After experiencing a maiden finals appearance, the Western Force and new captain Feleti Katiu'u are keen to create ‘a fresh legacy’ heading into Super Rugby Pacific.
The Force are heading into 2022 with plenty of confidence after their inspirational run in the Super Rugby AU finals.
After a slow start to the season, three narrow wins to finish the season, including a 30-27 win over the Reds, saw the club qualify for the preliminary final, eventually falling to the Brumbies.
Since then, there has been a fair turnover in the squad as they take a more youthful approach in recruitment, with Reesjan Pasiota, Bayley Kuenzle and Issak Fines-Leleiwasa making the trip west.
“It’s got a different feel about it,” Force coach Tim Sampson said at the season launch.
“Our age profile has certainly come down which was important. That was by design last year to get some experienced players in when we re-entered Super Rugby properly for the first time, we went about it that way and got the likes of Rob Kearney and Tomas Cubelli amongst others.
“We have had a different approach and wanted to get a bit of youth in and those players have come from a good program there at the Brumbies but what they’ve added has been immense. They are very confident, which is important, and slotted in seamlessly amongst the current guys which they knew a lot of and they have added some finer touches to our game.
“Something I like about all of them is (how) they freelance, they’re natural footy players. They’ve taken guys along with them and hopefully, they are a bit of a handful.”
They also enter the new season with a fresh captain, appointing hooker Feleti Kaitu’u, who replaces scrumhalf Ian Prior.
Kaitu’u holds the honour in the same breath as his maiden Wallabies appearance last year, having been at the club since 2017.
Experiencing all the highs and lows of the past couple of seasons with the club has motivated the 27-year-old to ‘rewrite the story’ as he attempts to guide the team in a winning direction.
“We’ve got a massive focus this season on taking the club in a new direction and rewriting our own story,” he said.
“We are not dwelling on issues or whatever that we have had in the past. We’re trying to leave a legacy and something that players in the future can definitely take moving forward.
“(It’s about) success, results, winning Super Rugby. All of those things speak for themselves and obviously, we can sit here all day and talk about wanting to be better and heading in a new direction but unless we are getting results on the field, then that doesn’t happen.
“For us, it’s about building a culture and environment that guys are excited to come and work, being around their mates and get better every day not only as players but as men.”