SYDNEY (Reuters) - Mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest and his wife Nicola have committed another A$5 million ($3.44 million) to developing grassroots rugby in Western Australia over the next five years, Rugby WA said on Tuesday.
The cash gift is in addition to A$2 million already pledged to support community rugby in the state and will go towards a programme launching next year aimed at exposing primary school children to the game.
"We aim to flip the priorities of rugby, to make the sport stronger," billionaire Forrest said in a statement.
"This is about building and supporting our passionate rugby community and making Western Australia a true rugby heartland.
"Our ambition is to provide young talent with the skills, support, competition and a clear pathway to the highest level of the game, feeding into the Western Force men's and Rugby WA Women's professional teams."
Forrest's backing also kept the Perth-based Western Force alive after the team were axed from Super Rugby as a cost-cutting measure by Rugby Australia (RA) in 2017.
The Force will make their return to provincial competition next week in 'Super Rugby AU', which was put together by RA after the international Super Rugby tournament, which also features teams from New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Japan, was halted by the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Recently-retired former Wallabies loose forward David Pocock, who played for the Force at the start of his career, has signed up as an ambassador for the grassroots project.
"I'm excited to have this opportunity to give back to the WA rugby community and see the next generation of Western Australians enjoying the game," Pocock said.
The announcement came on the same day New South Wales Rugby announced they had made 27% of their staff, including all 12 development officers, redundant as part of cost-cutting measures made necessary by the coronavirus shutdown.
($1 = 1.4531 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)