27 June 2011
Emirates Western Force begin planning for 2011/12 Super Rugby Season
While a number of familiar names won’t be back in the ocean blue of the Emirates Western Force in season 2012, Coach Richard Graham has been working hard to restock the squad with quality personnel.
Eight of the club’s primary list will not be part of the squad next season including backs David Smith and James O’Connor as well as forwards Matt Dunning, Tim Fairbrother and Tom Hockings.
“Recruiting happens 12 months of the year,” Graham said.
“We’re having discussion with a number of players at the moment and hopefully in due course we’ll make some announcements.”
Smith, the club’s marquee player in 2011, will head to France for two years and Graham said finding an outside back to replace the flying Samoan is high on his list of priorities.
“David Smith has been fantastic as a personality within the group, he’s very well respected and I think his ability has been evident in the last couple of games,” Graham said.
“Someone who can break the line with the same regularity that David can would be nice.”
Hurricanes winger and fullback Corey Jane has been touted as one such player although Graham is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“I think with Wellington’s news over the last few weeks that Ma’a Nonu, Corey Jane and all those players are leaving, everyone will be interested in them while they’re on the market,” Graham said.
“We will spend some time this week assessing those people and speaking to them if we think it’s appropriate.
“The rules are really simple in Australia, you can take one international player (from outside of the country). You must assess the best footballer available and then the balance in the rest of your recruitment will determine who you recruit as your marquee.”
One position that Graham is not overly concerned about is flyhalf, with James Stannard emerging as a more than capable five eight and Willie Ripia still on the books until the end of 2012.
Ripia was hampered by injury for the majority of the season and was hampered in his preparations and playing. Graham though is confident that given time to get to full fitness Ripia will develop in to a strong contributor for the club.
“Willie is a fantastic guy and he’s fitted in to the organization really well,” Graham said.
“Circumstances arose that restricted his ability to show exactly what he can offer us. We needed him on the field and he probably wasn’t quite where he needed to be fitness wise and that affected him.
“He has always worked hard and wanted to be part of the squad and it was a great reward that he was able to get onto the field last Friday against the Rebels and in his 25 minutes he showed the qualities that we brought him here for. I think given a good preseason he’ll be fantastic for us going forward.”
The Emirates Western Force have retained the services of skipper Nathan Sharpe and Wallabies loose forwards Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman as well as front rower Kieran Longbottom, Pek Cowan and Ben Whittaker. Emerging lock Sam Wykes and winger Nick Cummins have also committed to longer term deals in the west.
On the recruitment front Graham has already brought in Wallabies prop Salesi Ma’afu, young NSW 1st Grade loosehead Tetera Faulkner and Chiefs second row Toby Lynn.
Mark Bartholomeusz (Retired)
Matt Dunning (Biarritz, France)
Tim Fairbrother (Harlequins, UK)
Tom Hockings (Released)
Mitch Inman (Melbourne Rebels)
Jono Jenkins (Released)
James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels)
David Smith (Toulon)