|Union||Australian Rugby Union|
|Location||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Ground(s)||AAMI Park (Capacity: 29,500)|
|Most caps|| Nick Phipps (47)
Ged Robinson (47)
|Top scorer||James O'Connor (175)|
The Melbourne Rebels (also known as the RaboDirect Melbourne Rebels for sponsorship reasons) are a professional rugby union team based in Melbourne, Victoria. They made their debut in SANZAR's Super Rugby tournament in 2011. They are the first privately owned professional rugby union team in Australia. The club shares its name with a former Australian Rugby Championship team, but is unrelated.
- 1 History
- 2 Ownership
- 3 Name and colours
- 4 Franchise area
- 5 Stadium and facilities
- 6 Supporters
- 7 Seasons
- 8 Players
- 9 Staff
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The era of professionalism in rugby union led to a restructuring of the Super 10 competition after the 1995 World Cup. SANZAR was formed to manage a 12-team provincial union from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. During the early years of 2000s South Africa and Australia pushed for additional teams each. Argentina also expressed interest. Discussions also included federated pacific island team in the vein of the West Indies cricket team, or individual island nations.
Bids for the 13th and 14th franchise opened in 2002. Melbourne had, to that point, successfully hosted several Wallaby test matches which the Victorian Rugby Union used to demonstrate a ground swell of support for rugby union by the Victorian public. Melbourne also hosted several World Cup matches hosted at Docklands Stadium and drew 50,000 to the final day of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Rugby 7s.
The then Bracks government promised investment in infrastructure, considering a 25,000 seat redevelopment of Olympic Park Stadium or $100m for a new stadium. The successful bid went to Western Australia, ultimately becoming the Western Force for the 2004 Super 14 season.
In 2006 the Australian Rugby Union, following the suggestions of a working party, announced the formation of a national domestic competition. The Melbourne Rebels were established for the inaugural season of the Australian Rugby Championship by virtue of NSW surrendering a fourth team in favour of Victoria. Coached by Bill Millard and captained by David Croft, the Rebels finished fourth (out of 8) and were runners up. The move was viewed as an interim step to a Super 14 franchise.
The VRU bid twice for a team in SANZAR's 'Super' provincial competition before being accepted for the 2011 season. Their winning bid was named after the team they fielded in the ARC.
On 29 July, at the Victorian Rugby Union's quarterly corporate luncheon, the Melbourne Rebels and the Victorian Rugby Union launched the playing strip, logo and club song "Do You Hear the People Sing?" from Les Misérables.
The 15th licence
With SANZAR announcing a restructure while renegotiating broadcast rights, an additional licence was created. Ten bids were received: seven from Australia, two from New Zealand (Hawkes Bay and Taranaki) and the Southern Kings from South Africa. The Australian expressions of interest included three from Victoria, one from Western Sydney, one from the Gold Coast, the New South Wales Country Rugby Union (backed by John Singleton) and a second Queensland team.
Three expressions of interest came out of Victoria for new Super licence- the Vic Super 15 headed by Mark Ella and backed by Kevin Maloney along with three former VRU directors, a Belgravia Group bid led by Geoff Lord (on behalf of the Melbourne Victory) and the Melbourne Rebels bid from the Victorian Rugby Union with backing from media magnate Harold Mitchell with assistance from corporate consultants, including KPMG.
On 12 August 2009, the Australian Rugby Union endorsed Victoria as Australia's sole candidate state for the new licence in the Australian conference in the expanded 2011 Super Rugby competition. They attempted to broker a deal that would consolidate the three bids as a singular entity that they hoped would be "overwhelmingly successful". The Melbourne Rebels bid petitioned the ARU to submit only one of the three bids to SANZAR.
The efforts to amalgamate these bids was fraught with politics. Investment banker John Wylie brokered a tentative agreement between the Melbourne Rebels and the Vic Super 15 that was announced at the 2009 Weary Dunlop Luncheon.
