Melbourne Rebels to remain in Super W for 2024 season

Darren Walton |

The Melbourne Rebels will compete in 2024’s Super W competition, despite the club’s financial woes.
The Melbourne Rebels will compete in 2024’s Super W competition, despite the club’s financial woes.

The cash-strapped Melbourne Rebels will press ahead with a Super W team in 2024 despite the club’s future looking increasingly grim.

Phil Waugh said the women’s contracts would be honoured in the same manner as the Rebels’ male players, but the Rugby Australia (RA) chief was unable to place a time line on any decision around the club’s existence beyond 2024.

Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers on Thursday cut 10 staff including long-serving chief executive Baden Stephenson, while RA re-contracted men’s coach Kevin Foote and the high-performance team on four-month deals.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to go into what ’25 and beyond looks like,” Waugh said on Friday.

“Right now, it’s just around ensuring that we’ve got the appropriate arrangements to be playing at AAMI Park, to get tickets on sale, and a lot of the operational aspects of delivering a successful ’24 Super Rugby season for the Rebels.

“Then we need to accelerate the conversation on ’25 and beyond, because players need certainty, staff need certainty, high-performance staff need certainty.

“The sooner we can get to an outcome with all the different stakeholders on what the path forward looks like for ’25, the better it’s going to be for our people.

“And, as we know, we need to look after our people.” 

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh.
Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh has promised “transparency” over the Rebels’ future. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)

Insisting the Rebels would “absolutely’ see out the Super W season, Waugh said the focus on “participation and pathways will be exactly the same” even if there are no Super teams in Victoria in 2025.

“(For) young and female athletes coming through the system, the focus and pathway will be exactly the same,” he said.

“It’s a broader conversation on the future of the Rebels (for) ’25 and beyond whereby the female team and participants are very much part of that conversation.”

Waugh’s only promise to the Rebels was transparency, after the Western Force endured a brutal axing from Super Rugby in 2017 before being reinstated in 2020.

“That’s why I don’t over-commit and over-promise to you, and give you a time line, because there’s just so many different machinations to the conversation,” Waugh told reporters on a video call.

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt (from the Force affair) but probably the number one lesson is to be really transparent and honest and make sure that we’re dealing with the situation sensitively, because it is a very sensitive situation.

“We just need to work through sensibly how we get to a resolution, and the sooner we can get to a resolution for all parties, including our commercial partners as well as our broadcasting partners and our neighbours across the ditch.

“It’s really important for us to be engaging with everyone and getting a sensible solution as quickly as we can.”