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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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Nickers 6 hours ago
All Blacks sabbaticals ‘damage Super Rugby Pacific when it is fighting for survival’

Sabbaticals have helped keep NZ’s very best talent in the country on long term deals - this fact has been left out of this article. Much like the articles calling to allow overseas players to be selected, yet can only name one player currently not signed to NZR who would be selected for the ABs. And in the entire history of NZ players leaving to play overseas, literally only 4 or 5 have left in their prime as current ABs. (Piatau, Evans, Hayman, Mo’unga,?) Yes Carter got an injury while playing in France 16 years ago, but he also got a tournament ending injury at the 2011 World Cup while taking mid-week practice kicks at goal. Maybe Jordie gets a season-ending injury while playing in Ireland, maybe he gets one next week against the Brumbies. NZR have many shortcomings, but keeping the very best players in the country and/or available for ABs selection is not one of them. Likewise for workload management - players missing 2 games out of 14 is hardly a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Again let’s use some facts - did it stop the Crusaders winning SR so many times consecutively when during any given week they would be missing 2 of their best players? The whole idea of the sabbatical is to reward your best players who are willing to sign very long term deals with some time to do whatever they want. They are not handed out willy-nilly, and at nowhere near the levels that would somehow devalue Super Rugby. In this particular example JB is locked in with NZR for what will probably (hopefully) be the best years of his career, hard to imagine him not sticking around for a couple more after for a Lions tour and one more world cup. He has the potential to become the most capped AB of all time. A much better outcome than him leaving NZ for a minimum of 3 years at the age of 27, unlikely to ever play for the ABs again, which would be the likely alternative.

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