USING THE FORCE
By TONY WHITE
GRAFTON-born rugby star AJ Whalley yesterday signed a contract to play with Perth-based Western Force in next season's expanded Super 14s competition.
The 22-year-old juggernaut signed for one year on a contract beileved to be worth a high five figure amount.
Whalley had been courted by the new franchise for several months and following a trip to Perth to look at the set up, agreed to terms.
"I'm very relieved. It's great to finally get a start in Super 14s," he said.
"It's a full Super 14s playing contract for 12 months.
"I initially wanted a longer contract but sometimes theses things can work in your favour.
"As they say the ball is in my court now. Its up to me to perform."
Western Force is coached by former All Black coach John Mitchell. But the prospect of working with forwards coach Ben Darwin was one of the major resons Whalley elected to move to Perth.
"Ben is a former Wallaby tight head prop and being under his tuition and the fact I'm a foundation member of a new team were two of the major attractions to signing," Whalley said. "It's all pretty exciting."
Whalley, a junior Waratah and former Australian Under-21 representative, has been earmarked as a future Wallaby by rugby heirarchy.
He converted from a back-rower to tight head prop last season on the advice of Australian coaching staff.
Getting the chance to showcase his talents in rugby's elite international tournament on a weekly basis can only enhance his Wallaby prospects.
Whalley is expected to move to Perth by October to start training ? Super 14s starts at the end of January ? but intends to continue his teaching studies and Bachelor of Education degree.
"I'm not sure about playing club rugby, Perth are trying to enter a team in the Sydney competition but I'd really like to keep playing with Warringah," Whalley said.
"Warringah have been very good to me. When the Super 14 season finishes those not selected in the Wallaby squad can return to playing club rugby."
Whalley said NSW Waratah officials handled his defection to Perth well.
"They said they were disappointed to lose me but they understood it was a positive step for my rugby development," he said.