To best describe the Rebels’ 2021 Super W season, three words come to mind – connection, resilience, and pride.
From lockdowns to misplaced jerseys and cancelled flights, our Rebels Super W side overcame relentless adversity to complete a remarkable campaign.
Following a spirited season opener in Canberra, the Rebels travelled to Coffs Harbour (NSW), for a pair of games against the Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies.
The Rebels began strongly against last year’s Grand Finalists, dominating possession and territory.
Electrifying tries to Ashley Marsters and Melanie Kawa, looked set to hand Melbourne a famous victory, before a last-minute major from April Ngatupuna, saw the Reds claim a dramatic 17-12 win.
Six days later, the Rebels wrapped up their season with a 9 AM clash against the Brumbies.
The Rebels set the tone early, combining unyielding pressure with some excellent breakdown work, before Melbourne University wing, Kelera Ratu, crossed over in the 31st minute to become the Rebels’ youngest try scorer at just eighteen-years-old.
Unfortunately, the game would end in more heartbreak for the Rebels, thanks to a last-minute penalty conversion by the Brumbies.
Despite a compromised preparation due to Melbourne’s COVID-19 restrictions, our Rebels’ Super W side managed to still push two of Australian rugby’s strongest clubs “right to the brink.”
Gallant in defeat, Melbourne Rebels’ Super W Head Coach, Alana Thomas, said Melbourne’s courageous campaign exemplified the program’s notable growth, now into its fourth year of existence.
“I’m just so proud of all the players and staff, after we had no club rugby in 2020, having been in lockdown for most of the year, and then having to start our program later than expected,” said Thomas.
“Going into Victoria’s fourth lockdown just three weeks out from our opening Super W game, ultimately meant our first game as a team was Round 1 in Canberra, rather than a trial match.
“I believe these challenges really steeled our group and the resilience, grit and mindset were to focus on us, and go out there and get what we deserved.
“The support from Melbourne was also greatly appreciated and shared with the team.”
Thomas, praised her side’s commitment to off-field growth and connection, believing it fuelled their “never give up” attitude.
“The turnaround from year one to this year, has been significant,” said Thomas.
“We’ve worked hard on the off-field culture for the last couple of years, which has been pleasing to see reflected in the improvements of results on the field.
“We’ve also made improvements in how we trained, with a focus on ‘training the game’ and using more unstructured open blocks in our sessions to replicate the game play.”
Sentiments echoed by flanker, Melanie Kawa, who once again, enjoyed another stellar Super W campaign.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the effort the whole group put together this season,” said Kawa.
“What impressed me the most was that we turned every obstacle into an opportunity, and we gained a lot from that as a group on & off the field.”
Reflecting on her second season as Rebels’ Super W Captain, Kawa applauded Thomas’s impact on the club’s program and for empowering her players in what has been a turbulent year for Victorian rugby.
“Alana is the most dedicated coach who never failed at making us feel valued as professionals and high-performance athletes.
“She’s been tireless in her efforts when it comes to showcasing women’s rugby here in Victoria, and she’s on a real mission to see Melbourne become the country’s best side.
“Despite this season’s challenges, Alana and the entire coaching staff did an amazing job at bringing us together in just 12 weeks and strengthening the team culture that had been established in the years before.”