As one season wraps up, another is about to begin.
That’s the story for nine of our Melbourne Rebels, who just days after completing a hard-fought Trans-Tasman campaign, have relocated to Queensland to prepare for the upcoming Wallabies Test season, which is set to kick off against France next month.
Among the selected nine players – the second highest among all Super Rugby AU sides – are three new additions to Dave Rennie’s squad: Andrew Kellaway, Michael Wells and Rob Leota.
For Preston-born flanker Rob Leota, receiving the Wallabies call-up was an emotional experience and something which he admitted had been a long-term goal of his.
“It was pretty emotional being able to tell my family, it was a dream of my father’s too, which was pretty cool to achieve. So now it’s just taking the opportunity with two hands and taking it to the next level,” Leota said.
“I called my Mum and Dad first, and as soon as I heard my dad’s voice I started crying straight away. They have been my biggest supporters throughout, so it was good to be able to tell them first.”
If selected for his first taste of international competition, Leota won’t just be representing the Melbourne Rebels, but the entire Victorian rugby community, who’s collective support from coaches, teammates and volunteers, has left a lasting impact on the grateful twenty-four-year-old.
With the Second Test scheduled to be played at AAMI Park, Leota can’t help but dream about the prospect of running out in the green and gold in his home city.
“I was born and bred in Victoria, the rugby there isn’t one of the states you look out for, so we always had that chip on our shoulder growing up,” said Leota.
“Playing in the second test in Melbourne, that would mean a lot for me, being able to run out in front of my friends and family in the city I was born in. I know it would definitely be a surreal experience.”
Another popular Rebel who received their first call up to the National squad, was Vice-Captain, Michael Wells.
Wells’ promotion came as no surprise after the versatile back rower put together one of the most consistent Super Rugby seasons of his impressive career, scoring three tries, placing among his side’s best tacklers, and elevating his already-solid defensive reputation.
Just 24 hours removed from receiving one of the highest honours at the Melbourne Rebels, The Spirit of Weary Dunlop award, Wells finally got his long awaited Wallabies call up, capping off a memorable weekend for the twenty-eight-year-old.
Wells attributes his Wallabies selection down to the benefits of focusing on his role and worrying about what he could control.
“Potentially I thought it might not happen for me, but I just need to worry about my job at the Rebels and playing the best footy I could. I was hoping that if I could string games together and do my role properly, that it would get rewarded with higher selection,” said Wells.
“For me, this is the pinnacle of rugby particularly in Australia, and it’s where I always wanted to be, it was always that ultimate goal.”
The Wallabies play France in the opening game of the eToro tour kicking off on July 7 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, with the second match to be played at AAMI Park on Tuesday, July 13 at 8 pm. Tickets are now available at Ticketek.