Given that SANZAR could not reach a unanimous decision the matter was sent to arbitration. The arbitrators felt that the Southern Kings' bid was more advanced with regard to business and financial planning and organization structure and governance. They also felt that the Southern Kings also had a stronger player base and rugby tradition. Revenue however, from the sale of broadcasting rights to Australasian broadcasters, would be reduced by US$15–20m over the course of a five-year agreement should the 15th team be resident in South Africa.
On 12 November 2009, after an arbitration process between themselves and South Africa's Southern Kings, Victoria was awarded the 15th Super Rugby licence, as it was considered more financially viable to SANZAR. The bid was provisionally offered to the Vicsuper 15 consortium but when the ARU declined to offer a AUD4.3m grant commensurate with funding supplied to the other Australian franchise, the Mark Ella led consortium withdrew its bid. The licence was subsequently awarded to the Victorian Rugby Union's Melbourne Rebels.
The ownership licence was handed to Harold Mitchell's consortium on 5 January 2010. The following day the ARU announced restrictions on the Rebels, gagging the franchise from announcing their signings from other Australian Super rugby team players until 1 June 2010. The Melbourne Rebels and the Rugby Union Players Association threatened legal action and successful had the embargo moved to 15 March. Rod Macqueen was appointed Head Coach, and Director of Coaching, 12 January. Macqueen is former coach or the winning World Cup Wallabies, and is a former Brumbies administrator. Damien Hill, three time Shute Shield Sydney University coach, became Macqueen's assistant. Former Western Force CEO Greg Harris was appointed General Manager, Football Operations.
Brian Waldron was initially appointed CEO, but resigned in April after being implicated in salary cap rorting while CEO of the Melbourne Storm. Auditor were called to examine Waldron's signings to ensure, as Wilson put it, "[Rebels] procedures are in accordance with the [ARU] protocols."
Pat Wilson, a former CEO of the Manly Sea Eagles and NSW Waratahs, and former ARU general manager of high performance became interim CEO in April, until Ross Oakley was appointed in September. Oakley is a former AFL CEO and current CEO of the Victorian Rugby Union. Mitchell said he expected the Rebels to retain Wilson in some capacity.
In September 2011 Oakley stood down from the Rebels and was succeeded by Steven Boland as CEO. The Rebels announced the succession plan, citing Boland's credentials as an executive at Visy and Veolia, and his presidency of the Parramatta Rugby Club during its rebuilding phase.
On 15 April 2013, Harold Mitchell announced that CEO Steve Boland had resigned, citing other opportunities. On 17 April, the Rebels announced the appointment of interim CEO Rob Clarke. Clarke, who had been CEO of the ACT Brumbies between 2003–05 and Chief Operating Officer of the Australian Rugby Union 2006-07, will fill the role until season's end.
Eddie Jones said the Rebels should not have been added to Super Rugby: "The reason they're in is because of TV rights. The current 14-team competition is just starting to find its feet [and the] addition of another Australian franchise is not good for Australian [or Super] rugby ..." Jones went on: "Another Australian side is just going to weaken the third and fourth teams. ... It's unrealistic for Australia to have five teams and it will be bad for Wallaby rugby in the short-term, for the next 10 to 15 years."
The Melbourne Rebels are the first privately owned professional rugby union team in Australia. The club is run by a board chaired by majority owner, media and communications millionaire Harold Mitchell. The other directors are Woolworths director Leon L'Hullier, entrepreneur Lyndsey Cattermole, former VRU president Gary Gray, Fred Hollows Foundation director Bob Dalziel, Tabcorp former deputy chairman Tony Hodgson, and current VRU president Tim North, SC.
Name and colours
The Rebels name was chosen for the Melbourne ARC team in consultation with the local rugby community; VRU officials decided on the Rebels name in reference to Victoria's first Wallaby, Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop. Chris "Buddha" Handy at the launch, said that "like the great Weary Dunlop, Victorian rugby has a history of daring to be different, a touch of the larrikin, and always having a go. These qualities are what you want in a Rebel and characterise the way Victoria is successfully tackling this historic year." The name was retained for the Super team.
