‘We’ve got three pay cheques left’: Rebels given glimmer of hope – but the clock is still ticking


A private equity-backed consortium deal could yet save the Melbourne Rebels, but who’s left to salvage the inroads made in recent years remains to be seen.

After months of living in limbo following the slide into voluntary administration, Rebels general manager Nick Stiles admitted “everyone” was considering their future given the cloud over them currently.

That cloud lightened on Wednesday with news that business heavyweight Leigh Clifford was working on a deal to save the Super Rugby franchise by pumping $30 million into the ailing club and relocating the group to Melbourne’s western suburbs.

But the clock is ticking, with the forthcoming weeks to prove crucial in not just whether the Rebels will take to the field in 2025 but which players – and coaches – will still be around.

Player agents are naturally assessing their options, with certainty the most crucial factor for their clients.

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The Rebels could have a silver bullet. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

Nor does it stop at the players, with Stiles admitting “everyone” had to look at the future given the high performance department had their contracts taken over by Rugby Australia in February, with their new deals only taking them through to June 30.

“Everyone has to [look at what’s next],” Stiles told The Roar Rugby podcast this week. “That’s probably the hard part.

“I can’t just sit here and hope that in three months’ time the Rebels will still be here.

“I’ve still got confidence that there is still hope for the club moving forward, but everyone’s definitely looking.”

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Speaking on The #RoarRugbyPodcast, Nick Stiles admitted that while more discussions continue, the team are as in the dark as the fans are regarding their future.

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He added: “We saw how brutal it was when Rugby Australia took over the club on Feb 13 or 14, and there was probably 10 people made redundant, one being the CEO. So we know how brutal it is and we’ve seen what’s happened, so everyone’s definitely got an eye elsewhere.”

Rugby Australia chief executive Phil Waugh is due to address the Rebels on Thursday to provide an update on the developing situation.

But it’s unlikely that anything concrete will come from the scheduled zoom meeting.

Stiles said his style was to be “brutally honest and upfront” with the playing group to build trust within the walls at AAMI Park.

“It’s hard at the moment because you just don’t have the clarity from above,” he said.

“There’s a voluntary administration process that’s going on, so there’s all these sort of legalities that are there and that are very real, and for us being in the middle of it all, you just don’t know.

“My approach has been [if I get] any news to keep everyone informed. Don’t try and talk rubbish to them and lie.

“Let’s be open and honest with the pain or the suffering that you might be going through. If you’re getting grief at home, come and talk to me and I’ll try and help you out with whatever I know.”

Last month, Wallabies back Filipo Daugunu stood down on the eve of their crunch match against the Reds because of a pay dispute.

Ultimately, the explosive back missed two matches because of the dispute, before making a strong return in their win over the Waratahs last weekend in Sydney.

It was yet another example of the unique road the Rebels are navigating in real time.

“One of the things that hasn’t really been discussed a lot about it is how hard it is for us at the moment,” Stiles said.

“No other team in this competition is going through anything like we are.

“You’ve got families that a lot of them have relocated down to Melbourne, uncertainty of what’s happening.

“A lot of guys have signed up for two years, they go, well, now I’ve got a contract for two years, where I’m playing, who knows? But hopefully it’s Melbourne. If it’s not, I don’t know where I’ll be.

“Players that are off contract have got that uncertainty. Do I have to look overseas? What other opportunities are there for me in Australia?

“And then staff, we’ve got three pay cheques left. So, it’s not easy.”

Stiles added he was proud of the tightness of the bond throughout the current adversity off the field.

“The thing that I’m most proud about is how the group is legitimately stuck together,” Stiles said.

“Now we’ve had ups and downs, we’ve had some really poor performances along the way, [and] they’re not attributed totally to what’s going on off the field, but it’s got a massive say in everything of what’s going on and how we are, so it’s not easy.

“I felt that the three years I’ve been here, we’ve worked really hard on creating a strategy on who we wanted to be.

“Kevin [Foote] and the club did a really good job about creating a culture and an environment of who they want to be as a club, and we’ve sort of got to the point where that now is starting to get ingrained into the group. Our recruitment and retention was going really well.

“So obviously disappointed that there’s that uncertainty at the moment of where we are and what it looks like moving forward.”

Taniela Tupou’s future remains uncertain in Australian rugby despite being contracted until the end of 2025. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

The Rebels received a glimmer of hope on Wednesday when it was revealed that a private consortium was looking to salvage the embattled franchise and move it to Melbourne’s west.

Under the plan, revealed in a media statement from the group, the Melbourne Rebels would aim to share Western United’s Wyndham Regional football facility in Tarneit, in the outer western suburbs of Melbourne.

Melbourne-born Stiles, who played 12 Tests for the Wallabies and featured against the British and Irish Lions in 2001, said he was fearful of what the absence of the Rebels would do for rugby in Victoria.

“I was actually born in Melbourne, left when I was a young kid and I’ve still got a lot of family down in Melbourne, and the interest in rugby down here is real. It’s not make-believe. It’s not fake,” he said.

“There’s these fantastic communities and there are boys and girls that have grown up now watching the Melbourne Rebels and have got something to aspire to be now, and they’re coming through the pathways.

“I could tell you a couple of players that I believe we’ve got now sort of 18, 19, 20-year-old bracket will be future Wallabies from Victoria. So, it’s a really good community down here. And I do worry if the Rebels didn’t exist, what would happen to those pathways.”


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