MELBOURNE REBELS

The era of professionalism in Rugby led to a restructuring of the Super 10 competition after the 1995 World Cup. SANZAR was formed to manage a 12-team provincial union from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. During the early years of 2000s South Africa and Australia pushed for additional teams each. Argentina also expressed interest. Discussions also included a federated pacific island team in the vein of the West Indies cricket team, or individual island nations.

Bids for the 13th and 14th franchise opened in 2002. Melbourne had, to that point, successfully hosted several Wallaby test matches which the Victorian Rugby Union used to demonstrate a ground swell of support for Rugby by the Victorian public. Melbourne also hosted several World Cup matches hosted at Docklands Stadium and drew 50,000 to the final day of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Rugby 7s.

The then Bracks government promised investment in infrastructure, considering a 25,000 seat redevelopment of Olympic Park Stadium or $100m for a new stadium. The successful bid went to Western Australia, ultimately becoming the Western Force for the 2004 Super 14 season.

In 2006 the Australian Rugby Union, following the suggestions of a working party, announced the formation of a national domestic competition. The Melbourne Rebels were established for the inaugural season of the Australian Rugby Championship by virtue of NSW surrendering a fourth team in favour of Victoria. Coached by Bill Millard and captained by David Croft, the Rebels finished fourth (out of 8) after the regular season, and after the finals series were runners up. The move was viewed as an interim step to a Super 14 franchise.

The VRU bid twice for a team in SANZAR’s ‘Super’ provincial competition before being accepted for the 2011 season. Their winning bid was named after the team they fielded in the ARC.

On 29 July, at the Victorian Rugby Union’s quarterly corporate luncheon, the Melbourne Rebels and the Victorian Rugby Union launched the playing strip, logo and club song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Misérables.

From this point forward, Rugby in Victoria would change forever, as the countries supporting was introduced to a new professional sporting team, and an ‘Army’ of followers.