Super Rugby report card: Melbourne Rebels

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Rebels started the season with a list that promised so much but an injury ravaged year saw that same list deliver very little.

Melbourne's best XV didn't get onto AAMI Park together until the final round of the Super Rugby season and that was one of, if not their best, performance of 2017.

The one win season cost Tony McGahan his job and while it remains unclear who will take the reigns in 2018, it is clear that change must be made to the entire program to ensure the injury toll is far lower next year.

HIGH POINT

Unfortunately, there is only one candidate for this award.

The 19-17 win against the Brumbies, in front of a boisterous AAMI Park crowd, was brilliant.

The Brumbies were at the peak of their powers but Melbourne showed what they were truly capable of in the win.

It would be the only time they sent their loyal fans home happy, with losses against the Waratahs and Jaguares particularly painful second half viewing.

LOW POINT

There were plenty of disappointing moments for the Rebels this season. Photo: Getty ImagesA similar situations to the Waratahs report card, in that there are so many moments to choose from.

The 71-6 drubbing at the hands of the Hurricanes was a woeful effort so early in the season but the 44-3 loss to the Kings was the point where the season spiralled out of control.

It was at the height of the injury crisis and that was very clear when Colby Faingaa and Will Miller were forced to fill in at halfback when Mick Snowden was struck down by injury in the first half.

Their form never really improved from that point forward, being well held by all opponents bar the Reds and Jaguares in the back half of the season.

MVP

Amanaki Mafi has been a consistent force this season. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyAmanaki Mafi by the length of the Flemington straight.

The No. 8 was a revelation for the Rebels and was voted Players' Player by his peers at the club's end of season awards function.

His durability was just as important to this season as his explosive carries and robust defensive work, which was the best of any backrower in Super Rugby.

Reece Hodge and Colby Faingaa were the only other players that made a significant impact on a weekly basis, which leaves a lot to be desired.

SURPRISE PACKET

There are a few contenders here, as the club has a handful of promising young guns that will fight for starting spots in 2018.

Sione Tuipulotu looks to be the real deal at inside centre, Jordan Uelese was picked in the Wallabies extended training squad, such is the level of his potential and Fereti Saaga won Rookie of the Year at the club awards.

Jack Maddocks looks to be a serious talent. Photo: Getty ImagesBut Jack Maddocks was the one player that had everyone in Melbourne talking and now that he is fully fit, it's easy to see why.

McGahan threw him in the deep end by starting him in round one but injuries cruelled his Super Rugby season and Australian U20s campaign.

He returned to the starting side at fullback against the Jaguares and immediately showed footy smarts well beyond his years.

He reads the game well, has a booming right boot on hand and boasts a sharp turn of foot.

Definitely one to watch next season.

UNDERACHIEVER

The absence of a competent flyhalf has hindered the Rebels all season.

Jackson Garden-Bachop was handed the keys to the team in round one but within two months, McGahan was forced to look elsewhere.

Nic Stirzaker has had another solid year but there's only so much a halfback can do without a long term playmaker running the show at 10.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN 2018

The injury toll should be priority number one.

Yes, some injuries are simply bad luck but when a whole team is crippled by injuries, questions of the strength and conditioning department must be asked.

After the round 10 loss to the Kings, there were 17 players on the injury list - seven of those would have been regulars in the starting XV.

The Reds went through a similar rough patch from 2014 to 2016, changed their program up and have coasted through this season with just a handful of injuries, the majority of those caused by nothing more than bad luck.

Sean McMahon spent plenty of time on the sidelines this season. Photo: Getty ImagesSecond on the priority list has to be defence.

Melbourne leaked 569 points this season.

That's a number only bettered by the Sunwolves, who conceded 671.

Counter attack defence seems to be a particular area of concern and that, more often that not, comes down to the emphasis placed on kick chase.

A healthy list and a sturdy defensive unit would go a long way to putting the Rebels back on track in 2018.

Rebels final grade: F

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