Western Force captain Matt Hodgson says the players will dedicate their last three games of the Super Rugby season to Michael Foley after the coach was sacked on Thursday.
Foley’s four-year reign was brought to an abrupt end despite having a year to run on his contract with the under-performing franchise.
The hunt now begins for a new coach from next season to help lift the Force from the doldrums – and they will probably need a good track record if the Perth-based side is to start attracting leading players again.
Although the Force struggled for wins under Foley, he retained the support of his players until the end.
It’s understood some players were even in tears when Foley addressed the group for the final time on Thursday morning.
Foley’s assistant Dave Wessels has been appointed interim head coach for the final three games of the season which follow the current international break.
Hodgson was upset Foley wasn’t allowed to see out the season and said the players would be fighting to win for him when back in action against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on July 2.
Force chief executive Mark Sinderberry said it was a tough call to sack Foley before the season finished.
But he said it was important to do it now so they could start the process of attracting a new coach.
“I understand the players are upset. They’re a very tight group. Michael’s developed a very good culture,” Sinderberry said.
“However, I’d be even more surprised or disappointed if they weren’t concerned about our results.
“We’re all in the game for results. So I think in time, we’ll all get back on track about trying to achieve results.”
The decision to change coach comes two weeks after the Australian Rugby Union formed an alliance with the Force to run the franchise, which is struggling with financial difficulty and inability to recruit top-line players.
Foley, who was in his fourth season with the Force, led the team to just 18 wins and a draw from his 60 games in charge.
His best season came in 2014, when the Force only narrowly missed the finals with a franchise-best 9-7 record.
Foley attempted to introduce a new attacking game plan this season.
But as the injuries mounted in a team already lacking firepower, the results quickly went south, with the team scoring a competition-low 21 tries.
The Force, who are yet to make the finals in their 10 years in the competition, currently sit last in the Australian conference and third-last overall with a 2-10 record this season.
But Sinderberry doesn’t expect the poor on and off-field results to deter world-class coaches from applying for the head coach’s role.
“I certainly don’t sense that in terms of the level of interest I’ve already received,” Sinderberry said.
“We’re still playing in the Super Rugby competition – a wonderful competition.
“We’ve now got an important strategic partner in the Australian Rugby Union, and access to a lot more resources that way.
“I think that overcomes any of those concerns a potential coach may have.”