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Rugby Australia confirm Melbourne Rebels' participation in Super W 2024

By AAP
Ashley Marsters with the ball in hand for the Rebels. Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The cash-strapped Melbourne Rebels will press ahead with a Super W team in 2024 despite the club’s future looking increasingly grim.

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Phil Waugh said the women’s contracts would be honoured in the same manner as the Rebels’ male players, but the Rugby Australia (RA) chief was unable to place a time line on any decision around the club’s existence beyond 2024.

Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers on Thursday cut 10 staff including long-serving chief executive Baden Stephenson, while RA re-contracted men’s coach Kevin Foote and the high-performance team on four-month deals.

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“There’s a lot of work that needs to go into what ’25 and beyond looks like,” Waugh said on Friday.

“Right now, it’s just around ensuring that we’ve got the appropriate arrangements to be playing at AAMI Park, to get tickets on sale, and a lot of the operational aspects of delivering a successful ’24 Super Rugby season for the Rebels.

“Then we need to accelerate the conversation on ’25 and beyond, because players need certainty, staff need certainty, high-performance staff need certainty.

“The sooner we can get to an outcome with all the different stakeholders on what the path forward looks like for ’25, the better it’s going to be for our people.

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“And, as we know, we need to look after our people.”

Insisting the Rebels would “absolutely’ see out the Super W season, Waugh said the focus on “participation and pathways will be exactly the same” even if there are no Super teams in Victoria in 2025.

“(For) young and female athletes coming through the system, the focus and pathway will be exactly the same,” he said.

“It’s a broader conversation on the future of the Rebels (for) ’25 and beyond whereby the female team and participants are very much part of that conversation.”

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Waugh’s only promise to the Rebels was transparency, after the Western Force endured a brutal axing from Super Rugby in 2017 before being reinstated in 2020.

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“That’s why I don’t over-commit and over-promise to you, and give you a time line, because there’s just so many different machinations to the conversation,” Waugh told reporters on a video call.

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt (from the Force affair) but probably the number one lesson is to be really transparent and honest and make sure that we’re dealing with the situation sensitively, because it is a very sensitive situation.

“We just need to work through sensibly how we get to a resolution, and the sooner we can get to a resolution for all parties, including our commercial partners as well as our broadcasting partners and our neighbours across the ditch.

“It’s really important for us to be engaging with everyone and getting a sensible solution as quickly as we can.”

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Poorfour 4 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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