The Melbourne Rebels and the Victorian Rugby Union launched the Super Rugby logo and jersey at the Weary Dunlop lunch on 29 July 2010. The logo's five stars represent the Rebel creed:
- Respect – yourself and the opposition
- Excellence – highest standards in everything we do
- Balance – sport and life, determination and humility
- Ethos – Team first, 'we, not me'
- Leadership – challenge the status quo.
The Rebels represent Victoria in the Super Rugby provincial tournament. The franchise area includes the 25 Victorian senior clubs of the Victorian Rugby Union, who view the Rebels as the final step for elite Victorian players to representative rugby. The 2010 state trials experienced a huge increase in participation, attributed to the establishment of the Rebels.
In addition to representing Victoria and the Victorian Rugby Union sides, the Rebels sought to build player pathways for South Australian rugby players. They developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the South Australian Rugby Union in 2011, with Brighton Rugby Club lock Andrew Brown being selected to play in the Rebels reserve side against Sydney Rugby Union representative side.
Stadium and facilities
The stadium officially opened 8 May 2010 with a rugby league test between Australia and New Zealand which drew 29,442 spectators. The Rebels share AAMI Park with co-tenants Melbourne Victory (soccer), Melbourne Heart (soccer) and Melbourne Storm (rugby league).
In April 2009, Neville Howard and Gavin Norman created an independent supporter group to grow awareness of the bid at a grassroots level. The Rebel Army networked via Facebook and Twitter; in early 2011 the Facebook page was 'liked' by 4500 fans and 600 Twitter followers.
The Herald Sun's Russell Gould compared the Rebel Army with Melbourne Storm's banner crew. Gould interviewed Rebel Army founder Gavin Norman who said: "The Rebels and the Waratahs have been talking up the interstate rivalries ... We are trying to make it a bit more tribal."
After the license was awarded to Australia and subsequently Melbourne, Victoria, the group became the Rebel Army, and were acknowledged on the Rebel website by hooker and media columnist Adam Freier who wrote:
"There are two types of people who watch sport. Their worth to us as players are equal, but there are some subtle differences. There are supporters and then there are fans- the fanatics who are crazy about their sport and team. The Rebel Army are beyond both ... My team mates and I love the fact that The Rebel Army are bridging the gap and making it easier for the players to follow our supporters."
Adam Freier also referenced the Army in his column on 'Rugby Heaven' (Fairfax) "The Rebel Army motto is "by the fans for the fans" ... Never have I been a prouder player as I walk past the clan at the games, and never have I felt so normal when I swing by and have a chat. They are very much part of the Rebels team."
Other sport reporters including Wide World of Sports' Matt McKay, and The Roar's Brett McKay. McKay wrote:
"I’ve given the Rebel Army numerous raps this season, all of them well deserved. I think what they’ve brought to Australian Rugby has been a breath of fresh air within an environment that has ferociously stuck to its tweed coat and chardonnay stereotypes."
The Rebels won both games against Tonga, 43-13 at Olympic Park and 54-0 at La Trobe City Stadium in Morwell, playing two uncontracted amateur players from Victorian Rugby Union clubs; Chris Slade from the Melbourne Unicorns and Sam Latunipulu Jnr from the Southern Districts Pirates.
Coach Macqueen said, after the contests with Tonga: "We were looking to try a few different things and a lot of them came off, so overall, we were happy with the performance; ... it's not about winning and losing, it's about trialling things under pressure. [We had pressure and] started to see a lot of the team structure, too, a lot of phases of play coming off. ... We are about to enter into one of the toughest competitions in world rugby. If we were playing like we are now, we wouldn't be successful ..."
