Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh not sure if Melbourne Rebels exist in 2025


Rugby Australia boss Phil Waugh isn’t putting a line through the future of the debt-ridden Melbourne Rebels beyond 2024, but concedes the conversation needs to be “accelerated” to given players and coaches certainty.

The Rebels have been guaranteed their place in the Super Rugby competition this season but the outlook beyond that looks grim, with coaching staff put on four-month contracts and CEO Baden Stephenson among 10 staff sacked this week with the club in voluntary administration.

As RA revealed a bumped increase for female players at both a national and state level, he said the contracts the Super W players at the Rebels would be honoured in the same way the men’s deals will be.

But as administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers continue to assess the future of the club, which has just over $17,000 in the bank and debts nearing $20 million, Waugh said the future beyond this year remained unclear.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to go into what ‘25 and beyond looks like,” Waugh said on Friday, exactly seven days before the Rebels are due to play their first game of the season.

Rebels players face an uncertain future. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Right now, it’s just around ensuring that we’ve got the appropriate arrangements to be playing at AAMI Park, to get tickets on sale, and a lot of the operational aspects of delivering a successful ‘24 Super Rugby season for the Rebels.

“Then we need to accelerate the conversation on ‘25 and beyond, because players need certainty, staff need certainty, high-performance staff need certainty.

“The sooner we can get to an outcome with all the different stakeholders on what the path forward looks like for ‘25, the better it’s going to be for our people.

“And, as we know, we need to look after our people.”

Waugh didn’t want to go so far as declare the Rebels were going to fold, with the code having dealt with the axing of the Western Force in 2017 before being reinstated in 2020.

“That’s why I don’t overcommit and over-promise to you, and give you a time line, because there’s just so many different machinations to the conversation,” Waugh told reporters on a video call.

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)Source: Getty Images

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learnt (from the Force affair) but probably the number one lesson is to be really transparent and honest and make sure that we’re dealing with the situation sensitively, because it is a very sensitive situation.

“We just need to work through sensibly how we get to a resolution, and the sooner we can get to a resolution for all parties, including our commercial partners as well as our broadcasting partners and our neighbours across the ditch.

“It’s really important for us to be engaging with everyone and getting a sensible solution as quickly as we can.”



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