Why Rebel walked out on Australian rugby – but isn’t giving up on Wallabies just yet


Melbourne Rebels back-rower Josh Kemeny says his move overseas isn’t about turning his back on the Wallabies but about making him a better player.

Kemeny made his Test debut last year, playing twice, but then surprised onlookers by signing a two-year deal with English club Northampton Saints – meaning he will miss the opportunity to establish himself with the Wallabies ahead of next year’s British and Irish Lions tour and a home Rugby World Cup in 2027.

Ahead of Melbourne’s Super Rugby Pacific clash with the Highlanders at AAMI Park on Saturday night, Kemeny said exposure to northern hemisphere rugby could only help his game.

“Playing international rugby has always been a big goal and I was grateful to do that last year, but this is a really exciting move for my career, ” said Kemeny, who has been with Melbourne since 2020.

“I’m 25, so it definitely doesn’t close that door by any means – it’s something that’s going to help me develop as a player, and hopefully an international player.”

Kemeny has missed the Rebels’ past three games with an ankle injury but joins star Test fullback Andrew Kellaway in returning to the line-up.

Josh Kemeny. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The Sydney-born Kemeny said belief was growing with each win that the Rebels could make their first finals campaign, with the team sitting fifth after seven rounds.

“I’ve been here a couple of years and the feeling this year is definitely the strongest, the most belief that we’ve,” he said.

“Coming back from deficits in games is something that we didn’t do well last year but something we’re doing really well now. 

“Winning those types of games is really good for the feeling around the club.”

He said the improved work-rate and fitness of the players was notable, allowing them to lift in the closing stages.

The eighth-placed Highlanders are Melbourne’s last target in a three-week block ahead of the bye to set themselves up for a maiden finals run.

Still waiting on a decision from Rugby Australia over their future in the competition, the financially stricken club took down the Waratahs in Sydney followed by the Fijian Drua at home in the last round.

“We wanted to have a narrow focus to reset the minds … and this was a three-week focus,” said coach Kevin Foote, whose team last won three straight in 2020.

“Winning the Weary Dunlop trophy (against the Waratahs) was massive for us and then to beat the Drua, and now to finish this block off with a good challenge against the Highlanders. 

“If we do that we set ourselves up in a good place, going into the bye in a place we’re quite happy with.”

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