Perth franchise to become a force

Coach John Mitchell admits that incumbent Vodacom Super 14 wooden-spoonists, the Western Force have plenty to prove in 2007.

“We start off the season with the same opportunity as everyone else, but I do expect the player group to respond more quickly and for the senior players to take more ownership,” he said ahead of the pre-season training on Monday.

“So, much of the focus during the pre-season will be working on the basics and key skills for the new season. The pleasing thing is that, unlike our first year, we won’t have so many people having to adapt to a new environment and a new way of doing things.”

The whole squad will only get together as a complete group in early January once the Wallabies have returned and had an adequate rest. Amongst the team’s big names is new signing Matt Giteau, a multi-talented player who cost the West Australian union a cool A$4.5 million. Cameron Shepherd, Drew Mitchell, Scott Staniforth, Tai McIsaac and Nathan Sharpe are the other Wallabies that will provide the Perth-based team with international experience.

Other new recruits include league winger Ryan Cross, who spent nine years with the Sydney Roosters. After close on 150 games and 80 tries for the club, he has decided to follow players like Mat Rogers and Lote Tuqiri in changing codes.

“I played rugby at school before switching to rugby league with the Roosters, so it’s been a while since I played the game but I’m sure it won’t take me long to get back in the swing of things, here in Perth,” Cross said.

Mitchell is optimistic about the season, but realises that it will take time to build a winning culture.”Don’t expect our new recruits to be an instant success. They bring experience, but they will also take some time settling in and getting familiar with our systems.”