Victorian home-grown product Rob Leota has re-signed with the Melbourne Rebels for two more years.
The Club can confirm the 22-year-old has further extended his time in Melbourne, committing with the side until the end of 2021.
The contract extension has been a just reward for the Northern suburb prodigy’s promising 2019 form, which saw Leota play in 13 of the Rebels’ 16 games and resulted in the forward scoring his first Super Rugby try in Round 7 against the Reds.
Reflecting on the announcement today, Leota says the decision to stay in Melbourne until 2021 is something which the back rower is humbled by and grateful for.
“Everyone knows I’m from Melbourne and being able to stay here for two more years to do something I love is something I’m grateful for,” Leota said.
“To be around my family and to be able to play in front of them at AAMI Park every Friday night is awesome and something I’m looking forward to building on ahead of next year.”
A product of the Northern Panthers Rugby Union Club, Leota has become a key figure in showing young Victorian rugby players that there is a way to develop into elite Super Rugby talent through the local pathway.
With the Melbourne Rebels keen to keep a strong connection to the Victorian Rugby Community, Leota is also proud to continue being a role model for junior talent in the state.
“My heart was always in Melbourne (and) there’s a lot of kids in Victoria that myself, Jordan Uelese, Fereti Sa’aga and Pone Fa’amausili are trying to set a good example for,” Leota said.
“Being able to stay here, I hope I can try and inspire and help those younger Victorian’s coming through.”
After debuting in 2016 against the Crusaders as a reserve flanker, consecutive injury-riddled years in 2017 and 2018 cruelled Leota’s chances of adding to his first Super Appearance as a 19-year-old.
However, after enjoying the best vein of form in his burgeoning Super Rugby career following extensive rehabilitation and training programs, Leota believes he is ready to fulfil his ambitions of becoming a first-choice flanker.
“I’ve been busting my butt for the past three years,” Leota said.
“I think the first two years, I was a bit unlucky through injuries, but I’m feeling great now which is a real positive for me and I can wait to launch into the next two years.”
Melbourne Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson is thrilled with the re-signing of Leota to the Club for a further two years.
Stephenson says Leota’s strong performances this year and commitment to the Club until the end of 2021 highlighted the growing Super Rugby pathway system in Victoria.
“Rob has proven himself as a highly talented player and is very much a part of the Club’s future on-field plans,” Stephenson said.
“We’re delighted that Rob has come through as a Northern Panthers junior, through our Rebels Academy system and has now established himself as a Super Rugby player for his home Club, and it’s a testament to the growing stature of rugby in Victoria.”