Test rugby superstars Quade Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams stopped by Melbourne yesterday to promote next month’s Bledisloe Cup blockbuster to be held at Marvel Stadium on September 15.
For Cooper, it was a welcome return to a city he once called home, having represented the Melbourne Reebls in 2019 alongside current Wallabies’ teammates Reece Hodge, Matt Philip, Rob Leota, Pone Fa’amausili and Marika Koroibete
Rebels Media caught up with Rebel 136 for an exclusive chat on all things Rebels, Victorian Rugby and the continued growth of our Burn Boys.
Rebels Media: Quade, Australia and New Zealand are fierce rivals on the field, how do you see Australia’s chances getting one back over our Trans-Tasman rivals in Melbourne?
QC: We’ve been preparing for this one for a long time. Both teams are in the position where their backs are against the wall, so it will be a great opportunity for both teams, who are both relatively young and hungry to compete. In this city, I know it will be a great turnout, so I can’t wait.
Rebels Media: You mentioned the Victorian rugby community is one of the most passionate communities you’ve encounterd so far in playing career. Touch on the growth you’ve see in rugby across our state since your time with the Rebels in 2019?
QC: With Victorian rugby, there’s never been a question about the hunger there is for rugby. I came here in 2008 after a Reds season to do a presentation at one of the schools down here, and the rugby fraternity blew me away.
Everybody said there’s not much rugby down here. When I got here, the reception and the support for rugby was incredible. To then be able to come down here and play for Melbourne was fantastic. It’s a great place to bring a Bledisloe, so it’s exciting to come here and see all the gold jerseys in the stands.
Rebels Media: Our Club is proud of all our Wallabies representatives, especially our homegrown players who have risen through the local pathway systems such as Pone and Rob. How have you see their personal development working so close with both boys?
QC: Talent – these boys have it in spades. Spending time with them in the Wallabies set up from last year and seeing their growth as men as they live their lives, has been great.
Pone now messages me say ‘bro, are you still getting up early? Let’s go have a swin before training.’ So we’ll get up at 5 am – me, Rob and a few of the boys – and we’ll drive to the beach, so we’re up and moving.
That shift in mentality and how they go about their days, there’s no doubt in my mind that flows onto how they approach their training and why they’ve been successful as men and as leaders in the Wallabies.
That type of approach or mentality for a team is amazing for team culture and for a team that’s looking to grow throughout it’s journey.
If you get guys doing that everyday, that rubs off onto the next guy close to them. Before you know it, you’ve got 30 players out’ve 35 all moving in the same direction. That’s the majority rather than the minoirty. If it’s the other way around, now you’re in a tough position.
That’s where the shift I’ve noticed since being back in the Wallabies over the past 2 years has been. I’m excited about the future and having guys like Rob and Pone lead the way.
Rebels Media: What impact do you think hosting such a big Test match in Melbourne will have on the next generation of rugby players across our state?
If we can get a win, that will go a long way! Sonny and I were talking about that in the car park. Perception is reality. Two big teams coming together to a great city for a big game. I guarantee
there will be lot of kids that are playing AFL or who are playing rugby league, that are also rugby union supporters. With a strong performance we might be able to sway a few of them over and get them into the game and take advatange of the great opportunity that Melbourne has and the exciting decade ahead for Australian rugby.
Waratahs Squad announced for 2024 Super Rugby Season
The NSW Waratahs confirmed its initial 34-player squad for the 2024 Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific season with a couple more spots to be decided in pre-season.
Props: Angus Bell, Archer Holtz, Daniel Botha, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Hayden Thompson-Stringer, Tom Lambert, Tom Ross
Hookers: Dave Porecki, Mahe Vaianu, Theo Fourie
Locks: Hugh Sinclair, Jed Holloway, Miles Amatosero, Ned Hanigan
Loose forwards: Charlie Gamble, Fergus Lee-Warner, Lachlan Swinton, Langi Gleeson, Ned Slack-Smith
Halfbacks: Jack Grant, Jake Gordon, Teddy Wilson
Flyhalves: Jack Bowen, Tane Edmed, Will Harrison
Centres: Izaia Perese, Joey Walton, Lalakai Foketi, Mosese Tuipulotu
Outside backs: Dylan Pietsch, Harry Wilson, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Max Jorgensen, Vuate Karawalevu
New signings and re-signings
For all new signings and re-signing, you can follow our 2024 Waratahs Contract tracker.
Highlanders 2024 Squad Announcement
The Highlanders will usher into the fold a swag of new players for the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific competition.
Some have already made brief appearances last season such as halfback Nathan Hastie, loose forward Oliver Haig, hooker Jack Taylor and midfielders Jake Te Hiwi and Matt Whaanga. Several players have come through the John Jones Steel Highlander’s High Performance Programme such as first-five, Ajay Faleafaga, and loose forward Hayden Michaels.
Also new to the team, and adding depth to the outside back stocks, are the arrival of blockbusting winger and former Moana Pasifika star, Timoci Tavatavanawai, and Blues’ speedster Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens. Argentinian winger, Martín Bogado, fresh from the 2023 World Cup, will return to further his Super Rugby experience in New Zealand.
Another former Blues player will add strength to the midfield in the form of Tanielu Tele’a who will be looking to get his career back on track after being hampered by injury in recent seasons.
