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What everyone is saying about the Rebels after their final game in Super Rugby Pacific

By Ben Smith
Rebels' captain Rob Leota reacts following their team's loss in the Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final match between the Wellington Hurricanes and Melbourne Rebels at Sky Stadium in Wellington on June 8, 2024. (Photo by Grant Down / AFP)

There were emotional scenes in Wellington as the Melbourne Rebels were defeated by the Hurricanes, which will go down as the franchise’s last game of Super Rugby for the foreseeable future.

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After Rugby Australia opted not to save the Rebels after the club was financially run into the ground, it was known that this would be their last season.

Players and fans alike were left visibly upset coming to the realisation that their beloved team would be no more.

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The result triggered an outpouring of tributes from media personalities who have covered the team, to former players and diehard fans who have supported the club.

Broadcaster Catherine Murphy called it “devastating to watch” as players were brought to tears. She said it was “14 years wasted” for the 2011 expansion team.

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One committed fan flew all the way over from the UK to see the team play one last time, arriving in New Zealand just hours before kick off to witness the unwanted history.

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The implications of the Rebels’ demise were already being shared on X, with unverified comments that the “talent drain has already started” as the NRL steps in to pinch the local playing stocks.

The loss of a playing pathway for Victorian players was also mentioned, with no professional side to provide an age grade pathway for the state’s players.

Despite the dark day for the club, the last ever Rebels side will actually go down as the greatest in their history.

The 2024 team is the only Melbourne Rebels side to ever make the Super Rugby playoffs since their induction in 2011.

The foundation team included the marquee signing Danny Cipriani, an England flyhalf, and former Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock.

Over the years they were able to attract big names, Wallabies Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Mark Gerrard, former All Black prop Greg Somerville, Tongan international Cooper Vuna, Japanese hooker Shota Horie.

In 2016, Scotland midfielder Sione Tuipulotu became the first local Victorian to play for the club, while other Rob Leota became the first homegrown Wallaby the club produced.

Eerily, ex-Wallabies coach Eddie Jones made a stark prediction back in 2010 when the club was granted a license.

He brazenly claimed the only reason they were in the competition was for TV money, but their existence would not be good for Australian rugby for “10-15 years”.

“The reason they’re in is because of TV rights. The current 14-team competition is just starting to find its feet [and the] addition of another Australian franchise is not good for Australian [or Super] rugby …”

“Another Australian side is just going to weaken the third and fourth teams. … It’s unrealistic for Australia to have five teams and it will be bad for Wallaby rugby in the short-term, for the next 10 to 15 years.”

The Rebels proved to be a cash drain on Rugby Australia for a number of years, before the team was offloaded in 2015 to private investors. With the axe looming in 2017 on one Australian side, the shares were sold back to Victoria Rugby Union making it difficult for Rugby Australia to axe at the time.

Seven years later the Rebels found that fate in the end, reportedly losing $54 million dollars over their existence.

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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1 Comment
T
T-Bone 16 days ago

Aus should go one further and go to three teams
Then they will be strong

Combine the southern kiwi teams (the Crulanders) so that’s four teams

Add the Drua, a Japanese team and the Jags and have a lovely super 10

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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

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S
Shaylen 3 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

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F
Flankly 5 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

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