Melbourne Rebels’ vice-captain, Michael Wells, says there’s no place like home, after the Rebels officially returned to AAMI Park last week, kicking off preseason in preparation for the 2021 season.
Following nearly four months on the road during the last season’s Super Rugby AU campaign, Wells says his teammates are thriving being back home in an area of familiarity.
“It’s so nice being back and having that centralised area that’s a home for everyone,” said Wells.
“Obviously, this year – jumping from here to Canberra, to Terrigal – it’s just nice being home and having familiarity for the blokes.
“Having a set scenery is great, so hopefully we’ll have more of that with a few home games coming up next year.”
Following the meteoric Super Rugby rise of Trevor Hosea and Josh Kemeny, Brad Wilkin’s impressive return to senior footy and strong performances from Isi Naisarani and Richard Hardwick, competition for a starting spot in the back row remains hotly contested.
Wells believes adding a more attacking element to his game will help strengthen his case for a starting spot in season 2021.
“We’ve got a pretty competitive backrow and it’s just about solidifying your spot there, so personally, it would be nice to get a bit of an attacking element to my game. I’ve been pretty comfortable defensively for most of my career, so I think bringing that attacking dimension is something I’m going to be working on this preseason.”
After playing seven games during his first season with the Rebels, Wells has become one of the club’s strongest voices around the playing group - a notion capped by his appointment as Melbourne’s vice-captain last year.
The former Saint Ignatius College product believes his strong leadership traits come from experience – particularly from his time at the Brumbies (2016) and Waratahs (2017-2019).
“I think there’s a natural dimension to leadership but it’s also something you develop overtime. It’s something you get with experience – obviously you don’t come in day one of a preseason and expect to be a leader. If you’re young and fresh to an environment, you earn your stripes that way.
“Getting that experience at other franchises - you learn off other great leaders, particularly myself with guys like Hoops (Michael Hooper), Stephen Moore when I started at the Brumbies and Christian Lealiifano. You learn off those guys how to lead – sometimes it’s by words, sometimes it’s by actions – and just finding what resonates with you as a person and your personality too.”
This year’s campaign was one unlike any other for the Rebels.
After spending more than fourteen consecutive weeks on the road, Melbourne broke through to record its first finals appearance in club history.
Wells says after having that first finals taste, the playing group is now hungrier than ever and believes focusing on playing structures which stand up through adversity, will go a long way to the Rebels going one better in 2021 and claiming their first Super Rugby AU Championship in club history.
“The strongest teams are really strong, and they believe in what their processes are, and they fall back on those during tough times.
“So, a bit more focus on the black and white stuff in our team and getting that muscle memory with the guys and understanding the structures, because when things get tough, they’re the things you fall back on – it’s not so much an emotional thing, it’s a set process.”