Melbourne Rising to compete in inaugural NRC

Melbourne Rising to compete in inaugural NRC

ARU announces new 9-team competition to kick off in August

The RaboDirect Rebels are pleased to announce that they will have a presence in the inaugural National Rugby Championship (NRC), announced today by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU).

The Melbourne Rising will represent all of Victorian Rugby, with the formation of the new side at an advanced stage ahead of the competition's beginning in August. While details surrounding the quota of Super Rugby contracted players are yet to be finalised, the Rising will see a number of currently contracted Rebels players complimented in the squad by the cream of the crop of Victorian talent.

The Victorian players will be selected based on their form in the local Dewar Shield competition, as well as through their performance for representative teams such as the Rebels U20s. The NRC is the penultimate step on the 'Road to Rebels', the elite pathway program set in place to ensure the long term success of Victorian Rugby.

It will provide aspirational Victorian players with the platform to emulate the feats of the likes of Victorian Digby Ioane, who used the 2007 Australian Rugby Championship to announce their arrival on the scene before achieving Wallaby selection. Foundation Rebel Lachlan Mitchell was another to use the ARC as a stepping stone to further honours, and on the weekend became the first player in the Rebels' history to reach 50 Rebels caps.

The Rising, who will play their games at AAMI Park, are close to announcing a front-of-shirt sponsor and discussions are ongoing with multiple other parties interested in entering into significant partnerships with Victoria's newest Rugby team. The Rising's unique and edgy playing strip has been designed and will be launched shortly, as well as the logo and an announcement regarding the coaching structure. The Rebels organisation and the Victorian Rugby community have formed a dedicated working party committed to achieving a success business model and team, and the Club is at an advanced stage in final planning and preparation for the competition.

Rebels' General Manager of Community Rugby, Peter Leahy, believes that the NRC is crucial in the continued development of Victorian Rugby talent.

"The National Rugby Championship will provide greater exposure of the game here in Victoria, and a genuine Victorian road to becoming a Rebel," Leahy said. "Victorian players no longer need to head interstate to realise their dreams; the NRC gives them the opportunity to show that they deserve a chance in Super Rugby. It will also assist us in making sure we keep as many schoolboys as possible in the game, with the current drop off when players finish high school identified as an area to be addressed in this state."

"The Road to Rebels begins with junior Rugby players, our Rebels Recruits, which focuses on engagement and participation at the grassroots level. Rebels Recruits represent not only individuals playing Rugby for the first time, but the first interaction they have with the Rebels culture.

"They then progress to become Rebels Rookies, where players are offered the opportunity to represent their team in a variety of divisions from local Club level to regional and national tournaments. The final piece of the puzzle is the Melbourne Rising, where Victorian players represent their state on a national level and have the opportunity to earn a Super Rugby contract. Today shows that the road is secure for Victorians wanting to become Rebels."

The NRC will include two teams from Queensland, four from New South Wales and one each from the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia, and as part of a deliberate strategy to re-engage with passionate Rugby supporters in regional Australia it will include teams representing Queensland Country and NSW Country.

Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said he was delighted that the entire Australian Rugby community has come together to form teams to take part in this exciting new competition.

"The National Rugby Championship is an important strategic development for the growth of Rugby in Australia."

"For Rugby fans it will provide an opportunity to engage with an elite Rugby competition during the second half of the year, once the Super Rugby competition is completed.

"For players it represents the missing link in their development pathway towards Super Rugby and ultimately Wallaby selection.

"It will also support the ARU's objective to create additional compelling content for broadcasters with a quality local competition to rival New Zealand's ITM Cup and South Africa's Currie Cup.

"Consistent with our commitment to continually enhance the entertainment experience from Rugby, the ARU plans to launch a social media competition inviting Rugby fans to suggest law changes and match day innovations that could form part of this new competition.

"This is an opportunity for our supporters to have their say to create a more innovative and exciting game of Rugby," Mr Pulver said.

Teams to compete in the 2014 season are:

Brisbane City (QRU/Reds)

Queensland Country (QRU/Reds)

North Harbour Rays (Manly, Warringah, Gordon and Norths)

Sydney Stars (Sydney University and Balmain)

Greater Sydney Rams (West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Eastwood and Southern Districts)

NSW Country

University of Canberra Vikings (ACT Rugby/Brumbies, University of Canberra and Tuggeranong Vikings)

Melbourne Rising (VRU/Rebels)

Perth Spirit (Rugby WA/Force)

The NRC will kick off in late August following the State Premier Rugby Competitions and will run until the beginning of November.

The competition will run for 11 weeks and include eight preliminary rounds, with each team playing four home and four away games, one bye week and finishing with semi-finals and finals.

All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the National Rugby Championship, with a quota system in place to ensure each of the nine teams have a mixture of Super Rugby players and the best up and coming players from their local club competitions.

Qantas Wallabies players will be playing Tests while the NRC is on, but each member of the Wallabies squad will be allocated across the nine teams and will play if they become available.

The competition is supported by Foxtel and FOX SPORTS and at least one match per round will be broadcast live on FOX SPORTS.