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'We deserve it, and we need it': Rebels calling for Melbourne fans to show up

By AAP
Josh Kemeny of the Rebels (C) celebrates scoring a try 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)

Melbourne attack coach Tim Sampson is urging Victorian fans to give the Rebels the crowd “they deserve” as they open their Super Rugby Pacific season against the ACT Brumbies.

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On the back of two wins in their trial matches against NSW Waratahs and Fijian Drua, the Rebels could be building towards their first-ever finals campaign.

However it could all come too late with Rugby Australia expected to hand down its decision as soon next month on whether to shutter the financially-stricken club after this season.

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Sampson hoped that fans would turn out next Friday night at AAMI Park to show there was support in Melbourne for the team.

After a rough week, with administrators laying off 10 staff including long-time chief executive Baden Stephenson, Sampson said the team couldn’t wait to get the competition started.

“We have round one here and round two, Super Round, is here as well which is going to be great for us and also great for our supporters and members,” Sampson told AAP.

“Hopefully we’ll get some really good support next week and have a large crowd here because we deserve it, and we need it.

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“Round one can’t come soon enough for us and I’m sure there’ll be a few emotions around next week, but we’ll just have to keep a lid on that.”

The Rebels have assembled an intimidating forward pack, recruiting Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou and lock Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, while they can also call on Test forwards Rob Leota, Pone Fa’amausili, Josh Kemeny and Jordan Uelese.

They won multiple scrum penalties against the Drua and mauled the ball for two tries en route to a 26-21 victory on Friday.

Sampson said the pack would be a weapon for the side.

“They’re a big pack and I honestly believe they’re the most skillful pack in the competition, certainly in the Australian teams, and they’re very mobile and physical,” he said.

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Playmaker Carter Gordon looked in good touch against the Drua as he orchestrated the Rebels attack.

Sampson said a “stoic” Gordon had put the Wallabies’ World Cup debacle last year behind him.

“Carts has been impressive,” Sampson said.

“He’s training really well and did from day one when he came back from the World Cup, when he first came back into our program and he’s had a had a couple of really good trial games, and we can’t wait to see what he dishes up next week.”

Tickets for their opening match next Friday night at AAMI Park are still to go on sale.

With debt of more than $20 million, including monies owed to stadium operator, the Melbourne and Olympic Parks Trust, RA had to renegotiate a new agreement for the Rebels to use their home ground.

The club says the deal is done with ticket sales set to open over the weekend.

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