The performance from the Emirates Western Force at the weekend will no doubt be given some positive spin to show that the side had spirit to fight back against the Melbourne Rebels after being 26-15 down at half time, but questions have to start being asked.
Richard Graham was dispensed of to all intents and purposes by the playing group after he announced that he would be leaving at the end of the season. A decision that gave a very clear sign as to who was running the club, as the CEO and board had to reverse an announcement that he would be coaching until the end of the season.
When he announced he would be leaving Graham stated he was looking forward to going back to a state with a rugby culture, Queensland, and that was probably the key comment that he made and yet it has been brushed over by many.
It would appear the lack of leadership off the field is costing the team dearly on it.
The team have not won a game since Graham was stood down. In fact they have not looked like winning a game since then. Many may say they lost by one point yesterday which was unlucky, having fought their way back and actually taken the lead with three minutes remaining, but in truth the Rebels were the better side and always looked more threatening.
Post game the Emirates Western Force Skills & Defence Coach Phil Blake said “It was a game of two halves as they say. We certainly didn’t get off to the start that we wanted to and that put us on the back foot.” Yet the start was predictable by simply watching the intensity and the commitment of the two teams warm up. That again comes down to leadership, Coaches, Captains and senior players.
We could also question the selection, leaving Alfie Mafi on the bench seemed bizarre and when he came on as a substitute late in the first half it was he who sparked the Force’s revival. However selections can always be questioned and often hide the real issues.
The Force have done well to attract big name players to Western Australia, but their recruitment has not changed the form on the paddock.
If they are to become a Force – and you will hopefully excuse the pun – the new coach needs to create a whole new culture at the club. He also needs to somehow have that culture permeate throughout the whole club, not just in the dressing rooms. It will be a tough task but given the power to do so there are several people who can do it.
Unless there is a cultural change the Emirates Western Force will continue to chase games and finals berths, rather than leading the way in games and on the ladder.