Force CEO eager to sign off on a high - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Force CEO eager to sign off on a high

By Justin Chadwick 22/04/2009 05:33:27 PM Comments (0)

Outgoing Western Force chief executive Greg Harris will attempt to finish his reign at the Super 14 club on a high by re-signing several key players in the next few weeks.

Harris announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing personal reasons, but will stay on with the Force until board member Vern Reid takes over in late May.

The next month shapes as a defining period for the Force both on and off the field.

While the Force need to win their remaining four games to have any chance of reaching the finals, of more concern is the prospect of losing Wallabies Drew Mitchell, Richard Brown and James O'Connor, all of who are contemplating offers from the other Australian franchises.

Mitchell, who is being heavily chased by NSW and Queensland, is expected to make his intentions clear by Friday.

"Without any doubt we need to secure some more of our players and I've given an undertaking to Vern that I'll be assisting with that," Harris said.

"Because I've been conducting those negotiations with players and their agents and I've made a decision to leave, it could be misread.

"I think that's one of the real valuable things within the transition that I can obviously vouch for Vern's passion for the game and his abilities."

Harris, who replaced inaugural chief executive Peter O'Meara last year, endured a drama-packed tenure at the Force.

One of his first tasks was to clean up the mess made by the collapse of sponsor Firepower, which left several high-profile players, including Matt Giteau and Mitchell, hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The Force plumbed new depths when a serious rift developed between coach John Mitchell and his assistants, plus some senior players.

Harris oversaw a mediation process that helped mend the relationships, with the implementation of a match committee-style selection policy a particular success.

Reid, a former chief executive of NBL side Perth Wildcats who also held senior management positions with the America's Cup Defence and the Fremantle Dockers, admitted retaining key players was one of his major priorities.

"I think the first challenge was to get such a good team to start with, the second, and obviously the challenge now, is to build on the work of the first four seasons," Reid said.

"You need a whole lot of things in place to attract people who are going to make a decision to either come to a place like the Western Force or stay.

"Player retention and recruitment is fundamental to our success."

Meanwhile, the Force made one change to their starting side for Friday night's must-win clash with the Lions in Perth, replacing prop Pek Cowan with the fit-again Gareth Hardy.

Brown was named in his customary role at the back of the pack but must pass a late fitness test on his ankle, which he injured during last week's thrilling one-point win over NSW.

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