The Western Force has announced nine players in the top tier of their 2022 Fortescue Academy program.
General Manager of the Fortescue Academy Chris Goodman, along with the pro-rugby staff, are focused on securing and investing in players that will be ready to be called-up into the main squad in the next few years, creating depth and a sustainable future for the club.
“It’s about building succession for the organisation. It’s about developing players so that two or three years down the line we have the players that we need,” Goodman explained.
“We won’t have to look elsewhere because these players are already entrenched in our language, our systems and our processes.”
The academy will have around 25 players work closely with Goodman, along with head coach Dylan Parsons and the pro-rugby team at the Force.
The top tier will train full-time with the Force team, the second tier will join the main squad in selected sessions, while the youngest group will train mostly after hours to allow them to work and/or study.
Local club players Siosifa Amone, Alex Masibaka, Luke Callan and Connor Seve all represented the Force in the 2021 Junior Wallabies training camp and have been working hard as part of the Fortescue Academy this year.
“For Sifa, Alex, Luke and Connor, it’s really showing that our pathway is going to work in the next couple of years. Rugby Australia are also investing in them and they have been identified as players of national interest,” Goodman said.
“What we are trying to do now is build our squad in the coming years to allow those players to come through.”
Joining his older brother, new Force recruit Manasa Mataele, in moving across the Tasman, 17-year-old Rupeni Mataele is expected to bring an element of ‘x-factor’ to the Academy.
“Rupeni is a real special player, not unlike his brother Manasa, he is a big ball carrier. He is highly ranked within the New Zealand circles and for us to attract him over here is a big win for us,” Goodman said.
Making his professional transition from Sevens to XV’s, Goodman is excited to work with fleet-footed Jordan Williams.
“Jordan has a lot of speed and his footwork is outstanding. The Force is known for an expansive style of play, and it is credit to the staff here to be able to take those players form a Sevens environment and develop them into the XV’s format because they really are two different games,” Goodman said.
Standing at 189cm tall, Junior Wallabies prop Andrew Romano is another player to join the Academy.
“He has come to us from Queensland and is another player of national interest so having him come over really is starting to build that depth,” Goodman said.
“You don’t get guys that size with his mobility and skill set that often, so we’re very excited to have him join the club.”
Another two players who come highly rated by Rugby Australia, backrower Ned Slack-Smith and flyhalf/fullback George Poolman, are exciting prospects according to Goodman.
“Ned is a player that we are really thrilled to work with. To be able to attract a player of Ned’s ability is very exciting for us and we are looking forward to having him at the Force,” Goodman said.
“George is a quality playmaker. We are looking to build the next 10 and 15 for the senior side, so by investing in a young man of his ability, we will be able to see those results in the next couple of years.”
Tier 1 Force Fortescue Academy Players
Andrew Romano – Loosehead Prop – Souths Rugby Union Club
Siosifa Amone – Tighthead prop – Associates Rugby Club
George Poolman – Fullback – Sydney University
Rupeni Mataele – Wing – Scots College, NZ
Ned Slack Smith – Back Row – Mount Barker College
Alex Masibaka – Number 8 - Associates Rugby Club
Jordan Williams – Wing – Aussie Sevens Program
Luke Callan – Lock – Wanneroo Rugby Club
Connor Seve – Lock – Wests Scarborough