The demise of the Western Force marks the death of rugby in Western Australia and as a national game.
The Perth-based franchise commissioned heavy hitters such as mining magnate Andrew Forrest, WA Premier Mark McGowan and former Governor Malcolm McCusker to help ensure its future.
But it wasn’t enough to convince the embattled Australian Rugby Union (ARU) that there was a future for the game in the west.
By many measures, it is the wrong decision.
There have been better days for Force captain Matt Hodgson (centre) and his teammates. (AAP: Richard Wainwright)
The Force has punched above its weight with a squad of homegrown talent this year, finishing second in Super Rugby’s five-team Australian conference.
Their six-win season was a strong endorsement for Dave Wessels in his first full season as coach.
Nathan Sharpe tweet: The biggest mistake the ARU could have made – Time to clear the decks and start fresh.
With a large contingent of WA players in the squad, it was also a big tick for the work the Force and Rugby WA had done at the grassroots level.
WA has the third-highest rugby participation rate in the country, behind New South Wales and Queensland.
At the elite level, six Force players were named in the recent Wallabies squad in the lead up to the Bledisloe Cup.
Richard Hardwick is among the homegrown Force players to play for the Wallabies. (AAP/SNPA: David Rowland)
Many of those have come through the Rugby WA program — including Dane Haylett-Petty and Curtis Rona.
The end of the Force is a fatal blow to the viability of that pathway and stops rugby being a truly national game.
Western Force not blameless
But the Force has not been a completely innocent player in its own failure.
As it struggled for results, the “sea of blue” that once packed Subiaco Oval dwindled dramatically in line with the move to a redeveloped Perth Oval.
Former coach Michael Foley made the team and its players inaccessible to local media, making covering the sport more difficult.
And when the wins were not there, interest dropped off.
It caused financial headaches, with the club struggling to attract a major sponsor for a long time.
The ARU decided to take control of the Force last year in an “alliance agreement” set up to help deliver financial stability.
The WA Government then came to the rescue earlier this year, with a lucrative $1.5 million deal to have the Road Safety Commission come on board as the club’s major sponsor.
The cavalry arrived for the Force — but it was a case of too little, too late.