Michael Stolberg’s rugby journey has taken him halfway around the world and now away from his baby daughter.
The giant lock will make his debut for the Melbourne Rebels against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday night – and in bizarre circumstances, he’s already played against both teams for a win and a loss this year.
The Queenslander was part of the Sunwolves side in the original Super Rugby competition before it was shut down in March, marking the end for the Tokyo-based side.
He started the year in Japan before the Sunwolves were relocated to Australia to avoid COVID-19, spending time in Sydney and Brisbane.
The 28-year-old was then picked up by the Rebels, only for the Rebels to have to shift their training base to Canberra indefinitely with a spike in cases in Melbourne.
“If you had of told me in January what the next six months had in store, I would never have believed you,” Stolberg said.
“I never thought I’d be back playing in Australia again but I feel really grateful and privileged.
“It’s crazy, but it’s just a sign of the times.”
His wife and 11-month-old daughter are now in Brisbane and he said it was tough to be away again.
“She’s started to take a couple of steps here and there this week and I’ve missed that but I’m lucky I’ve got such an amazing support from our tight family.”
Stolberg has played for Kintetsu Liners in the Japanese Top League since 2016 and is set to return there post Super Rugby AU.
But he firmly focused on beating the Brumbies, after he was part of a losing Sunwolves side back in round six of the initial tournament.
“The Brumbies hold no secrets as to where they’re strong and that’s their forward pack and I suppose for the Rebels forwards, we know we’ve got a big job to do,” he said.
“The Rebels are blessed with such a star-studded backline that we’ve got to go out there and front up physically and match it.”
– Melissa Woods
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