The Western Force today confirms the appointment of former All Blacks lock Jeremy Thrush as the Club’s new Fortescue Academy head coach.
Thrush, 38, earned 12 caps for New Zealand from 2013 to 2015 and after spells with Super Rugby club Hurricanes and English Premiership Rugby club Gloucester, finished his playing career in Perth with the Force, whom he joined in 2018.
More recently, Thrush took up an assistant coaching role within the Fortescue Academy and having built relationships with the squad, will now officially take over as head coach from Dylan Parsons, who was appointed the Force’s full-time Super W head coach in October.
The Fortescue Academy, which over the past few years has grown from 10 to 26 players supported by more coaches and a more holistic approach, is a critical part of the Club’s plans for long-term sustainable success. Force General Manager of Academy Chris Goodman said Thrush’s appointment is a key part of that vision.
“He brings hunger and vision for the Academy,” Goodman said. “He’s been in an Academy system before and knows what it’s like. He brings the enjoyment factor into it, but also working hard for yourself and working hard for each other.
“His vision around where he wants to take the Academy is in line with the club’s values and vision. He’s got a really strong connection with current players, past players and the Force coaches as well. He’s someone who’s going to add value to our organization long term.”
Goodman hailed Thrush’s experience in the game but also his character which he said was of utmost importance in the appointment.
“The biggest reason for us hiring him is going back to the good character, good person first,” Goodman said.
“He’s really built rapport with the players, first and foremost. Obviously, he’s had a really storied career with the All Blacks, Hurricanes, playing overseas and finishing his career with the Force.”
Auckland-born Thrush, who enjoyed playing success in his early days including winning the 2004 Under-19 World Championship with New Zealand and being named the 2004 IRB World Under-19 Player of the Year, was excited about the opportunity to lead the Force’s next generation.
“I’ve obviously got a lot of experience in playing the game and it’s been almost two years in that transition into coaching,” Thrush said.
“I think I’ve got a good idea of the game, how it’s played and the skillset that’s needed. I also think I’ve got a good connection with the individuals, which is really important in all coaching, especially development.
“I want to build on the great work and platform laid by Goody and Dylan (Parsons) for the Academy. The main goal is to build an environment for these guys to grow as individuals with their rugby but also as young men to stand up to the rigours of professional rugby when they get to that stage.
“We’re getting 16, 17-year-olds coming in and they’re really new to the game. It’s about building an environment where these boys feel safe and comfortable with trust in their coaches and a team bond, so they can grow and get better. That’s a big focus of mine.
“I think if we can achieve that and they’re enjoying themselves, they’re going to keep growing and the rugby will take care of itself.”
The 2024 Fortescue Academy squad will be announced next month.