The Melbourne Rising will be led by Head Coach Zane Hilton in the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).
Hilton, who moved to Melbourne in 2014 to assist Tony McGahan at the Rebels, was previously Head Coach of Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League, and also boasts experience at Kyuden Voltex (Japan), Brothers Rugby Club (Brisbane) and Benetton (Italy).
He will be aided by Craig McGrath, who returns in the role of Melbourne Rising Assistant Coach for the second straight year, after a first year of involvement with the Rebels.
Hilton said he was excited to sink his teeth into the NRC and the Melbourne Rising over the coming months.
“I’m really looking forward to being at the helm of the Rising for the upcoming campaign,” Hilton said. “Whilst I was in Japan last year during the NRC, I have had the opportunity to watch a lot of footage of not only the Rising, but the competition in general, and I like what I see!
“It’s such exciting Rugby with some great law variations to encourage positive play, and I believe that the Melbourne Rising can build off the minor premiership last year and again be a serious contender in 2015.
“I’m also really pleased that Craig McGrath will be assisting me; he has done a great job with the Rebels this year, and did such a good job to bring the Melbourne Rising squad together last year, and the players really enjoy working with him.”
Hilton is also most supportive of the decision to take the four Melbourne Rising home matches to the local Victorian community, having work in community development early in his career.
“At the beginning of my career, I was actually the Regional Development Manager for the Queensland Rugby Union, so I understand the importance of taking the game out to different regions and Clubs in order to promote Rugby,” he said.
“It has a big impact on participation levels, particularly among junior players, as they see these guys in action on their own doorstep and then want to emulate them; I’m looking forward to heading to Harlequin, Morwell, Geelong and Frankston with the Rising.”
The Melbourne Rising squad came together on the weekend for an induction day, with the entire Extended Training Squad (ETS) and Rebels players all together to learn about Hilton’s plans for the program, and to get to know each other for those who hadn’t previously met.
“There was a real buzz and sense of anticipation as we assembled for the first time,” Hilton said. “Our ETS will start ripping in at training over the coming weeks before the allocated Rebels players return from their leave period and we make the final squad selection.
“I’m sure I speak on behalf of not only myself but also Craig, the playing group and the entire staff when I say that the eight week wait before the first game will pass pretty quickly, and that’s exactly the way we like it; we can’t wait to get started.”