The Melbourne Rebels have today confirmed their full playing squad for the 2020 Super Rugby season.
In what marks Melbourne’s tenth season in the competition, the Rebels have added a mix of depth, experience and local talent among the fourteen new faces who join the twenty-six players retained from their 2019 campaign.
“At the conclusion of every World Cup cycle it’s common to see mass movement in squad lists as players head overseas or look for fresh opportunities,” said Melbourne Rebels GM of Rugby & Pathways Nick Ryan.
“We’re really proud we have been able to buck that trend and retain two-thirds of our squad. It is a direct consequence of our objective to build more cohesion and all our re-signings over the last 12 months is a testament to the belief this group has in our future.”
In the last six months, the Rebels have re-signed seven players, including returning Wallaby debutant Isi Naisarani and John Eales Medal winner, Marika Koroibete.
The Club can also confirm the return of outside back Tom English for the 2020 season, who will be in a race with Foundation Rebel Luke Jones to see who can be first to 100 Rebels caps.
“With the club ten years old we are seeing the first strong wave of Victorian players set for regular starting spots and several exciting local prospects in our academy system.
“We acknowledge there were aspects of our program and performance that weren’t up to scratch last season. At the same time, we did a lot well and it’s important for us to build from a stable base and add some quality players in key positions to add depth and belief to the whole squad and really round out our full roster.”
With the departure of experiences halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper to Kintetsu in Japan, the Melburnians are set to enter the season with a new look halves pairing under the guidance of Attack Coach, Shaun Berne.
“At scrumhalf, we have three new guys who will be scrapping it out in James Tuttle, Frank Lomani and Ryan Louwrens,” said Berne.
“Frank is an international and is really developing as a player, whilst James and Ryan have great qualities and Super Rugby experience. We don’t know yet who the frontrunner is, which is exciting. It all boils down to how hard they want to compete for that spot in pre-season.
“Beyond that, we’re very fortunate to have some sensational back line talent with Matt To’omua looking set to play his first full season with us, joining Marika, Dane and Reece in returning from the World Cup.
“I also know that being a Wallaby doesn’t guarantee a starting spot. We’ve brought in one of the NRC’s best talents in Andrew Deegan, Andrew Kellaway is back in Australia after his time abroad and young Melbourne magician Harry Potter has huge potential. I’m getting pretty pumped just thinking about it.”
In the pack, the fight for a spot in the back and front rows garners the most attention.
Wallabies Naisarani, Hardwick and Jones will compete against the likes of Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin and new recruits Michael Wells, Boyd Killingworth and Josh Kemeny for a place in the match day twenty-three.
“Competition is the best medicine for improving standards,” identified forwards coach Geoff Parling.
“We made giants strides in our set piece last year but we realise the bar must be raised again if we are to challenge week in and week out in all aspects of scrum, lineout and open play. The new faces in the group have already brought an edge.”
Up front, experienced campaigners Ruan Smith and Cameron Orr are the Rebels new book-ends, and former Sharks lock Gideon Koegelenberg bolsters the retention of Matt Philip, Ross Haylett-Petty and emerging local talent Trevor Hosea.
“We took a really conservative approach with getting Jordan Uelese back on-field in 2019. I really feel like we have good competition for places at hooker and in the whole pack.
“The World Cup showed the importance of disciplined, tight, physical forward play and we’re developing a pack that will do just that.”
The Rebels kick off their 2020 campaign against the Sunwolves in Japan on February 1 with their first home game in Melbourne against the Waratahs on 14 February 2020.
2020 Super Rugby Squad
* denotes new recruit to Rebels for 2020
** denotes Rebels Development Squad Contract for 2020
^ Jack Maddocks is currently on secondment with the Australian Men’s Sevens Program