Rebels duo confident they'll remain in Melbourne in 2018

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Newly re-signed Rebels duo Nic Stirzaker and James Hanson are confident they’ll still be plying their trade in Melbourne in 2018.

Hanson and Stirzaker were two of four players whose re-signing was announced on Monday, with Steve Cummins and Fereti Saaga signing two year deals with the club.

The pair are both committed for one more year, meaning they’ll either be playing for the Rebels or, should Melbourne be the team cut, shifted to a different Australian franchise or receive an early release.

Capped Wallabies hooker Hanson said he had planned for every possible outcome, including stepping away from the game, before his re-signing was officially announced on Monday.

“I was pretty confident that what ever happened that I was going to be right, in terms of if it didn't work out here, potentially somewhere else in Australia or worst case I'm doing my studies so I thought of every different scenario down to Plan E or F,” he said.

The Rebels are feeling the impact of the Super Rugby drama. Photo: Getty Images“Myself, my wife and my family were confident in the plan we put together and thinking about it in that depth helped a lot with where I was at and that was the advice I was giving to the guys around the club was 'think of your best case scenario and also your worst case scenario'.”

Hanson said it was pragmatism, rather than pessimism, that had him thinking about every scenario.

“Definitely. I think you've got to - even if,  I was to be injured or whatnot, it's the same scenario that you’re out of a job,” he said.

“So, for me as a player you've always got to be thinking about that next little phase in your life.”

The 28-year-old never seriously considered any option outside of Australia, determined to keep his dream of playing in the 2019 Rugby World Cup alive.

“For me, I still have a goal of working towards that Rugby World Cup,” he said

“I've been involved in the  last few but haven't played so to me that's a real bi goal of mine long term goal is to be involved in that World Cup and still have ambitions to play at that level. I feel like at Wallaby level i've still got a few things to finish off there.”

Stirzaker, in his second season as captain, spurned the possibility of heading offshore to stick with the Rebels for another year.

“It's definitely tempting - (that’s) shown by the amount of Australian players over there, probably speaks for itself but at this stage for me I'm really happy to stay here,” he said.

“I've decided to stay and I'm really happy about that and confident that we'll be around.

“If we're not, I'll tackle that then.”

Nic Stirzaker has escaped sanction. Photo: WalmsleyIn a quirk of the Super Rugby draw, the Rebels and the Force will take each other on in Perth this weekend, in what could be the penultimate game for one of them, though a timeline on that still remains unclear.

“it's not just our two clubs that have been affected, it's all the Australian clubs have been affected so it does have more weight this game in particular because potentially it could be the last time we play each other,” Hanson said.

“Hopefully we're both in the competition next year but if it is our last game, both sides will be wanting to put their best foot forward.”

One of these two teams is set to be cut from the Super Rugby competition in 2018, though the saga that began almost a year ago is still ongoing.

The situation is unlikely to get any clearer until at least July 31, when the ARU begins arbitration with Rugby WA over the legality of potentially axing the Perth franchise.

The national body is currently in mediation with the Rebels over damages the club claims the saga has inflicted on its ability to sign sponsors for next year.

While the situation remains ambiguous and the clubs continue to sign players, the ARU's debt looks set to grow.

The situation leaves incoming players in an unenviable position of potentially moving to a new city without knowing whether they will be able to commit to long-term living arrangements.

Players will be encouraged to move to another Super Rugby franchise and if they can't find a good fit, they'll either be granted an early release or have their contracts paid out by the ARU.

The Rebels take on the Force on Saturday, kicking off at 9:55pm AEST LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RADIO.