squad
Western Force remain a side struggling to make their mark on the competition, but still they came away from 2013 with several surprise victories, including a win over the Crusaders. They have to continue working hard to make their way up the ladder. Greg Growden says Kyle Godwin is destined to be a Wallabies player this year, but the Force are still unlikely to advance from their customary position near the bottom of the ladder.
Last Season: thirteenth overall, fifth in Australian Conference; the Force gave their fans something to cheer with wins over the Crusaders, Queensland Reds and Brumbies, but their tally of four wins in a season, scoring 267 points while conceding 366, saw them remain rooted at the bottom of the Australian conference.
Greg Growden said of the Force in 2013: "Michael Foley didn't have a great deal to work with, and you must credit Western Force for their spirit all season and eagerness to keep trying to the end. Foley made a blunder in resting players for the Lions tour match, a decision that didn't help in healing relationships with some non-believers at the province. But there were some inspired moments. Read more ...
Russell Barwick and Greg Growden look at the Australian Super Rugby conference
Key Man: Ben McCalman was a strong player in 2013, starting 11 matches and leading from the front to score two tries and claim Man of the Match honours in wins over the Highlanders and the Brumbies. With 51 Super Rugby caps to his name, he is a core member of the back-row with the ability to play anywhere across the back five; one of few experienced players to remain with the Force.
Key Stat: The Force had the worst attack in the competition in 2013, scoring just 26 tries and 267 points; Sias Ebersohn is a prodigious source of kick metres, and Kyle Godwin crept into the competition's top 20 players for run metres, but the team as a collective ranked below par in both categories to illustrate clearly their lack of offensive strike.
Rising Star: Kyle Godwin is one of the bright young things of Australian rugby, the Zimbabwe-born playmaker making the No.12 jumper his own in claiming the inaugural Nathan Sharpe Medal, Rising Star Award and Members' MVP. He played fly-half for Australia at Under-20 level, so may yet move in one spot to provide a little more adventure, and we expect him finally to claim the Wallabies jumper he surely would have won had injury not denied him a berth on the end-of-year tour.
Season Preview: The Force have gained seven new faces for 2014 to join experienced players Ben McCalman, Nick Cummins, Matt Hodgson, Hugh McMeniman and Chris Alcock after yet another disappointing season, but none apart from rugged South African Wilhem Steenkamp to inspire thoughts of radical improvement. The Force can match the best team on their best days - witness wins over the Crusaders, Brumbies and Reds last season, and close away defeats by the Chiefs and the Bulls - but they are yet to produce that form week in week out through a season, and it would seem only foolish to predict success this season with them struggling to retain key players and James O'Connor choosing to head overseas.
Greg Growden's verdict: Michael Foley has gone all South African, luring countless players and coaches from the Republic to provide assistance. And Foley needs all the help he can get because he really hasn't that much to work with. The Force are one of the more enthusiastic teams, and they can never be criticised for lack of heart, but they are short in numbers, especially out wide, and they will again be threadbare if they lose players. Their main problem is finding a consistent No 10, and that is where Kyle Godwin may be the man to step up this season, to help provide some direction to an often-wonky attacking contingent. While the Force forwards have been able to match it with better known opponents, the backline has for years not been up to standard. Godwin is destined to be a Wallabies player this year, especially if the Force's most pugnacious player - former All Blacks halfback Alby Mathewson - helps him along. But it is still unlikely the Force will advance from their customary position near the bottom of the ladder.
Tip: Last in Australian Conference Finish: Fourteenth.
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