Former Welsh international, Rhys Patchell, will bring his vital experience to the first-five role which will be good news for young pivots Cameron Millar and Ajay Faleafaga.
All Black, Ethan De Groot, will be joined in the forward pack by veteran loose forward and former Crusader Tom Sanders.
Highlanders’ Head Coach, Clarke Dermody, is looking forward to the preseason and the opportunity to work with his players.
“We have had a few changes in our squad and our coaching group so it will be great to get everyone together and start building some cohesion through the preseason. We will just about have our whole squad together from day one, which is a nice opportunity for us.”
“I am also pleased to see some of the younger players that we have invested in over the last few years start to come through to Super Rugby level. I am sure their individual enthusiasm will be infectious for the squad.
The team assembles on Thursday 23 November 2023.
2024 HIGHLANDERS SQUAD
Backs: James Arscott (Otago), Connor Garden-Bachop (Wellington), Martín Bogado (Argentina), Folau Fakatava (Hawkes Bay), Ajay Faleafaga (Otago), Sam Gilbert (Otago), Nathan Hastie (Otago), Jacob Ratumaituvuki-Kneepkens (Taranaki), Jonah Lowe (Hawkes Bay), Cameron Millar (Otago), Jona Nareki (Otago), Rhys Patchell (Wales), Jake Te Hiwi (Otago), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Tasman), Tanielu Tele’a (Auckland), Josh Timu (Otago), Matt Whaanga (Southland)
Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley (Otago), Henry Bell (Otago), Nikora Broughton (Bay of Plenty), Daniel Lienert-Brown (Canterbury), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Ethan De Groot (Southland), Oliver Haig (Otago), Billy Harmon (Canterbury) , Max Hicks (Tasman), Fabian Holland (Otago), Luca Inch (Tasman), Ricky Jackson (Otago), Ayden Johnstone (Waikato), Saula Ma’u (Otago), Hayden Michaels (Southland), Pari Pari Parkinson (Tasman), Hugh Renton (Tasman), Tom Sanders (Otago) , Jack Taylor (Southland), Will Tucker (Otago), Sean Withy (Otago)
Waratahs 2024 Contract Tracker
Stay updated with the NSW Waratahs 2024 signings!
Jack is Back! The NSW Waratahs are excited to announce the return of Halfback Jack Grant. Grant, who left the Waratahs for a stint with the Ealing Trailfinders, is returning to NSW to bolster the halfback stocks for the 2024 season.
A product of the NSW pathways systems and the Shute Shield, hailing from Easts Rugby Club, Grant made his debut for the NSW Waratahs in 2021 capped 20 times across two seasons.
“We are absolutely delighted to welcome Jack Grant back to the NSW Waratahs family,” said Waratahs Head Coach, Darren Coleman.
“It’s great to have Jack back with us, he’s such a competitive and likable member of our team. He played some great Rugby for us in 2022 and will have benefitted even further from his English experience. He’ll add competition to the half-back selection mix.”
Commenting on his decision to return to NSW, Grant said,
“I’m thrilled to be back with the NSW Waratahs. It was a fantastic experience playing in the UK, and I learned a lot during my time there. However, I’m excited to return to where it all began for me in professional rugby.
“My family and friends are in Sydney and it’s always special to wear the sky blue.”
The Waratahs will continue to announce signings over the course of the month.
The NSW Waratahs re-sign Lachlan Swinton, Ned Hanigan, Teddy Wilson & Will Harrison till the end of the 2024 season.
The 2019 Rookie of the Year is a testament to the NSW pathway program. A product of Sydney’s Northern beaches, Swinton has risen through system ranks from Knox Grammar to Sydney University and finally to the Super Rugby stage. The 26-year-old will be eyeing off his 50th Waratahs cap in the 2024 season. Having made a full recovery from his shoulder injury Swinton will be fresh off a great Baa Baas tour.
The 28-year-old backrower is a product of the NSW pathways, progressing from club rugby in Randwick and NSW Country in the NRC to making his debut for the Waratahs in 2016 and representing the side on 62 occasions.
Wilson had a breakout season on the international stage, becoming the Junior Wallabies captain in their World Championship campaign in South Africa earlier this year. The 20-year-old has notched 7 caps for the Waratahs already and will look to make his stamp on the 2024 season. The coaching staff sees him as a big part of the Tahs future!
The 23-year-old was the 2017 captain of Australian schoolboys, and has collected 235 Super Rugby points over 31 Waratahs caps. Despite numerous injuries throughout his career, Harrison is still regarded as one of the game’s most promising young talents. He was ruled out of the 2023 season due to an ACL repair, however, Head of Athletic Performance Nick Lumley is confident about his return this year,
“Will had an ACL repair in April this year, on the same knee he injured against Rebels in 2022. He’s working incredibly hard passed all his gym-based tests and has resumed running.
He’s got more work to do but we’re aiming for a return in 2024, however, our primary focus is to get it right so we’ll give him whatever time he needs.”
Head Coach Darren Coleman was excited to secure these four NSW-born stars for the upcoming 2024 Super Rugby Pacific Season,
“These four are big players and personalities in our squad. If the four of them can have big seasons it will go a long way to us having a successful 2024 campaign.”
The NSW Waratahs will begin pre-season in the coming month and prepare for their 2024 Super Rugby campaign on the 24th of February at Suncorp Stadium against the QLD Reds.