Former NZ rugby administrator Tony Lewis has been handed the job of turning the Western Force into a trans-Tasman powerhouse after being named as the franchise’s new chief executive.
The Force have been on the lookout for a new chief executive since Mark Evans announced his retirement late last year.
Evans, who will continue in the role until February 1, said COVID-19 travel restrictions combined with having family in the UK made it impossible for him to carry out the role long term.
Lewis played for the Western Suburbs club (now Wests Scarborough) while living in Perth in the late 1980s and represented the State in 1987 before making a successful transition into sporting administration.
He has been the chief executive of the Tasman Rugby Union for seven years, during which time the Tasman Mako has emerged as New Zealand’s champion provincial team and become a production line for Super Rugby and international players.
The Mako won back-to-back New Zealand provincial titles in 2019 and 2020 and have appeared in a total of five grand finals.
Before his role as Tasman chief executive, Lewis was general manager at Sydney’s Randwick Rugby Club, and a high performance cricket manager at the NSW Blues.
Billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest saved the Force from extinction when the Perth-based franchise was controversially axed from Super Rugby ranks by Rugby Australia in 2017.
Forrest had big plans to launch a breakaway tournament that was first dubbed World Series Rugby and later morphed into Global Rapid Rugby.
The COVID-19 crisis brought Global Rapid Rugby to a halt after just one round of its debut season in 2020, but the pandemic opened the door for the Force to be included in an Australian-only version of Super Rugby last year.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 4, 2021
Cash-stricken Rugby Australia have since thrown their full support behind the Force, who have been invited back into Super Rugby AU in 2021 and will also compete in the new trans-Tasman competition.
“Tony’s appointment is another key building block for the Force and underlines my drive for Western Australia to have the best Academy system across all of Australian sport, through which we can develop, recruit and retain the best young players, just as the Mako have done so successfully in New Zealand,” Forrest said.
“This program will not only strengthen local club and school rugby, but also help support the success of the Wallabies as the Force looks to produce more international players.”
The Force have embarked on a huge recruiting drive, snaring players such as Irish superstar Rob Kearney, Argentinian internationals Tomás Cubelli, Julián Montoya, Tomás Lezana, Santiago Medrano and Domingo Miotti, as well as Wallabies duo Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Robertson.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now