Melbourne Rising have been the most consistent NRC performer, the only team to make finals in each of the competition’s three seasons
This year, they will be looking for another shot at an elusive title, with a team of Rebels regulars mixed with Dewar Shield standouts.
Zane Hilton on board for his third season as Rising coach with the challenge of taking his charges all the way.
Angus Arundel, 23, Harlequin, U20 Barbarians
Tom Moloney, 23, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2015-)
Rory O’Connor, 23, Sydney Rays (2014-16), Warringah, NSW U20 (2014), Australian U20 (2014)
Fereti Saaga, 22, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2016-)
Toby Smith, 28, Wallabies, Chiefs/Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-), Waikato (2008-13)
Mahe Vailanu, Harlequin
James Hanson, 28, Wallabies, Reds/Rebels, Brisbane City (2014), Sydney Stars (2015), Melbourne Rising (2016-), North Harbour (2009), Australian U19 (2006-7), Australian Schoolboys (2005)
Siliva Siliva, 28, Force/Brumbies/Rebels, Canberra Vikings (2014), Greater Sydney Rams (2015-16), Australian U20 (2010-11)
Jordan Uelese, 20, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2015-), Australian U20 (2016-17)
Steve Cummins, 25, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2015-), Australian U19 (2011-), Australian U20 (2012), Australian Schoolboys (2010)
Esei Haagana, 18, Rebels
Alex Toolis, 25, Rebels
Josh Fenner, 18
Rob Leota, 20, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2016-), Australian U20 (2016), Australian Schoolboys (2015)
Sean McMahon, 23, Wallabies, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-), Australian Sevens (2012-14), Australian Schoolboys (2011)
Sione Taufua, 28, Melbourne Rising (2016-)
Lopeti Timani, 26, Wallabies, Waratahs/Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-)
Ikapote Tupai, 21, Rebels, Melbourne Rising, Australian U20
Maradona Farao, 31, Melbourne Rising (2015-)
Harrison Goddard, 19, Rebels
Nic Stirzaker, 26, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-), Manawatu
Lloyd Johansson, 32, Wallabies, Reds/Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-), Harlequin
Hunter Paisami, 19, Australian U20, Rebels U20, Harlequin
Oliva Siaula, 23, Rebels U20
Sione Tuipulotu, 20, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2015-), Australia U20 (2015-17), Australian Schoolboys (2014)
Semisi Tupou, 18, Rebels, Australian U20 (2017), Australian Schoolboys (2016)
Henry Hutchison, 20, Australian Sevens (2015-)
Marika Koroibete, 25, Wallabies, Rebels, Fiji rugby league, Wests Tigers RL, Melbourne Storm RL
Sefanaia Naivalu, 25, Wallabies, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2014-), Box Hill Broncos
Jack Maddocks, 20, Rebels, Melbourne Rising (2015-), Australian U20 (2015-)
Reece Hodge, 23, Wallabies, Rebels
WHAT HAPPENED LAST SEASON?
Melbourne finished fourth in last year’s NRC, earning themselves a third consecutive semi-final appearance, knocked out by the NSW Country Eagles 50-24.
MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER?
With such a young lineup, hooker James Hanson’s international experience will certainly be welcome during the set piece as well as around the field in a youthful Melbourne pack.
Hanson played just one game for the Rising in 2016, missing the remainder with Wallabies duties, but he is set to feature far more in the Rising’s 2017 campaign, in a tremendous boost for the side.
Outside centre Hunter Paisami has been on the radar in Melbourne rugby circles for a while now, and had a breakout season in 2017, playing for the Rebels U20s as well as for Dewar Shield premiers, Harlequin.
This season will be a chance for Paisami to build on an encouraging year, the young outside set to start in round one. Already one of the feel-good stories in Melbourne rugby this season, a big year for Paisami for the Rising could propel him to a full-time Rebels contract.
With a noticeably younger squad than in the past, a fourth finals campaign would be an exceptional effort, as other squads improve.
If Hilton can tap into his side’s potential, this could be an attacking team with unlimited possibilities.
Flyhalf Jack McGregor, winger Marika Koroibete and fullback Jack Maddocks, will add X-Factor, while forward pack bruisers Lopeti Timani and Steve Cummins should give them momentum up front.
If the Rising can find the defensive consistency they managed last year, and improve on a high-potential attack, there are no limits to this team’s potential.