Chiefs v Rebels moved to Sunday as reality of Melbourne's hardship revealed

Mon, 31/05/2021, 02:00 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Highlanders secured the win after a gutsy effort from the Rebels

The Round Four match between the Chiefs and Rebels has been moved to Sunday as the Melbourne-based club continues to deal with the effects of a widespread COVID-outbreak.

The club was forced to move to Sydney to ensure Sunday's 42-25 loss to the Highlanders could go ahead after New Zealand placed a pause on the travel bubble with Victoria.

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With their match moved from Queenstown to Leichhardt, SANZAAR and the respective governing bodies are looking to avoid a similar fate for this week's game against the Chiefs in Waikato.

This will see the match delayed 24 hours, now scheduled for 3:30 pm Sunday (NZT), with the hopes the ban will be lifted by Friday.

"SANZAR, Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby have confirmed that the Chiefs versus Melbourne Rebels match, originally scheduled for Saturday 5 June in Hamilton, is now scheduled to be played a day later due to the ongoing effect of the COVID-19 situation in Melbourne. The match will kick-off at 3.30pm NZT (1.30pm AEST) at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, on Sunday 6 June," a statement from Rugby Australia said.

"The match has been moved back a day to allow the Melbourne Rebels enough time to travel to New Zealand and prepare for the match. The Rebels are currently based in Sydney after moving out of Melbourne last week. However, the team remains subject to the COVID-19 New Zealand government travel pause that is in place for travel between Victoria and New Zealand. 

"Provided the travel pause is lifted, the Rebels will travel to New Zealand on Saturday and play the Chiefs in Hamilton on Sunday.

"SANZAR, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and Rugby Australia (RA) and are working with the Chiefs and Melbourne Rebels on a contingency plan to play the match in Sydney should the New Zealand Government travel pause be extended past next Friday."

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It continues the tough year for the Rebels, experiencing their third stint away from home in just five months.

Despite returning negative tests, they were still stuck in hotel isolation before and after the game, only broken by their trip to Leichhardt.

Rebels coach Kevin Foote conceded the constant uncertainty was starting to take its toll on his team.

However, he was quick to recognise the resilience shown by his players throughout the week as they try and do their state proud.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the group,” he said in the press conference after the game. “The love and resilience that they show after being told that even after the COVID test being negative we’re still not allowed to leave the hotel and the guys didn't moan about that and got on with it.

“We’ve got a really good group. I know a lot of teams say that but I’m telling you, we have a really good group of people. If we make better decisions on the field, we’ll go really well but off the field, they just stick together and show a lot of love so I’m really proud of them.

“…It is tough for us. It’s the third time for us and guys with families are really worried about them but having said that, there are people in Melbourne going into a third lockdown who can’t do what they love and we still get to do that and represent Melbourne which we’re very proud of.

“So yes it’s tough, but if you put it into perspective, we’re going good and we’ll keep going good. We’ll stay together and make sure we do the Rebels proud.”

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Vice-captain Michael Wells shared this sentiment as the players attempt to put the external noise behind them.

“I think that best thing is the compartmentalise it,” Wells added. “At the end of the day, our job is to perform on the footy field and that comes from training and prep.

“The best way to do that is to stay together as Footy said, get your details right, compartmentalise what’s going on externally cause that’s out of our control, focus on what’s under our control and today that was our discipline and transitions on the field and we didn’t get that right.

“This is a bit of a privilege to get out of the hotel right now."

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