West Australian rugby was handed the prospect of a golden future last week when the Australian Rugby Union announced a Perth team would join the expanded Super 14 competition in 2006.

It means WA rugby can finally contemplate a future much brighter than its haphazard past.

The state's rugby fraternity has since the late 1800s managed to survive isolation, the growth of Rules and a brief but hapless rugby league foray by keeping a half-decent club competition going.

It has also staged major internationals, which have been well attended.

But although it is the third-ranked rugby state, Western Australia might as well have been the 33rd given the lack of contact it has had with the eastern strongholds.

It has made almost no contribution whatsoever to Wallaby teams, and but for the influx of foreigners, especially New Zealanders, it would have been a rugby state in a right state.

West Australian rugby has been an outsider in its own land.

An example - 30-year administrator and present union treasurer Terry Bradbury - a one-time Canterbury club halfback - has played for WA against such illustrious opponents as Andy Leslie's 1974 All Blacks.

Yet he never once wore the black and gold jumper against New South Wales or Queensland.

The 59-year-old Bradbury is, like WA rugby's chief executive Rick Smith, a New Zealander who intended playing one season of rugby in Perth.

But seduced by the lifestyle and climate, they stayed and have ended up helping guide the state into the Super 14.

The Mt Maunganui-born Smith, of Ngati Porou descent, was a club fullback in Dunedin where he studied law.

He became a controversial figure when Western Australia played against the 1992 All Blacks. Smith challenged the haka "because the All Blacks were not putting their heart and soul into it at that time".

Smith has been a quieter public figure during the Super 14 bid, leaving the publicity to chairman Geoff Stooke.

Smith has concentrated on the nitty gritty of the bid and did not apply for the Super 14 team's chief executive job.

That was always going to go to a more prominent figure, but Smith - who will stay on in a commercial role - can be content in the success of his five-year mission to drag professional rugby out west.

Perth would have thrown its hands up in despair if the glamour boys of Melbourne had outbid them in the two-horse race.

It had hankered for a team since professional rugby appeared in the mid-1990s. But it was only after the success of the World Cup games at Subiaco Oval in Perth last year - and after another huge crowd watched this year's Tri-Nations clash involving South Africa - that it felt confident of inclusion.

Bradbury, an accountant and property developer, said: "Ours was a bid about rugby for Perth, whereas Melbourne's was a bid about Melbourne being the sporting capital of Australia.

"The ARU has said that is how it came across to them. We felt during the campaign that Melbourne was always playing catch-up. Whenever we announced something, they would announce something similar two days later."

So now Perth can plan its future as a member of the exclusive group at rugby's main table.

It found support in all the right places, including state Governor and rugby patron John Sanderson who hosted visiting ARU officials and demanded: "Now boys, you are going to bring that team to Perth."

Support came from unexpected quarters while Melbourne, viewed generally as a boorish and money-wielding big brother, found few friends.

Visiting Queensland Premier Peter Beattie backed Perth at the public rally organised by rugby-mad mums Jennifer Hoskins and Irma Cooper.

He told a television interviewer: "We consider West Australians to be our cousins. I won't tell you what we think of Victorians."

And an ex-chairman of the ill-fated Western Reds league club, Steve Edwards, showed his state patriotism by backing the Perth rugby bid and offering sage advice based on bitter experience.

In particular, he highlighted league's failure to connect with a community which complained that the Reds players might throw a few caps and T-shirts around schools, but the club never promoted its sport with genuine and enduring programmes.

I found just one note of caution in Perth this week, from a University clubman and historian named Rick Wolters.

He was as enthusiastic as everyone else about the Super 14, but also feared that junior football might get trampled then forgotten in the rush to welcome a pro team.

"We can all get carried away," he said.

"People get left behind. I'd just like to sound a cautionary note."

The general view is that there is plenty of room for the newcomer alongside the national AFL, soccer and basketball teams.

Talkback radio highlighted this enthusiasm as a stream of callers suggested team names, although most were dreadful - Wombats, Rhinos, even Sandgropers.

The name is a small matter though, compared with the big news that Perth is about to become a major rugby port of call.

It first got a bid together three years ago but New Zealand vetoed the proposed expansion, leading to a transtasman rift and the World Cup hosting controversy.

The candidates had just six weeks to get their latest campaign together, and what is known about the Perth club so far is this:

* The state Government will complete a A$25 million ($26.7 million) upgrade of an old Aussie Rules oval which will become a 25,000 capacity rectangular football stadium. The team will share this ground with the champion Perth Glory soccer side from 2007. The Government has agreed to increase the capacity to 30,000 if needed.

* In 2006, the team will play at Subiaco Oval, where the AFL's West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers play in front of capacity 43,000 crowds.

* The team will initially be based at rugby's traditional home at Perry Lakes, a stadium built as the warm-up arena for the 1962 Commonwealth Games. But Perry Lakes is to be redeveloped as a housing area, so the team will move to nearby Challenge Stadium.

* The WA Rugby Union - which has a pre-Super 14 annual turnover of A$1m and reserves of about $750,000 - will run the new team.

* It looks certain to be modelled on the Brumbies, and will play an expansive game that will attract the punters.

* Perth officials say they have letters indicating wide cover from television and newspapers.

* Their home matches will fill a gap in the TV rugby schedule, although whether New Zealanders will hang on for a midnight kickoff is another matter.

But that leaves a lot that isn't known about a team that will play in just over a year.

* No players have yet been contracted, although about 75 candidates will be available for recruitment. The entire squad will be imported, as local players are only of development quality.

* Wendell Sailor, Clyde Rathbone, Matt Henjak, Justin Harrison, Brendan Cannon and Bill Young, and the overseas-based Manny Edmonds and Mark Connors are among those touted as recruits.

* The state will pay the first A$110,000 of each player contract, and the national union will provide the rest.

* The coaching appointment is rated critical for attracting top players. Sydney Randwick's Michael Cheika is an early favourite. One-time Brumbies linchpin Rod Kafer has quit an unsuccessful coaching stint at Saracens, prompting speculation about his chances. Ex-All Blacks coach John Mitchell put his hand up, but an Aussie is sure to get the nod. The appointment is due in late February, and the ARU will have a big say.

* Sponsors are apparently lining up although none has yet been revealed.

* Perth appears stumped for an obvious team name if the wobbly talkback suggestions are anything to go by. Team colours are another unknown, but expect something a bit jazzier than black and gold.

Perth had some hairy moments on its way to Super 14 admission.

Two days before the final submission was due, it was unable to gain access to its computer server and feared more than 200 vital pages were lost.

Smith had to wait for five hours before a computer expert arrived to save the day.

"He is one of our heroes - too right," Smith said.

And just hours before the ARU announced the winner, two radio stations including the ABC claimed that Melbourne had got the nod.

"Even I turned white at hearing that," Smith said.

The Perth club will not battle the dominant AFL code head on, Smith says it is competing for the "hearts and minds" of the state.

And what is big news for Perth may turn out to be even bigger news for international rugby. If Australia can take advantage of having a further 30 or so professionals pushing for national selection, it must lift their stocks further.