Controversy strengthens Force: Sharpe - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Controversy strengthens Force: Sharpe

By Justin Chadwick 12/02/2009 06:44:06 PM Comments (0)

Western Force skipper Nathan Sharpe insists the off-season turmoil surrounding coach John Mitchell has steeled the players as they bid for a maiden Super 14 finals berth.

Mitchell was temporarily stood down from his duties last December after the club received a raft of complaints from players and staff members about the temperament of the former All Blacks coach.

An independent inquiry found Mitchell had too much power at the club and recommended more 'buy in' from his assistants and members of the player group.

The Force kick off their season against the Blues at Subiaco Oval on Friday night and Sharpe said the controversy had left the player group closer than ever.

"It (the turmoil) has been to our advantage for the last month or so," Sharpe said on Thursday.

"The guys have been fantastic, every training session has been full of enthusiasm and plenty of focus.

"John has been very good in spreading the load with the guys that he needs to and that's what we've found has worked well for us so far and hopefully that transition will turn into a positive impact in the game.

"The responsibility's been shared amongst the management, and also what's been good is the buy-in from the younger players that we haven't had in the past."

The Force finished eight points adrift of the top four in 2008 but Sharpe said anything short of a finals appearance this year would constitute a failed campaign.

"Everyone talks about finals," Sharpe said.

"You'd be kidding yourself if you came here not to make the finals.

"That's definitely a goal of ours and to win the competition you have to get into the finals, so it speaks for itself.

"We learnt last year we are a team capable of beating anyone on our day.

"We had ... one or two games last year that cost us a finals spot and that experience we gained from last year is going to stand us in good stead this year.

"So if we can get a similar sort of result at the start of the season it's gong to be very beneficial for us."

The Matt-Giteau sparked Force confront the Blues without scrum halves Josh Valentine (hamstring) and Justin Turner (back), marquee front row recruit Ben Castle (neck), centre Junior Pelesasa (hamstring), utility back Scott Staniforth (knee) and forward Sam Wykes (shoulder).

But the Blues have also suffered on the injury front, with All Blacks Rudi Wulf (wrist) and Ali Williams (back) ruled out,

The Blues will also be without flanker Jerome Kaino and winger Joe Rokocoko after the star pair were granted leave to be with their partners as they gave birth.

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