How the Melbourne Rebels can achieve their first-ever finals appearance with a win over Force
The teams will meet in in Newcastle in the last regular round, with Melbourne needing to beat the Force by four points or more in order to pip the NSW Waratahs for third spot and secure a qualifying final spot.
The winless Force have their own motivation as they can exact some revenge on the Rebels, who survived a 2017 Super Rugby cull at their expense.
The Wallabies utility back Reece Hodge, who’s likely to shift from fullback to the centres to accommodate the return of injured skipper Dane Haylett-Petty, said they were expecting the Force to come hard.
“We’ve done a lot of prep on them and hopefully we know what’s coming but we also think they’re going to throw some trick plays and all sorts of stuff as it’s their grand final,” Hodge said on Tuesday.
Although only turning 26 last week, Hodge has been with the Rebels since 2016 – longer than any other player in the touring party – and has been a part of late season fade-outs which has cost them playing in finals.
But he said the team was focusing about what they can achieve now, rather than what they’ve missed.
“It’s probably more a positive mind-set this week as we’ve got a chance to do something special that the club’s never done before so we’re not thinking about what could go wrong,” said Hodge, who is the club’s leading pointscorer.
“We’re trying to think about important this game is and how excited we all are to be the first Rebels team to make finals.
“It would mean everything to us.”
Hodge, who was overlooked by NSW when he started his Super career, said the chance to eliminate the powerhouse Waratahs also hadn’t come into the equation.
“It’s all focused on us; our destiny is in our own hands and we’re not worried about them.
“They are out of the equation in terms of how we’re preparing for the game.”
Hodge believes he’s been playing his best rugby at 15 over the last month but will shift to wherever required.
“I’ve felt really comfortable at the back and thought we’ve created some good opportunities but whatever role I’ve got to play this week then I’m happy to do it for the team,” he said.
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