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'Put some money on': Western Force coach reacts to team's low odds

By AAP
Coach Simon Cron of the Force looks on ahead of the round four Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Western Force at Invercargill Rugby Park, on March 19, 2023, in Invercargill, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Western Force coach Simon Cron has declared finals as the bare-minimum benchmark for his team this season, and he isn’t worried about them being written off as a $101 underdog.

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Internal belief within the Force is sky high following a promising recruitment spree over the off-season and the continued development of key players from last year.

Wallabies duo Nic White and Ben Donaldson are set to form a formidable 9-10 combination, while winger Harry Potter, back-rower Will Harris and former All Blacks prop Atu Moli are among the other new recruits.

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The imminent return of Wallabies lock Izack Rodda, who missed most of last season with a foot injury, is also a huge boost.

But despite the squad refreshment, external expectations of the Force are near rock bottom.

The Perth-based franchise are rated a $101 chance to win the Super Rugby Pacific title in multiple betting markets, above only last season’s rock-bottom finishers Moana Pasifika.

“Good bet. Put some money on,” Cron, who has a happy knack of guiding underdogs to victory, quipped.

In 2016, the coach helped Northern Suburbs end a 41-year title drought in the NSW Shute Shield competition.

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“I coached a team (Northern Suburbs) a number of years ago that were 101-to-one and then won after a couple of years,” he said.

“(The critics) only know what they know.

“For us, the pressure’s internal. The pressure within our team is a lot greater than the pressure outside of it – (despite) betting odds, or whatever else people think.”

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Rodda was initially named for Friday night’s season-opener against the Hurricanes in Perth, but is almost certain to miss after injuring his quad at training on Wednesday.

He joins Reesjan Pasitoa (elbow, 10-12 weeks), Siosifa Amone (thumb, 6-8 weeks), Felix Kalapu (hamstring, seven weeks), Harry Hoopert (knee, 3-4 months) and Angus Wagner (knee, seven weeks) on a growing injury list.

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But the starting XV named to take on the Hurricanes will still feature plenty of talent and experience – and Cron is aiming high.

The Force narrowly missed out on a finals berth last year after compiling a 5-9 record.

Missing the finals again will not be accepted.

“Bare minimum,” Cron said, when asked if reaching the finals was the Force’s target this season.

“Like for us, it’s not about ladder, not about placings.

“It’s about every game, going into it with the mentality that we’ve got to go out there and win it with a performance that we’re proud of.”

Cron is now in his second year as Force coach, and his profile has grown over the past 12 months – albeit only slightly.

The 48-year-old now has a Wikipedia page for the first time in his coaching career – not that he’s a huge fan.

“I’d like it deleted,” he said with a laugh.

“The last thing they need to know about is me. Write one on a couple of the boys in the team, they’re more exciting than I am.”

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