Mixed emotions as Melbourne prepare for Super final

Melissa Woods |

The Rebels are set for their Super Rugby Pacific final which could be the club’s last-ever match.
The Rebels are set for their Super Rugby Pacific final which could be the club’s last-ever match.

Melbourne are trying to juggle their emotions as they prepare for their first – and possibly last – Super Rugby Pacific final against the top-ranked Hurricanes.

The Rebels are looking to saviour the build-up for their first finals campaign in 14 years in the competition.

But it’s bittersweet with the financially ravaged club’s axed from the competition, meaning the end could come as soon as Saturday in Wellington.

The club pushed back their departure for New Zealand to host an open training session in Melbourne, with the Rebels faithful turning out to send them off.

Paul and Leanne are rusted-on fans after they met at half-time at one of the Rebels’ first-ever trial games back in 2011 and went on to marry and have son William, who posed for photographs and got autographs with his favourite players on Thursday. 

Rebels fans
Paul (left), William and Leanne turned out for what could be the Rebels’ final training session. (Melissa Woods/AAP PHOTOS)

“It was a really good community feel out there and the boys got a little spark in their step after seeing the crowd come out and support us,” said prop Sam Talakai.

“It was a really nice touch this session.”

His teammate Andrew Kellaway said it was an emotional time for the players, particularly those born and bred in Melbourne like skipper Rob Leota, hooker Jordan Uelese and prop Pone Fa’amausili.

“I think you have to address those sorts of things,” Kellaway said. “It’s important to make sure that everyone knows that it’s OK to feel how those things make you feel.

“If it’s our last game, then of course that comes with its own set of emotions … then add into that, it’s the first quarter-final for the club in its history so there’s lots of stuff swinging around.”

The Rebels are almost at full strength, only missing Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who has been sidelined for over a month following foot surgery.

The Test lock could return to play should Melbourne knock off the Hurricanes and make the semi-finals.

Salakaia-Loto relocated from the UK on a two-year deal and now, with his young family, will be looking for a new home either in Queensland or to Sydney.

“We’ve loved being in Melbourne, what it’s had to offer for us as a family, it’s probably the most enjoyable time we’ve spent in Australia,” he told AAP.

“It’s sad to leave and in the fashion that we have to leave with the Rebels with everything that’s happened.

“The whole year hasn’t been easy but we’ve definitely enjoyed our time here and will hold a special place in our hearts.”

Salakaia-Loto said despite losing their last six matches the Rebels were capable of upsetting the Hurricanes, who have only suffered two defeats all season.

“While we haven’t finished the season how we wanted to we have an opportunity to do something special,” the 27-year-old said.

“In finals it’s whoever turns up on the day and we know at our best we can compete with anyone.

“Everyone is hurting and the good thing is that we can use that as fuel for this week and put that towards a strong performance which hopefully leads to being alive for another week.” 

AAP