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Melbourne Rebels CEO hits back at reports club's future is in doubt

By Finn Morton
The Rebels huddle during the round 11 Super Rugby Pacific match between Melbourne Rebels and ACT Brumbies at AAMI Park, on May 07, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

CEO Baden Stephenson has hit back at claims that the Melbourne Rebels’ future is in serious doubt with multiple media outlets reporting that the club has up to $9 million AUD in the red.

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Australian media outlets have painted quite a dire picture over the past few days as murmurs and speculation about whether the Rebels could survive past 2025 began to surface.

News Corp understands that Rugby Australia is unable to step in and save the club from its financial woes, instead, it’s believed that the Rebels may merge with the Brumbies in the future.

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The Rebels reportedly owe a substantial amount to the Australian Taxation Office, with The Australian Financial Review revealing they need to pay around $1 million for the use of AAMI Park.

But Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson has dismissed the “recent negative media coverage” by endorsing the “extremely bright” future for the Melbourne-based Super Rugby franchise.

“In response to recent negative media coverage originating out of Sydney, the Melbourne Rebels wishes to address the speculations and set the record straight,” Stephenson said in a statement.

“Despite the unfounded speculation circulating in the media, we want to assure our supporters, stakeholders, and the wider community that the Melbourne Rebels’ future is extremely bright.

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“Our club is unwavering in its commitment to excellence both on and off the field in 2024 and will not be distracted by those who are seeking again to harm and disrespect our community.

“Led by Chairman Paul Docherty, the Board of Directors and our executive, our club has consistently benefited under a foundation of strong leadership, diverse thinking, invaluable experience, and an unwavering fighting spirit.

“We remain resolute in our stance against any form of intimidation or exploitation. Instead, we stand tall, recognising the honour and responsibility we bear in representing everyone in our community on both the national and international stages.”

The reports of the Rebels’ financial woes paint a disastrous picture ahead of Melbourne’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign in 2024.

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Out of all clubs in SRP, the Rebels have been among the most active ahead of the new campaign by signing some marquee talent to bolster their ranks.

Wallabies Taniela Tupou and Lukhan Salakia-Loto, one-Test All Black Matt Proctor and former Australian sevens star Darby Lancaster are among the recruits for the 2024 season.

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J
Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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