Rebels feeling the Super Rugby pain

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels coach Tony McGahan says the ongoing Super Rugby uncertainty is seeping into his team’s performances, but stopped short of using it as an excuse for another loss.

The franchise released a statement on Friday night explicitly ruling out the possibility of selling its licence to the ARU, a move that seemingly turns the pressure cooker away from Melbourne after another week of Super Rugby limbo for the Force and Rebels.

While McGahan withheld from commenting about their safety, for legal reasons, but admitted it was seeping into his players’ performances.

McGahan drew a parallel between NRL club Wests Tigers and the Rebels, with Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admitting contract speculation over the ‘Big Four’ and the mid-week release of Mitchell Moses had leaked into their on-field performance.

Tony McGahan thinks a lot about rugby. Photo: WalmsleySimply put, the numbers don’t lie.

“I saw Ivan Cleary come out on Friday night, post Tigers and the Brisbane game and obviously they've had their 3-4 players with one of their players leaving mid-week to go to Parramatta,” McGahan said .

“I'm not equating our situation (with theirs) but they've got four players, we've got 45 players and we've got 20 staff.

“For people outside to magnify that by 45 and 20 staff, that's probably a reflection of (the situation).

“It's not when the players get on the field, we're certainly not blaming dropped ball or those sort of things.

“They're just skill errors that we're not good enough to do from a coaching perspective and from a playing perspective.”

Rebels assistant Morgan Turinui was outspoken about the mental effect the ongoing Super Rugby saga, and the perceived about turns from the ARU over the Rebels’ status, was having on the players and McGahan said mentality was where it was hitting most.

“Like anyone having a stress in their lives away from work those times when you're by yourself or with loved ones, that eats up that preparation time,” he said.

“As those things accumulate, it comes out on game day and you're maybe not at your best every week.

“They certainly don't drop balls for us and they're certainly not missing tackles or doing tackles or doing those things for us but certainly I would think that there has been some effect on our training week and certainly the preparation that goes in to be at your best to compete for a full 80 minutes every week.”

Sean McMahon made an immediate impression in his return to Super Rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesRecently returned backrower Sean McMahon said he had been more focused with returning to his own peak performance after a long layoff, but echoed McGahan’s comments that home time was the most affected.

“When we're at the club we've got all the boys get together and get around each other and we just continue to do what we gotta do,” he said.

“It's an individual thing away from the club that the boys think about and I can't talk for everyone once they go home but for me it doesn't really affect me.

“I just know there's one job for me to do at the moment, that's get myself back on the field, playing the `way I want to play.”

McMahon is one player whose future is up in the air, with the flanker off-contract at the end of the season and reportedly on the verge of taking an overseas deal.

The 22-year-old batted away a question on his contract on Sunday night, though, when asked about the situation.

“I'm not going to make any comments on my future at the moment. Let's just leave it there,” he said.

The Rebels aren't expecting their injury woes to be assuaged anytime soon, with Reece Hodge, Jack Maddocks (arm) and potentially Jackson Garden-Bachop (concussion) added to a list that seems to have a constant carousel of players flowing in and out.

Maddocks was already slated to be released for the U20s World Championship, while McGahan hopes Nic Stirzaker will return for round 14.

The Rebels host the Crusaders next Saturday night, vying to be the first team, let alone first Australian team, to take down the Canterbury side.