With homegrown Western Force Fortescue Academy number eight Alex Masibaka making his Super Rugby debut against the Blues and six players being selected for the most recent Junior Wallabies training camp, it is certainly exciting times for the club.
Having represented the Junior Wallabies previously and playing club rugby for Associates (Soaks) since juniors, it was special to see Masibaka enter the contest with 64 minutes played against the Blues in front of his family and friends.
Academy Head Coach and Senior Skills Coach Dylan Parsons said: “It was a really special moment for Alex. We have been working towards this goal together for the last six years, so it was a really emotional night.”
“I have seen first-hand his growth, challenges, and the success he has had over that time, so to see him debut for the Force was amazing. “This is what the academy is all about, and it is a testament to the hard work and support this program receives. Any debut comes from a lot of work, sacrifice and support from not only the program, but also their families, friends, clubs, schools and the community.
Along with Masibaka, two fellow Western Australian talents and graduates of the academy Grason Makara and Jackson Pugh have also made their Super Rugby debuts for the club this season.
General Manager of the Western Force Fortescue Academy Chris Goodman said: “Seeing former academy players pull on the Force jersey in Super Rugby has been great, as it serves to inspire those working towards a first cap.” “The academy boys are seeing players they’ve trained with get the opportunity, which is so important. The more we keep building our program and exposing our players to the senior team by training alongside them, the more likely it is they will gain selection. “The players know they aren’t here to make up numbers, they understand that opportunities to play Super Rugby are a reality here at the Force. This drives them to compete and push themselves each week.
Academy players Siosifa Amone (Prop - Associates), Luke Callan (Lock - Wanneroo), George Poolman (Backrower – Sydney University), Connor Seve (Lock – Wests Scarborough), Ned Slack-Smith (Backrower - Palmyra) all enjoyed an invaluable Junior Wallabies training camp in Canberra last month, with Andrew Romano (Prop – Cottesloe) named but unable to attend due to injury.
Goodman said: “It’s a credit to the boys and the staff for working so hard to earn selection.” “We’re pleased to have five take part and we’re definitely moving in the right direction. In two to three years’ time, we are going to have high numbers in that squad getting the opportunity at the next level to represent Australia. “The goal is for those players to make the Junior Wallabies team for the Oceania tournament in July against the U20s from New Zealand, Fiji and possibly Japan. “It will be a great opportunity to test themselves against quality opposition and gain crucial experience.”
Four weeks into the Fortescue Premier Grade season and there is already plenty of promising signs for the academy players, as Goodman said: “It’s the perfect platform for them to develop and I’m really proud of how they’ve been progressing.” “I expect our players to be dominating in the competition, but I know that’s not going to happen straight away. They are young men playing against experienced campaigners. We train as an academy, but it’s crucial to have them playing and gain game experience.
“They are improving their skills and tactical awareness, but perhaps most importantly the mental side of the game. We place a strong emphasis on improving their mental skills, so it’s been really pleasing to see them putting those teachings into practice on the field.
“Moving forward, we’re working towards having an U20s Force team to provide further opportunities for the academy players to gain game experience against teams from New Zealand and around the pacific.”