Force ready to clear lockdown hurdle
INTERVIEW: Western Force captain Ian Prior is convinced his team will put on a good show in their season opener against the Brumbies despite the disruption caused by Western Australia’s hard lockdown.
WA was thrust into a minimum five-day lockdown this past Sunday, with Perth-based sporting clubs unable to train as a team during that period.
It means Force players have been limited to exercising for a maximum of one hour per day outdoors with just one other person.
The disruption comes in the countdown to the Force’s Super Rugby AU season opener against the Brumbies in Perth on February 19.
The Force’s sole pre-season match – which was scheduled against the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend – might go ahead next Tuesday instead.
The Perth-based franchise was winless last season, and the betting markets have tipped them to struggle again this year despite an impressive recruiting campaign that has netted Irish legend Rob Kearney, Argentinean star Tomas Cubelli, and Wallabies duo Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson.
The Force are still hopeful of being able to host their round-one clash with the Brumbies in Perth.
But even if that falls through and the Force are thrust into hub life, Prior says they are ready to deal with it.
“We’re ready to go – wherever we have to play, we will play and we’ll put on a good show and make the people of WA proud of what we’re doing,” Prior said.
“We’ve identified as a playing group that there might be roadblocks or speed bumps that come up, and hub life is something we talked about.
“We’ll definitely be better for the experience from last year, being on the road there for 13 weeks.”
The Force announced on Wednesday that Prior would captain the side for the fourth straight year.
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Prior was part of the Force side that was axed from Super Rugby in 2017, and he took a leap of faith by returning to the club in 2018 after spending a brief period at English club Harlequins.
“It was a big call to come back into the unknown and jump on board the Western Force,” Prior said.
“With everything that happened in 2017 in regards with the Force, I kind of lost my passion a little bit by the end there.
“Watching some of your toughest teammates cry because of the situation was pretty rough.
“The thing that really drew me to come back was a bit of unfinished business with how it all ended up in 2017, and also the story and what it could be, and giving yourself to a higher purpose.”
Prior has been through so much with the club since returning from playing overseas in 2018 and believes the experiences in WA have benefitted him greatly.
“It’s been great to develop along with the team and the organisation. I’m lucky to have such a motivated group of players here,” he said.
“The story of the Force is unique after what we’ve been through in our short, but proud history. It’s very motivating as a player when you step into the building and work with some great people.
“Giving yourself to a higher purpose in terms of being able to help rebuild the club and doing it properly alongside Andrew and Nicola Forrest has been an absolute privilege.”