The Western Force has continued their positive recruitment drive for the 2012 season by adding exciting young outside back Jordan Rapana to their squad.
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Rapana heads west after recently returning to Australia, following a two-year Mormon mission in the United Kingdom, while he also makes the switch to Rugby Union after a stint in Rugby League.
Drafted by the Gold Coast Titans directly from high school, Rapana was the youngest player in the club's history (18) when he debuted in 2008. He played five NRL games and scored five tries, including two against the Roosters in his first match.
Such was his impact in his rookie season Rapana was named in the Under-20 Team of the Year and selected to play for NZ Maori against the NRL Indigenous All-Stars in a feature match to open the 2009 Rugby League World Cup.
A commitment to his Mormon faith saw him opt out of the second year of his contract at the Titans and he spent the next two years abroad based in the rugby heartlands of England and Wales.
While the New Zealand-born youngster was unable to participate in any professional programmes during his missionary work, his time in Gloucester, Worcester, Swansea and Cardiff, amongst others, rekindled his love of rugby.
“I was brought up on rugby and our family is really passionate about the game. When I served my mission in England and Wales it happened to be in big premiership rugby cities and that definitely ignited the passion again for rugby,” Rapana said.
“I'm looking forward to the challenge of moving back into rugby and I'm confident that if I put in the hard work during the off season that it'll be the right move for me.
“I was very fortunate to be given an opportunity to play in a professional environment straight out of school and I've set myself to do everything I can in local rugby and pre-season games to earn a place in the Western Force side next season,” said Rapana.
After hearing of Rapana's return to Australia, Western Force coach Richard Graham invited the youngster to trial in Perth and was immediately impressed with his dedication and ability.
“Having been away for two years and not part of a professional rugby programme Jordan joined the squad in Perth and ran the second fastest GPS time we recorded this year,” Graham said.
“He is quick, and aerially one of the best players I've seen in recent times, while he also possesses a very good all round skill set.”
“Jordan is very keen to establish himself in rugby and we were extremely impressed with him as a person and a player during that trial period.
“Forward thinking by RugbyWA CEO Vern Reid enabled us to move the negotiations along quickly and secure this exciting young talent who I believe will be a great addition to the squad,” said Graham.
The 21-year-old is the younger brother of 2010 Western Force rookie Joelin Rapana who played a hand in getting him to Perth.
“Joelin spoke to me a lot about the club. He really loved being in Perth and said the programme was excellent. His words of encouragement helped make the decision to come to WA very easy,” Rapana said.
Rapana will remain at home on the Gold Coast and play with the Breakers in the Queensland Premier Rugby competition before joining his new Western Force team mates in Perth ahead of the club's tour to Samoa in August where they'll play two matches against the Samoan test team.
“I have no concerns about Jordan being able to quickly establish himself in rugby. By the end of this year he'll have around 15 games of rugby under his belt and is the kind of player who could quickly step up and play Super Rugby in 2012,” said Graham.
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