Dr Andrew Forrest AO and wife Nicola Forrest AO today announced they are committing another $5 million over five years to rugby union in Western Australia, to create a grassroots to elite pathways program. This is on top of $2 million they have already committed to women’s and children’s rugby in the state.
The Forrests have also announced that rugby legend David Pocock has signed on as founding Ambassador of the program.
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 for girls and boys aged 5 to 12, will increase rugby participation within WA public high schools and create a strong and highly competitive schools competition to develop 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.”
The grassroots to elite pathways initiative has the support of one of the greats of the game in former Wallabies captain David Pocock, who is volunteering as the program’s ambassador.
“The Western Force gave me an incredible opportunity to begin my professional career as a 17-year-old,” David 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.”
The grassroots to elite pathways program also has the support of other former Wallaby captains, amongst them Michael Lynagh.
“I’m thrilled to see this exciting initiative by the Forrests, which I enthusiastically support, as rugby is all about community. We have so much potential sporting ability in Australia which needs to be encouraged, nurtured and developed. Such an ambitious grassroots program in Western Australia deserves to be applauded,” he said.
Another former captain, Simon Poidevin, has also welcomed the program.
“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,” he said.
Rugby WA CEO Bob Hunter said: “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.”
The program fully launches state-wide in 2021.