Force unsettled ahead of ARU takeover

Veteran halfback Alby Mathewson admits it’s an unsettling period for the Western Force team ahead of the looming Australian Rugby Union takeover, especially for players who are coming out of contract.

The ARU is poised to assume responsibility for the running of the struggling Super Rugby outfit in a bid to turn around the Force’s financial woes.

ARU chief executive Bill Pulver flew to Perth this week in a bid to nut out some final details, with a final deal expected to be signed off by next week.

Under the new structure, the Force football program is likely to remain untouched, but senior officials like chief executive Mark Sinderberry will report to the ARU.

Former All Black Mathewson is one of a number of players out of contract at season’s end, and the 30-year-old said it was unsettling not knowing exactly what’s going on.

The future of coach Michael Foley, who is contracted until the end of next season, is also in serious doubt, with the team having managed only two wins this season.

“I know there’s a few boys off contract, and it effects everyone differently,” Mathewson said on Wednesday.

“The ARU talked to us a couple of days ago. Bill Pulver was over here trying to shed some light on the situation.

“Hopefully in the next week or so there’s a lot more clarity, because there’s quite a few other players wondering what’s going on with that sort of stuff.”

Mathewson’s own situation is even more unique than that of his teammates.

He arrived in Perth as the Force’s international marquee, meaning he could only stay for a maximum of two years.

The ARU granted special permission to extend Mathewson’s contract by a further two years in 2014, and the Kiwi is hopeful the same situation will occur again.

“I’ve been here for four years now, so I’m pretty settled,” Mathewson said.

“But I understand the way rugby works with contracts and moving around. So I’ll just have to wait and see.”

The Force will be playing for pride when they take on the Rebels in Melbourne on Sunday.

Flyhalf options Luke Burton (foot), and Ian Prior (knee) have already been ruled out, while skipper Matt Hodgson will miss the rest of the season with a serious shoulder injury.

Hodgson has been the Force’s best player this year, and Mathewson said the inspirational 34-year-old would be sorely missed.

“We want to make Hodgo proud,” Mathewson said.

“We want to put out a good performance that he can watch and say, ‘Yeah, that’s my team’.”

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