With two Western Force Fortescue Academy players making their first appearance for the Force against Bay of Plenty, state representative honours have followed for 10 players to further showcase the significant progress of the program.
Five players have been selected for the Underage Rugby Championships (URC 19s), with Finn O’Callaghan (Nedlands), Jhy Legg (Kalamunda), Luke Callan (Wanneroo), Siosifa Amone (Associates) and Tonga Fiefia Lotefia all named. Unfortunately, due to COVID-related issues, the championships have been postponed.
Reece Anapu (Palmyra) and Alex Masibaka (Nedlands) have also gained recognition for their fantastic Fortescue Premier Grade campaigns with selection in the Perth Gold squad. With the Perth Gold squad rewarding the best players throughout the 2021 season, this is a fantastic achievement for the duo.
In a new development, an U23s Perth Gold team has also been named to play against the senior Perth Gold side in September before they head off on their planned tour. Dante Tatafu (Perth-Bayswater), Keenan Wentholt (Wests Scarborough) and Zantana Tupuono-Pomare (Nedlands) are all a part of the U23s squad.
Academy Head Coach Dylan Parsons is thrilled for the group and their development.
“It’s great to see the academy boys get an opportunity to be exposed to another step up in level from club and be a part of these representative programs. The group have been invited into train with the senior team full time now and to see them grow over the last six weeks has been hugely positive,” Parsons explained.
“Having the senior players in the same building and on the training track with the academy group is massive. They have been able to build relationships over the season and so when they began training together, there was already a genuine connection between them.
“They’ve shown great determination and commitment in the first year of the academy and their selection in these representative squads is a great reflection of their efforts and the continued work by the staff and program”.
Reflecting on the memorable occasion last month when Tupuono-Pomare and O’Callaghan took to HBF Park in a Force jersey for the first time, the pair were thrilled with the experience against the Bay of Plenty.
“It was a childhood dream to play for the club after growing up watching the Force, so it was unreal for me personally,” O’Callaghan said.
“It was nerve-racking, but it was a great feeling when I got on the field. I’ve never played in front of that many people before. I had to make a tackle straight away from the restart, so that was a really memorable introduction.”
Pomare echoed his Nedlands and academy teammates sentiment.
“It was surreal to put on the Force jersey. Growing up here in WA, it meant a lot to me. To run out in front of my family was special,” he said.
“Greg Holmes has been helping me a lot in moving from lock to tighthead prop. He’s a scrum specialist and it’s been great to learn from him in training.
“It’s a step up in intensity and I’m learning so much from the senior players.”