The opportunity to pursue your childhood dream and begin life as a professional rugby player is an exciting time in any young player’s career.
However, it can be an challenging experience, especially for young interstate players who chose to leave their hometown comforts to follow their dreams of Super Rugby stardom.
To combat this, the Melbourne Rebels established the Homestay Program – an initiative designed for host families to provide up-and-coming players with a roof over their heads, home cooked meals, transport, emotional support and guidance during their adjustment period.
The program doesn’t just benefit our players - our Homestay families have found this initiative a truly enriching experience through cultural exchange where participants can learn about each other's backgrounds, traditions, languages, and ways of life, fostering a deeper cultural understanding and perspective.
Furthermore, the local insights Host families can provide will fast track our new players’ connection with Melbourne culture, helping them adapt to their new surroundings and thrive on the rugby field.
Above all else, our programs create meaningful, lifelong friendships, with our players staying connected to their host families way beyond the duration of their stay.
Rebels Board Member Tim North KC and his wife Anne, have been two driving forces of the program since its inception, with their love, care and selflessness having a massive impact on the Melbourne Rebels.
“We decided that it would be a good experience for new people coming down to Victoria to have an experience of living with a family and getting acclimatised to Melbourne and being shown around,” said North KC.
“Another thing which is special is we get to meet their Mum’s and Dad’s. We talk to them on the phone and there's some reciprocity between all of us who talk about that particular player and how he's going.
"For people thinking about whether or not to have a young player stay with them and be part of their community and to get to know that community, the real essence is that there's a special bond.
"The families like the experience that their sons and daughters are having and like we mentioned, we actually get to meet all the families and we spend time socialising with them, and that bond is so unique because if they need anything, they'll ring you.
“I get telephone calls from parents all over the world, who want to know how they're going and what's happening and all that sort of stuff, and we welcome all those conversations.
"We've now got new great mates we can visit all over the world. So we're lucky. We feel really good about it.”
Melbourne Rebels and RUPA Player Development Manager Moana Leilua, said a supportive home environment is vital to a young player maximizing their development both on and off the field.
“This program came about from something Dave Wessels started, which was to make sure any of our young players coming through who had to transition interstate to Melbourne, regardless of their type of contract, that we would do everything in our power to make the process as smooth as possible," said Leilua.
“Depending on their age, our players would stay in the program for one or two seasons, before independently going out and pursuing their own independent accommodation.
“Our Club is so grateful for all our families opening up their homes and for their hospitality which gives our young players those home comforts and great confidence during a demanding time in their lives.
“Many boys have never left their homes, so our host families play a crucial role at our Club and are a big part of what we do and the culture we’re developing at the Rebels.”
As the Melbourne Rebels look ahead to the Golden Decade of Australian Rugby, our Club is on the search for a new generation of host families to support the next Carter Gordon, Lukas Ripley and Cabous Eloff coming through our ranks.