UPDATE 10.20am: Michael Foley has three years to build the Western Force into a Super Rugby power.
The besieged club confirmed this morning they had lured the former Wallabies hooker from the NSW Waratahs and appointed him director of rugby.
“This is an important period for the club and while we’re not looking to start from scratch, we’re looking to relaunch the team,” Foley said.
“There’s no doubt the club has had a few setbacks in recent times but there are many people at the club, both on and off the field, that are very determined to see the Force successful.
“While my expectations are realistic, I’m very excited about this challenge.
“Looking from afar it’s clear to see the Force has an outstanding supporter base and we’ll be doing what we can to not only engage with the supporters, but ensure they remain proud of their team – and part of this is working towards success with our fans.
“It’s my role to set up a program that builds towards success. The coaching staff will be looking to promote an exciting brand of rugby that captures the imagination of our fans and wins games as well. To that end, we will be looking to recruit an attacking coach with a record of producing that style of game.
“I want our fans to be excited about the style of footy we’re playing and keen to be a part of the club. We need to be playing this brand of rugby to assist the club with our recruitment, retention and development, and we’ll be working hard to ensure that the Force is a club that people are proud of and where players want to play.”
Foley, a no-nonsense and meticulous figure who is respected by many of the Force senior players and who was the choice of retiring veteran Wallaby Nathan Sharpe, has an opportunity to change a club that has done nothing of note on the Australian rugby landscape since its inception.
The three-year deal is believed to be worth about $300,000 a year and precedes the appointment of a head coach who will have a hands-on role in a system very similar to the European style of management.
Foley agreed to move west late on Monday night and resigned from his Tahs coaching role yesterday.
The Force selection panel was split between Foley and former Stade Francais and Heineken Cup-winning coach Michael Cheika, who was offered the coaching position only to turn it down.
"We were very impressed by the calibre of candidates we had apply for the position," RugbyWA CEO Vern Reid said.
"It was a long process but we’re very pleased with the outcome and we’re excited about having Michael at the head of our rugby program next year.
“There’s no doubt that this is an important time for the club, and we’re looking forward to Michael taking the club forward and realising the success that our members, players and everyone involved with the club deserves.”
Foley's decision is the first piece of positive news to come out of the Force camp since coach Richard Graham was ousted after announcing he was quitting for the Queensland Reds four months ago. Captain David Pocock decided to join the ACT Brumbies at the weekend.
Foley, who played 50 games for Australia after his debut in the 1995 World Cup, also made 63 appearances for Queensland. He was in a strong bargaining position, having been told by the NSW board his job was secure for a further year in Sydney.
The 45-year-old, has a young family and the security of a solid three-year deal was attractive.
He joined the Tahs as an assistant coach in 2009 after working as the Wallabies set-piece specialist from 2006. Previously, he had coached at English Premiership club Bath for five years, where he worked with Graham, after ending his playing career.
The Force are also in the market for a backs coach. They have re-signed forwards specialist Nick Stiles.
Former Bath coach Steve Meehan, who left that club last year after five seasons, is in the running as is the well-respected Todd Louden.
In Meehan's time at Bath, the club played exciting and technically proficient rugby.Before moving to Bath, Meehan was at Stade Francais when they won three French championship finals and a Heineken Cup.