The Melbourne Rebels are delighted to announce that eight Rebels’ Under-18’s Academy members have been signed to the club’s Super Rugby squad for the upcoming 2022 season.
The electrifying Antonio Masina joins Wyndham products, Daniel Maiava and Divad Palu, Harlequins’ trio, Sebastian Sialau, Joeli Niubalavu and Patrick Lavemai, and Endeavour Hills’ pair, Eyda Haisila and Lebron Naea, as Melbourne’s latest squad additions.
Six of these players were also recently invited to the Australian Under-18’s camp, which was unfortunately postponed due to COVID-19.
This announcement caps an exciting time for Victorian rugby, following the Rebels playing a record number of Victorian-based players in season 2021, the rapid improvement by the Rebels’ Super W side, and the overall resurgence of grassroots participation across the state.
Melbourne Rebels’ Head Coach, Kevin Foote, said: “It’s been awesome to have the next wave of ‘Burn Boy’s coming through the pathway systems and now receiving the opportunity to be part of our club and culture.
“We’re so proud of our Victorian rugby community – the growth the game has seen in the last few years is unbelievable and a real testament to all the coaches, parents and volunteers, who all put their time, energy and hard work into developing the next generation.
“As a club, we’re going to do everything in our best abilities to help these guys succeed and represent the Melbourne Rebels and Victorian rugby at the highest level.”
Among the exciting additions is Rebels’ Under-18’s Captain, Lebron Naea.
The proud Endeavour Hills junior and Fountain Gate School Captain understands the enormous opportunity that lies ahead.
Naea says joining his hometown Super Rugby club is a “dream come true” and that he’s “humbled” by the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a number of former academy graduates who have since gone on to play for the Australian Under-20’s, the Melbourne Rebels and the Wallabies.
“Growing up as a kid, I’ve always dreamed about playing professional rugby one day and I’m very grateful by the opportunity to hopefully make it a reality soon.
“I’m truly grateful and can’t wait to get started with my new teammates, here in Melbourne.”
Seven of the eight new signings have progressed through the Rebels’ Elite Pathways System since Under-15’s, highlighting the importance and quality of the program.
Melbourne Rebels’ Head of Academy and Elite Pathways, Pom Simona, said:
“All these boys have progressed through together and have formed a really tight connection, so to now see them contracted together is a testament to our program, but also how they’ve kept pushing each other along.
“These are local boys who are proud Victorians that have only dreamt of playing for the Melbourne Rebels, and that motivation just hits different.”
Following their stirring victory over the Brumbies in April, the Melbourne Rebels Under-18’s squad will wrap up their 2021 campaign with games against NSW in Wyndham on September 12, and the Queensland Reds in Sydney on September 21.