Melbourne Rebels’ flanker, Brad Wilkin says his side’s focused on making AAMI Park a fortress this year, with the Rebels’ first game of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season now less than four weeks away.
Speaking on the ‘Rugby Fixation’ podcast earlier this week, Wilkin revealed a preseason focus on strengthening connection has the Rebels primed to build on last season’s impressive 2020 campaign.
In a season unlike any other, Melbourne captured their maiden finals birth despite spending the entire Super Rugby AU season on the road.
With the Rebels set to host four games back at AAMI Park this season, optimism is high as the club looks to build on last season’s success.
“Our focus this preseason has been on us and working on our own culture; we’re really happy with how we’re going,” said Wilkin.
“We won seven games last year, and played every game on the road, so we actually won more games away than any other team in the competition.
“We didn’t get a home game last year, so going back to AAMI Park will give us a lot of confidence and we want to make that a fortress and get our fans excited about coming to AAMI Park to watch us play.
“That’s what we’ve been focused on and we’re really excited.” After debuting nineteen players in 2020, Wilkin believes the blooding of new talent will continue this year, with a wave of fresh faces pushing for senior selection in Round 2, including Australian Sevens star, Lewis Holland and exciting Victorian product, Josh Canahan.
Touching on the Rebels’ impressive depth, Wilkin praised the leadership of returning Wallabies’ squad members Jordan Ueelse, Trevor Hosea and Pone Fa'amausili, with the trio embracing a mentorship role with Melbourne’s emerging youth.
“I think everyone in our squad is capable of getting some game time.
“I really like how Lewie Holland has been training – he’s got a fair bit to offer to us this year and we’ve got a fair bit of young boys coming through our pathway down in Victoria.
“Josh Canahan is a young second rower who’s learning the ropes from Trevor Hosea, who’s just come back from the Wallabies and he’s gone up another level.
“We’re really lucky to have guys like Trevor, Pone (Fa'amausili) and Jordan (Uelese) come back and lead the younger boys around.”
Now entering his fifth season of Super Rugby, Wilkin reflected on his remarkable journey growing up on the humid slopes of Wellington (New South Wales), to overcoming three ACL injuries and now becoming a key member of a Melbourne Rebels squad competing for a Super Rugby AU title.
“Now that I’m at the Rebels, I’m a little bit older and I’ve gone through a few ups and downs along the way.
“I feel like I’m just better off for it with a bit more resilience and lessons that I can share and pass on to the younger guys now.”
The Melbourne Rebels kick off their 2021 Super Rugby season against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, February 26 at 7:45 PM. Catch every game of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season ad-free, live and on demand on STAN Sport.