The Rebels inaugural season kicked off on 18 February, with a Round One match against the Waratahs (NSW) at home, in front of over 24,000 people. The Rebels made four changes to the starting 15 to take on the Brumbies on 25 February, in front of over 14,000 people. Huxley moved to inside centre (number 12), allowing Mark Gerrard to make his debut at full back. Danny Cipriani and Nick Phipps also took their places in the run-on 15 for their first times. It was Cipriani who scored the first points for the Rebels, with a successful penalty kick in the 15th minute. Captain Stirling Mortlock scored the Rebels' first try with eight minutes to go, to put the team in front 22-19. Shortly after, Brumbies' winger Henry Speight scored a controversial try, off what appeared to be a clear forward pass, and the Brumbies were ahead 24-22. In the final minute of the game, the Brumbies gave away a penalty 37 metres out from the Rebels line, after some push and shove in a Brumbies scrum. Danny Cipriani slotted the penalty, handing Melbourne their debut Super Rugby win, 25 points to 24.
The Rebels won their Round Six home-game against the Wellington Hurricanes, and their Round Seven clash against the Western Force. For Rounds 13 and 14 the Rebels travelled to South Africa for games against the Bulls and the Cheetahs. The Rebels lost 47–10 to the Bulls, yet Bulls coach Frans Ludeke expressed confidence that the Rebels could experience a rapid rise.
Post season 2011
The Rebels finished 15th on the overall competition log and last in the Australian conference winning 3 games (eclipsing the Western Force's 1 win, 2 draws and 10 losses) and falling 3 log points short the Central Cheetahs debut season (who won 5 and lost 8 incurring 27 log points). The franchise announced the morning after their final round loss to the Western Force they had signed a two-year deal with James O'Connor and Mitch Inman in addition to Kurtley Beale from the Waratahs. Rod Macqueen stepped down as head coach to take up a place on the board of directors and was succeeded as head coach by former assistant Damien Hill. There were three retirees from the inaugural squad; Kevin O'Neill, Greg Somerville and Sam Cordingley while Luke Rooney returned to French rugby club Toulon. The Rebels announced a week long post season tour; playing Bath, Worcester and European champions Leinster. At the 2011 Australian Super Rugby Awards Rebels incumbent scrumhalf Nick Phipps won the Australian conference Rookie of the year award. New Senior Coach John Muggleton joined the Rebels as defence specialist after coaching Georgia at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Year by year summary
|2011||15th||16||3||0||13||281||560||−279||4||24||Won games against Brumbies, Western Force and Hurricanes.|
|2012||13th||16||4||0||12||362||520||−158||8||32||Won games against Blues, Crusaders and the Western Force twice|
Under Australian Rugby Union rules, the Rebels may contract up to 10 foreign players. This compensates the Rebels for the ARU's embargo which aims to prevent the Rebels recruiting current players from Australia's four other Super teams.
From the outset, Macqueen and his coaching staff have made it clear they will target players who can contribute to club culture in the long term, with an emphasis on preparing players for 'life after rugby'. Both Stirling Mortlock and former Wallaby Mark Gerrard commented on the Rebel's commitment to developing "life after rugby" were factors they were considering.
The first signing was London Wasps fly half Danny Cipriani initially slated to play at fullback, a position he's played on occasion for the Wasps. Prop Laurie Weeks signed 18 March. Welsh number 8 Gareth Delve signed 28 March saying, "The opportunity to test myself alongside the best players in world rugby in a competition I have grown up admiring, was one I couldn't refuse." Stirling Mortlock signed 31 March, in a three-year deal for an undisclosed sum.
Jarrod Saffy became the first Rebel to 'convert' from rugby league. The ARU was reluctant to allow the Rebels to sign rugby league players, due to a high number of converts returning to league. In the case of Saffy they made an exception, considering his selection in the Australian school boys, the Australian U21s and the Australian Sevens sides.
The Rebels squad for the 2014 season:
Extended Playing Squad
The Extended Playing Squad for the 2014 season is:
- Cruze Ah-Nau (prop)
- Jack Debreczeni (fly-half)
- Sam Jeffries (lock)
- Patrick Leafa (hooker)
- Sean McMahon (loose-forward)
- Ben Meehan (scrum-half)
Head Coach – Tony McGahan
Head of Athletic Performance – Bryce Cavanagh
Assistant Coach (Attack) – Sean Hedger
Assistant Coach Matt Cockbain
Physiotherapist – Paul Percy
Dietician – Alison Garth
- Melbourne Rebels Official website