The Melbourne Rebels are thrilled to announce the re-signing of forwards Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells and Richard Hardwick all committing to continue their careers in Melbourne, with Wilkin and Wells extended to the end of 2022 and Hardwick a one-year extension to the end of 2021.
The new deals will see the Rebels retain the three important members from a promising 2020 Super Rugby AU campaign in which the trio combined to play 22 games, recording over 1200 minutes and completing 162 tackles between them.
For Michael Wells, it was an impressive first year with the Rebels, making seven appearances during this year’s Super Rugby AU competition and becoming a crucial member in the Rebels’ steadily improving scrum. The twenty-seven-year old’s value extended far beyond just the playing field, with Wells’ strong standing among his peers being recognised by his appointment as club vice-captain.
Wells says he’s thrilled to be extending his stay at the Stockade and believes that despite the success of 2020, he still holds unfinished business with the club.
“I’m excited to be staying with the Rebels for another few years as I feel there is a genuine amount of growth and potential left in the group,” said Wells.
“Making the finals in an Australian based competition was a start this year but the job’s not done.”
Richard Hardwick produced a stellar Super Rugby AU campaign, playing nine games and placing inside the club’s top ten performers for metres run (142), clean breaks (3), turnovers won (9) and completed tackles (65).
Following two seasons in Super Rugby, Hardwick would make his Test debut off the bench during the Wallabies clash with Fiji in 2017.
Since venturing to Melbourne in 2018, the twenty-six-year-old has gone on to play 35 matches and looms as a crucial figure in the Rebels’ pursuit to build on last season’s success.
Hardwick says he’s excited to continue representing the city of Melbourne and for the opportunity to make Super Rugby AU history with some of his closest friends.
“We have such an awesome group of guys with some really exciting young players coming through, and I believe we’re building something really special down here,” said Hardwick.
“We’re getting better every year in reaching our goals, so it feels like we’re so close to being part of something really special and really ground-breaking where most people outside of Victoria don’t really give us a chance.”
“I think winning a competition would be something you would always look back on and remember and that was a big reason for me re-signing.”
Joining Hardwick and Wells is the supremely talented, Brad Wilkin, who made his long-awaited Super Rugby return this year after successfully overcoming relentless knee injuries.
The popular flanker impressed immediately upon his return, leading the Rebels to a memorable Round 6 victory over the Brumbies at Leichhardt Oval, making 12 tackles, with 9 carries and a try in just his second game back.
Hailing from Wellington, NSW, Wilkin began his first-grade journey playing for Sydney University in the Shute Shield, with his strong form warranting selection in the Junior Wallabies squad for the 2015 World Rugby Under 20 Championships in Italy.
In 2018, Wilkin made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs, playing six games over two years, before joining Melbourne and playing in the opening five games of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
The twenty-four-year-old says the Rebels’ strong culture, paired with an emerging list, were the two central factors behind his re-committal to the club.
“I am really happy to be staying around in Melbourne for the next few years and being a part of this emerging group,” said Wilkin.
“I believe that we are doing a lot of things right down here, on and off the field, and the people in the organisation truly make it a place you want to be a part of.
“As a club we were able to create history this year by making finals, but now it’s about building on these foundations for next year which I am really excited to be a part of.
“I look forward to returning back to AAMI Park in 2021 and playing in front of our loyal supporters once again.”