The Melbourne Rebels will see 2024 as the perfect time to launch their finals charge.
They once again missed the finals in 2023, losing four out of their final five in finish in 11th.
However, Kevin Foote has recruited well in the off-season, bringing in the big-name signing of Taniela Tupou amongst others, making Rebels fans dream of big things.
With this in mind, Rugby.com.au looks at the five key talking points for the Melbourne Rebels heading into 2024.
1. No Excuses
The Melbourne Rebels have all the tools to succeed in Super Rugby Pacific.
They’ve got a Wallaby-lathered pack, an exciting ten and plenty of firepower in the backs.
Now the results must come.
The Rebels have narrowly missed the finals in back-to-back seasons but finals is now par for Kevin Foote’s side.
They showed they can contest with the Kiwi sides but missed that big scalp. This is the year for it.
2. Harnessing the Tongan Thor
To do the above, getting the best out of Taniela Tupou is a must.
The Rebels weren’t short on tighthead props but when a player like Taniela Tupou becomes available, you can’t say no.
He’s one of the best props in the world on his day but the key is keeping him on the park.
He missed the entirety of the 2023 Super Rugby season and lasted just one game in France before succumbing to another injury.
Tupou is joined at the Rebels by fellow Wallaby and lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, with the pair needing to lead the way if the Rebels are to go deep
3. Carter Gordon and getting over World Cup scars
Carter Gordon was the breakout star in 2023 for the Rebels as part of the ‘fast and fearless’ brand of Rugby.
It was a perfect representation of the Rebels and Gordon at their best, torching defences with their unpredictable attack at pace.
However, the lingering question is how much did the World Cup take out of him? Gordon was thrown into the deep end and looked good in patches before he was surprisingly replaced by Ben Donaldson.
Foote and the Rebels coaching staff have already put an arm around the young flyhalf but the detail is going to be how he returns to Super Rugby and an he pick up where he left off for the Rebels.
4. The next Toole?
The Rebels will be hoping Sevens recruit Darby Lancaster can have a similar impact to Corey Toole in 2024.
The club have a history of recruiting from the Sevens program and Lancaster is the latest, coming off a breakout year on the circuit.
He showed glimpses of his talent in the 15-a-side game in the U20 World Championships, blitzing through defences for the Junior Wallabies.
Lancaster faces significant pressure from Lachie Anderson and Joe Pincus, with Anderson impressing for Australia A and the Barbarians.
5. Winning the close one
The Rebels’ inability to close out the big wins continued to plague them in 2023.
They lost five games by seven or less whilst their heavy defeats to the Blues and Crusaders saw them leading well into the second half.
The added experience and quality in the team will help rectify this