- The Melbourne Rebels are in financial turmoil
- Wallabies stars’ futures are up in the air
- Rugby Australia cannot commit to financial support
The playing future of Wallabies stars Taniela Tupou and Andrew Kellaway are up in the air amid reports the cash-strapped Melbourne Rebels have entered voluntary administration needing a bailout of up to $500,000 to pay players and staff.
Less than a month out from their season-opening clash against the Brumbies on February 23, the Rebels have appointed external financial advisers, Sydney firm Wexted, to help address the club’s $9m debt.
It comes amid reports that chairman Paul Docherty is set to step down, with his own personal businesses flailing and owing at least $70m.
Rugby Australia remains committed to the Rebels playing in 2024, but the future beyond that could rely on a cash injection from the Victorian government as RA has refused to guarantee it will provide financial assistance.
No Rebels players or staff are contracted beyond 2025, including Tupou, who moved south from the Queensland Reds after the last Super Rugby Pacific season in a huge coup for the Melbourne outfit.
Melbourne Storm are in financial turmoil, with the future looking unclear
Taniela Tupou of the Wallabies could be without a club amid the cash struggles
Tupou was one of seven Rebels players, including scrum-half Carter Gordon, who went to last year’s World Cup with the Wallabies before returning for pre-season.
Despite the financial crisis, an statement confirmed the Rebels would play in 2024, but the ‘next steps’ were yet to be determined.
‘We are working with the Rebels on their financial situation and the immediate future,’ the statement said.
‘Discussions are ongoing regarding options – and those discussions are confidential in nature.
‘We are currently awaiting the advice of the Rebels’ external financial advisers before confirming next steps.
‘We are committed to the Melbourne Rebels competing in 2024.’
Last December, a letter was sent to all players and staff assuring them their jobs would be safe as reports emerged about the situation, including that the club was behind on payments to the Australian Taxation Office and also on stadium fees.
At the time, Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson rejected negative reports of the club’s finances.
‘I’m absolutely not concerned about the Melbourne Rebels’ ongoing tenure. We’ve got big things coming in 2025 (British and Irish Lions tour) and 2027 (home World Cup), we’ve got a lot to be proud of but also to improve on,’ he said in December.
Rugby Australia were unable to guarantee financial support beyond 2024
‘But we will be fine.’
RA boss Phil Waugh has consistently said the head body is committed to five Australian Super Rugby franchises.
‘We have said we need to have presence in five markets, and our biggest markets, and so it is our intent to continue on that path. It is our intent to have five teams in five markets,’ he said last month.
Five teams are needed to satisfy the current TV deal, which expires at the end of the 2025 season.
The Rebels have never made the Super Rugby finals in 12 seasons since being brought into the competition in 2011.