The latest twist in the series of unfortunate events in Australian rugby that has come to light is a 16-page leaked document in which Rugby Australia demands the Melbourne Rebels merge with Super Rugby Pacific counterparts Moana Pasifika.
The document, leaked by the Herald Sun, references conversations from midway through 2023 and also notes a potential team from Japan, Hawaii or on the West Coast of the United States that would be added in order to maintain the 12-team structure of Super Rugby Pacific – something New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson also recently mentioned.
The outlet published details of the leak on Friday, revealing Rugby Australia’s push for action from the club which entered voluntary administration on Monday last week.
“As at 18 July 2023 Rugby Australia was requiring Melbourne team to be known as Rebels Pasifika in its dealing with Rebels, Victorian Government, the British and Irish Lions Tours to Australia in 2025,” the document reads, as reported by the Herald Sun.
The merged club would be based out of Auckland. Rugby Australia’s comments on the leak also featured, with CEO Phil Waugh acknowledging the leak but opting not to respond to it directly.
“Rugby Australia is aware of a document that has been circulated to the media today and is purported to be signed off by the Melbourne Rebels Board and Rugby Victoria,” Waugh said in a statement.
“Our immediate focus and priority is to work through the voluntary administration process diligently and appropriately with the administrator, and to engage with the key stakeholders to ensure that the team can participate in the 2024 Super Rugby competitions.
“Given this, we do not intend to respond to the various accusations and assertions within the document.”
RA is yet to come to a resolution on the future of the Australian club, working with the Victorian government and stakeholders on potential solutions while not guaranteeing the Rebels’ future beyond the coming season.
The leaked document also alleges fiery accusations from the Rebels, pointing out misguided financial decisions from RA.
Specifically, Rugby Australia was reportedly called out for overspending on the Rugby World Cup 2023 budget thanks to some upmarket events under then-head coach Eddie Jones, which former RA chair Hamish McLennan admitted pushed into the seven-figure range.
The Rebels also reportedly took exception to RA’s management of finances after cutting funding to the Super Rugby franchises by $1.7M during Covid and not reinstating that sum despite acquiring more funds in the years since.
Despite the instability, the Rebels claimed a 38-12 victory over the Waratahs in trial action over the weekend.
“It’s fantastic. It’s the first trial game we’ve won in the last three years,” Rebels General Manager Nick Stiles said.
“With everything else that’s been going on we wanted to come out and make a statement around that.
“We’ve been so confident around the work we’ve been putting into the program for the last few years and I thought today was a reflection of how hard they’ve trained through the preseason and the depth we’ve got in the group.
“It’s only a trial game, but it’s a great starting point.”