Mortlock: Rebel culture hitting the right notes

Stirling Mortlock
by Stirling Mortlock

Culture is an important part of every rugby team and it seems like the Melbourne Rebels are on the right track.

A number of foundation Rebels players and management, including myself, were invited to the Waratahs match in Sydney a few weeks ago and the change rooms afterwards.

Seeing the team win for the first time in Sydney brought back a lot of memories but I was also just immensely proud of the players there now and seeing some things that were started five years ago really come into fruition in the culture that they’re building.

A strong culture is such a major force behind a successful team and it's something we really tried to establish when the Rebels first started up, though we probably didn’t quite nail it down in the first few years.

When we started, there were a few things that probably needed refining in that sense, a lot of which was a product of the club still being so new, but those elements are starting to come together now.

As we were singing the song after that Waratahs win, the words to which the players created only a few years ago, there was that nostalgia feeling but more so I felt the sense of camaraderie among the current players.

I think all the people in that change room absolutely stand for the team first and for everything about the Rebels organization.

That’s something that’s easily said but a lot harder to actually consistently implement.

Guys who were injured or didn’t take the field were all helping out or being involved in some way to try and help the side.

Some parts of a club culture grow over time but it’s also hugely influenced by the leaders around the team.

'Stirzy' is wise beyond his years. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThe personnel has changed hugely since that foundation year in 2011 - just Luke Jones and Laurie Weeks are still at the club - and it’s a new group of guys who are setting the agenda in a sense.

Nic Stirzaker’s appointment as captain came earlier than some might have anticipated but it was by no means a surprise.

From the moment he came into the club what stuck with me was how incredibly wise beyond his years and his drive to consistently be better.

I think it’s actually a blessing in disguise to have a young captain like 'Stirzy'- he’s street smart and an intelligent operator, who’s always trying to improve himself.

I’m pretty sure he’d take that mindset across to being a leader, as well as drawing off a lot of the players around him - and that can only be good for the club.

They’ve also got a lot more clarity and specificity on game management and their own roles, something that is difficult to establish as a fledgling club.

With a whole new group, they have had to be really strong on having a rugby program that develops the individual and also maintains a focus on winning.

The relationships that the players build feed into that and if their bonds are anything to go by, the current Rebels are headed in the right direction.

Stirling Mortlock AM, Captain the Brumbies, Rebels and Wallabies scoring 1031 Super Rugby points and 489 Test points.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.