RugbyWA and the Forrest family have announced today that $5 million dollars will be invested into community rugby and performance pathways over the next five years to assist with the alignment of rugby union in Western Australia.
The generous contribution will go to a number of RugbyWA's directed programs including the expansion of the WA schools program with the goal of engaging new and pre-existing schools into the sport through the form of a competitive competition.
Western Force and Wallaby legend David Pocock has also signed on as an ambassador for grassroots rugby pledging his support to RugbyWA’s ongoing programs.
The total of $7 million in funding over the next five years is the largest contribution to grassroots rugby in the state’s history, and one of the largest private contributions to grassroots sports in Australia.
The latest funding will see a major expansion of the RugbyRoos program targeted at new players into the game as well as assisting the increase of rugby participation within WA public high schools through the improvement of a strong and highly competitive schools’ competition.
The primary goal of the new programs is to assist the development of more homegrown Western Force players as well as future Wallabies and Wallaroos.
Overall, it is a centrally coordinated and consistent program easily accessible and available to as many young people as possible.
“We aim to flip the priorities of rugby, to make the sport stronger,” Dr Forrest said.
“This is about building and supporting our passionate rugby community – the young players, the mums and dads, the schools, the clubs, the volunteers – and making Western Australia a true rugby heartland.”
“We plan to make this a great rugby State, a real powerhouse, with far more locally grown players.”
“Nicola and I firmly believe we need to grow this from the ground up. Our ambition is to provide young talent with the skills, support, competition and a clear pathway to the highest level of the game, feeding into the Western Force men’s and Rugby WA Women’s professional teams.”
“We have a clear vision to shape an exceptional rugby product within WA, rather than our talented youth looking to eastern states or overseas for opportunities.”
Now an ambassador for grassroots rugby in the state David Pocock was excited to give back to the program that provided him the pathway to the highest level in the sport.
"The Western Force gave me an incredible opportunity to begin my professional career as a 17-year-old,” Pocock said.
“I loved my seven years in Perth, getting to see the game grow and being embraced by Western Australians and the Sea of Blue.”
"I'm excited to have this opportunity to give back to the WA rugby community and see the next generation of Western Australians enjoying the game. This generous investment in the game will help grow the sport and provide pathways to the highest levels of competition for girls and boys.”
Other Wallaby greats such as former captains Michael Lynagh and Simon Poidevin have also endorsed the program discussing the importance in growing the game across the entire country.
“This is an amazingly generous and visionary investment in the game by Andrew and Nicola – an investment in the game in WA and the young kids who will be the stars of the future. Strong rugby in the west is vital to Australia as it works to regain its position amongst the top rugby nations in the world,” Poidevin said.
Lynagh also stated the importance of a shift in focus back to community rugby, a value that Western Australian rugby holds dear.
“This is an amazingly generous and visionary investment in the game by Andrew and Nicola – an investment in the game in WA and the young kids who will be the stars of the future. Strong rugby in the west is vital to Australia as it works to regain its position amongst the top rugby nations in the world,” Lynagh said.
RugbyWA CEO Bob Hunter stated that the contribution the Forrest family have given to community rugby will go a long way in continuing to build Western Australia as one of the leaders in supporting development of rugby players all the way through to the professional level.
“We fully support this fantastic initiative. The generous support of Andrew and Nicola Forrest, and their passion for building great communities and grass roots rugby right here in WA, will benefit young people all across the State for decades to come".
RugbyWA Chairman John Edwards also discussed the direct use of the funds will be a big contributor to ongoing initiatives by RugbyWA.
"Our thanks go out for the continued generosity of the Forrest family. This funding will be utilised to provide equipment and programmes for aspiring young players and coaching teams at schools RugbyWA was previously not in a position to support," Edwards explained.
"This dovetails into our existing development programs and will significantly build our player and coaching bases for the future."
The program fully launches State-wide in 2021.