Rebels still hopeful of returning home before Super Rugby AU conclusion

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Rebels are still holding out hope that they will be able to return to Melbourne before the end of Super Rugby AU despite increasingly severe restrictions being placed around Victorian travel.

Melbourne's players and a host of staff are set to be based out of Canberra for the next four weeks at least, as coronavirus cases spike in Victoria, in a bid to ensure the Super Rugby AU competition continues unimpeded.

Relocation was made a necessity last week when Queensland announced strict border controls and quarantine requirements for sporting teams in Queensland who had been in contact with teams in or from Melbourne in the preceding two weeks.

On Monday, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced that the NSW-Victoria border would be closed from midnight Tuesday.

Already, the squad has said they are prepared to be away for as long as they need to be to keep the competition going but it is not an easy proposition.

With a bye scheduled for next week and the uncertainty around when they would return to Melbourne, many players and staff were hoping to try and have their families potentially visit Canberra for a short time.

Monday's border decision, though, has left any prospect of that up in the air as the club looks to seek more clarity on quarantine and testing requirements for anyone who might be able to travel.

Stephenson said he was far from resigned to the possibility that the Rebels would end up being on the road for the entire competition despite recent developments.

"It's a little bit early to resign ourselves to that," he said.

"Right now, our plan is for our next four weeks - we were looking at  two week blocks but given the circumstances, we don't think we'll be returning to Melbourne within the next month.

"So, it's about what we do in the bye week, then we'll play our game against the Tahs in Sydney and then we play the Force in Sydney as well.

"We're still hopeful that our last two games might be home games (against the Waratahs and the Force) love to be back playing in front of members and fans in Melbourne."

For now, the team will be based in Canberra for what shapes as the next month, travelling to Sydney for their next two matches against the Reds and the Waratahs.

Friday night's clash between the Rebels and Reds, originally set down for AAMI Park has been relocated to Brookvale Oval and their next home game against the Waratahs on July 24 has been flipped in the hope that they can host NSW in Melbourne in round nine.

Rebels coach Dave Wessels said after Saturday night's game against the Brumbies that the longer their stay away from home was the harder it would be.

"The challenge is there for probably those guys who have kids," Wessels said.

"That's fine for probably two or three or four weeks but, if it's going to be until the end of the comp, then we're just trying to figure out a way for people to get connected to their kids, in particular.

 "But there's also just a realism among the team that there's a lot of people out there who are going through much tougher things than we are so the boys are pretty level-headed about it

"To be honest, I think they've been excellent about it.

"They've really ripped into the training that we have been allowed to do."

The Rebels and the Force are both spending time away from home because of border restrictions.

WA's franchise will arrive in NSW this week and go into a hub in the Hunter Valley for the first month of the competition.

The rest of the competition have been quick to express their gratitude to the Rebels and Force for agreeing to spend extended time on the road.

"It's a massive effort from the boys and the fact they've put the competition first and relocating and I think the Force are doing the same for a period of time as well before border restrictions hopefully reopen, is massive," Waratahs assistant Jason Gilmore said on Monday

"What we've got to be careful of is early in the comp it's probably excitement that will get them through but if it's for a long period, we've just got to make sure we keep getting around the Rebels in particular, and they've got that support there to keep them going which will be good."

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said the whole competition was acutely aware of the sacrifices the teams were making to keep Super Rugby AU going.

"I think they do know the sacrifices they're making and I think everyone involved in this comp thanks them," he said.

"And also the Western Force and the sacrifices they're making to be away from their families to make this comp run."

The Rebels are set to travel to Sydney on Thursday ahead of Friday night's clash with the Reds at Brookvale Oval.

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