The junior sporting landscape is set to change with WA Rugby making a big push into schools with the launch of the Western Force Cup.
They tested the appetite for the game this year with the Rugby Schools Cup that attracted nine sides with Aranmore College winning both the boys and girls tournaments.
But next year the newly-named competition has doubled to 18 schools as part of $5 million grassroots-to-eilte pathway funding from mining magnate Andrew Forrest.
Forrest, who saved the Force four years ago after they were controversially axed by Rugby Australia, said the competition would showcase emerging talent, increase the accessibility of rugby and create pathways for boys and girls.
“The change in name reflects the growing prominence of the Western Force,” Forrest said.
“We are building something truly special, and we’re building it from the ground up.
“A thriving rugby community requires a rock-solid foundation, that’s why we’re investing in the grassroots.
“The boys and girls playing in the Western Force Cup are the lifeblood of our sport and our future champions.”
Force chief executive Tony Lewis said: “We are using the branding to reinforce that if you have an ambition, want to follow a professional career, it is inextricably linked to rugby within the state.”
RugbyWA chief executive and former Force and Wallabies hooker Nathan Charles said the tournament was integral to the sustainability of WA rugby.
“The success we had in year one shows what we can do in three, four, five years time…..a competition that’s here for the long term,” Charles said.
Former Wallaby and Force captain Matt Hodgson, now Force rugby manager, said: “We are going to schools that have never picked up the ball.
“This is a unique opportunity, something I wish I’d had at school, a clear pathway going into a representative team.
“Give it four or five years and you will see players graduate from the Western Force Cup into the Western Force team.”
The competition will be played by 13-14 year-olds who will progress into higher age groups.
It will be played on Wednesday’s July to September to allow youngsters to play for their local clubs at weekends, which PSA players are not allowed to do.