The Western Force are pleased to confirm that Chris Heiberg and Dwayne Grace have been appointed as the club’s assistant coaches for the 2024 Super Rugby Women’s team.
Heiberg and Grace’s appointments come following the announcement of Dylan Parsons as the club’s full-time head coach, in a Super Rugby Women’s first, as the Force looks to take its women’s program into a new professional era.
The pair will provide assistance Parsons who has replaced Matt Hodgson who stepped aside to focus on his role as the club’s Rugby GM.
Heiberg, who was an assistant coach in the Women’s program in 2023, is currently employed by Rugby WA as their head of pathways and played for the Force from 2014 to 2016 and 2018 to 2021 as a prop.
Grace is new to the Force Women’s program but has vast experience in local rugby including leading Aranmore’s successful rugby program from 2004 and several roles at Fortescue Premier Grade club Wests Scarborough including director of rugby (2018), assistant coach (2023) and head coach (2011-2016).
Force Female High Performance Manager Claudia Bell said: “Both coaches complement our newly appointed full-time head coach Dylan Parsons perfectly, each bringing with them a variety of experiences and particular skill sets that aid the make-up of the Super W program and team.
“Further supported through our support and development coaches, Ashlee Temple and Hayden Croghan, the depth in coaching staff within the program allows every player to find a connection with at least one coach, that suits their learning and feedback styles.
“With already established relationships amongst the coaches, the Super W program is in the right hands to develop and grow the semi-professional program into its professional era. I am very excited for these coaches to start and witness their positive impact on the program and players.”
Heiberg was part of the Force’s coaching set-up in a breakthrough 2023 campaign, achieving back-to-back wins for the first time, winning their first game on home soil and defeating the reigning champions Fijiana Drua before narrowly missing the finals.
Bell said: “With Chris’ re-appointment, we wanted to establish some continuity within the coaching group and Super W program, allowing Chris to continue to build upon the foundations that he established within his forward pack during the 2023 season.
“Not only does Chris bring a wealth of knowledge for the forward pack, but he also brings with him the experience of an ex-professional rugby player, harmoniously radiating a deep Western Force passion and respect for the jersey. This is something that Chris brings to the table which is invaluable to the Super W players and program.”
Heiberg said: “I’m very excited and incredibly grateful to be able to continue my role within the Force Women’s program for 2024.
“I want to firstly acknowledge and thank Hodgo and Claudia, for the work they’ve both done within this program to date. Hodgo was exactly what the program needed as head coach last season for the program to develop and grow to where it is currently. I’m really excited to be able to work alongside Dylan as the new head coach moving forward. I’ve known Dylan for a number of years and we share similar thoughts and beliefs around the game which is great.
“From my side, it starts with set piece. We had some good progress in that area but that was just the beginning. The foundation has been laid and now we need to add on to those layers. We’re in a process of building something special within this club. We all need to take ourselves to the next level. The sky is the limit for us.”
Bell was delighted with the appointment of Grace who has deep connections within local rugby, with Aranmore and Wests Scarborough but also having been assistant coach with the Australian Youth Girls’ Sevens team in 2017 and 2018.
“Bringing Dwayne into the fold, also further allows us to connect with the WA Rugby community, as he is someone so integral to the make-up of the women’s game in Perth, with already established relationships and deep connections with many of the players within the Super W program,” Bell said.
“Dwayne brings with him a wealth of knowledge around the importance of the core skills of rugby and a variety of different program experiences aiding to the growth of the professionalism within the Western Force program. I am eager to witness the positive affect that I know Dwayne will have, not only with the playing group but the connection he will bring within the staff unit as well.”
Grace said: “I’m excited to work with a good coaching group who are trying to take women’s rugby forward in WA. After a quiet period for me this is a good opportunity to get back into coaching and move into the professional space. The Super W program is moving towards that professional era.
“From my experience, I know there’s a pathway for players so seeing what’s at the top end of the pathway is exciting but our job is to push those younger players up and give everyone opportunities, especially talent from WA. I’ve been in the system for a while, so I’m excited giving local talent an opportunity to develop and succeed within a professional set-up and pathway.”
The Force will open their 2024 Super W season at HBF Park against the Rebels on Friday 15 March from 4:30pm WST as part of a double-header prior to the men’s game against the Moana Pasifika.