With the Super Rugby AU season now in the rear-view mirror and pre-season for 2021 only a matter of weeks away, it is a bittersweet time of the year. As we look forward with optimism for what lies ahead, we also bid farewell to several players who have confirmed that they will not be with the Club in 2021.
The Melbourne Rebels confirmed departees of 2020 includes nine players, headlined by the Club’s most capped player, Tom English and 2018 Players’ Player Anaru Rangi, who will both pursue new playing opportunities over in Japan.
English will join the Top Challenge League club Kurita Water Gush, based in Astugi, Kanagawa Prefecture in advance of their 2021 playoff season.
A loyal fan favourite, English sat out this year’s Super Rugby AU competition in preparation for his move to Japan and the arrival of his first child.
Having joined the Rebels as a member of the Extended Training Squad prior to the 2012 pre-season, English went on to play 10 matches in his debut season, scoring 5 tries and winning the Club’s Rookie of the Year award to cap off a memorable opening Super Rugby season.
The prodigy from Cronulla would go on to amass 99 Rebels caps over the next nine seasons.
He departs having been appointed Club Captain in 2018, and as the Rebels most capped player, reaching a Club record 97 Super Rugby games (including 89 starts).
As one of most accomplished and adored players in Melbourne Rebels history, there will be further tributes to “Engo” in coming weeks and he will never be a stranger at the Stockade.
Anaru Rangi joins Top League side NTT Communications Shining Arcs in Kantō, after winning 35 caps for the Rebels over two seasons – and 12 for the Melbourne Rising - since making his Club debut in 2018.
The 31-year old New Zealand-born hooker made just 6 appearances in 2020, with an unusual knee injury curtailing his preparation for the inaugural Super Rugby AU season.
A popular fan favourite, Rangi will be best remembered for a spectacular first season in 2018, in which he played 15 games and was awarded the Rebels’ end of season Players’ Player award.
Following Rangi in the Top League will be winger Andrew Kellaway, who recently committed to the NEC Green Rockets in Abiko.
During his sole year at the Stockade, Kellaway became an important member of the Rebels’ 2020 campaign, leading the entire Super Rugby competition in tries prior to COVID-19, before playing a part in the club’s maiden Super Rugby AU finals push.
Starting scrum-half Ryan Louwrens will re-join Japanese side the Kintetsu Liners, whom he’s already played 15 games with over two seasons.
After playing 9 games across two different competition formats this year, Louwrens’ productive Rebels career was ultimately cut short by a season-ending bicep injury suffered against the Western Force in Round 5 of Super Rugby AU.
Another re-joining Louwrens at the Liners will be giant lock Michael Stolberg, will continues to add to an eventful 2020, relocating for the fifth time in eight months after playing seven games for the Rebels.
Fly-half Andrew Deegan will also depart the Melbourne after one season in which the twenty-five-year-old enjoyed a prominent role in Super Rugby AU.
Also bound for Kurita, Deegan played 6 games after being handed the playmaking reins to cover Matt To’omua’s move to inside centre, following the Club’s Round 5 win over the Western Force.
Meanwhile youngsters Esei Haangana and Semisi Topou will also look to try their luck in the Land of the Rising Sun, after both began their professional careers at Melbourne in 2017.
Haangana became the Rebels’ youngest ever debutant at 18 years and 15 days, when he came off the bench against the Lions in 2017.
Over four years, the lock played 11 games with the Rebels and 17 with the Rising.
Aged just eighteen, Tupou also burst on to the Super Rugby scene early. A valued member of the Australian Under-20’s side, Tupou would go on to make 9 appearances for the Rebels after his first season of Super Rugby in 2017.
Unfortunately, major injuries would hamper Tupou’s ability to build on his impressive debut season.
It is a rare occurrence for all eight of the above players all electing to depart Australia for Japan, with many decisions made mid-year when the nature of 2021 competitions was less well progressed.
Meanwhile former Rebel and Australian Seven’s star, Boyd Killingworth has opted to return home and play club rugby in Sydney, signing with the Warringah Rats in Sydney’s Shute Shield competition.
On behalf of the Club, Melbourne Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said:
“The Melbourne Rebels thank all of the above players for their commitment and sacrifices for the Club. Whether they leave Melbourne uncapped or with 99 caps, we sincerely appreciate their distinguished service in 2020 and their adaptability to embrace what was a truly extraordinary year. We wish them all the best with their future and reiterate that they are Rebels for life.”
With the Rebels 2021 playing roster still a work in progress there may be further player movements confirmed in coming weeks and we will update all fans as best as possible about such movements. This includes some very exciting player signings to come!