Rebels vs Reds to be moved to NSW after Victorian coronavirus spike

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Rebels centre Billy Meakes says the squad is taking the uncertainty of a stint away from home in its stride as Victoria's spike of coronavirus cases continues.

The Rebels have relocated to Canberra temporarily in the wake of a new wave of cases in their home state and at this stage there is no timeline for their return.

In the wake of news that 75 new cases had been detected in Victoria, the Queensland government released health advice on Monday morning with strict rules around isolation for Queensland sports teams.

Under new restrictions, Queensland teams will have to isolate for 14 days if they play against a Melbourne team in Queensland, play in Melbourne and then return to Queensland or play in another state against a team who has been in Melbourne in the preceding 14 days.

Melbourne's squad travelled to Canberra on Friday, more than a week earlier than planned, ahead of Saturday night's clash with the Brumbies with the understanding that state governments could take the action Queensland has.

They were initially planning on being away for a fortnight but Monday's news will more than likely see that stretch well beyond that.

Melbourne confirmed in a statement that their round two match against the Reds would be moved to NSW, though the exact venue is still to be determined.

The Rebels will have been out of Victoria for two weeks when the July 10 fixture comes around, leaving them clear to play the Reds without the Queensland group needing to isolate on their return home.

The Rebels have a round three bye and are scheduled to play home games against the Waratahs on July 24, the Brumbies on August 7 and the Force on September 4.

Meakes said the uncertainty around their plans going forward was somewhat overshadowed by the chance to finally play rugby again this weekend.

"I don't know there's too much concern (right now), I think the overriding emotion is excitement about playing," he said.

"There's uncertainty around where we'll be in the coming weeks but one thing that is certain is we're playing the Brumbies and it's just super exciting to be back out there playing Super Rugby."

The Rebels are far from the only team affected by Victoria's coronavirus surge or indeed quarantine restrictions around the country.

AFL and NRL teams have been playing in quarantine hubs in recent weeks while the Melbourne Storm and NZ Warriors have both spent weeks away from home due to travel restrictions.

The Warriors have had the roughest time of arguably any team, with players unable to see their families after making the trip across the Tasman, and a run of poor results led to the sacking of coach Stephen Kearney last week.

In Super Rugby AU, the Force are set to be based in a NSW hub when they make the cross-country trip next week ahead of their first Super Rugby AU game as well.

Meakes said looking at how the Storm, especially, had handled their travel gave him optimism that the Rebels could manage the challenge of being away from home.

"I think you can definitely look at those teams, the Storm been on the road for a little while now and they've found success on the road," he said.

"Then a team like New Zealand Warriors have on the road for 10 weeks and seem to be doing fine.

"It's out of our hands...safety is the number one priority for everyone in the competition and we're just trying to make do and get back on the pitch."

In a statement on Monday, the Rebels said the move away was one they were willing to make to ensure the competition went ahead.

"Not unlike other teams and codes domestically and abroad, the short-term relocation of the Melbourne Rebels away from Australia’s sporting capital has been a challenging and evolving situation," Monday's statement read.

"It is a sacrifice from our club, players and staff which provides for the commencement and continuation of the 2020 Vodafone Super Rugby AU competition and illustrates our commitment to the future prosperity to rugby in Australia.

"The Melbourne Rebels will endeavour to provide further updates when future arrangements are confirmed."

The Brumbies take on the Rebels on Saturday July 4 at GIO Stadium, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy a Kayo subscription here.