It’s around 10pm last Friday night and there’s a rapturous roar emanating from the bowels of GIO Stadium.
That’s because inside the away changeroom, Rebel Cap 139 is being presented to the Club’s newest player in reserve prop Matt Gibbon.
Gibbon, a much-loved and popular member of the squad, was one of five debutants to earn their first game for Melbourne in the Club’s Round 1 triumph over the Brumbies.
Yet, the New South Wales native’s first game story is arguably the most remarkable out of all of them all. Hailing from the small town of Alstonville, Gibbon has made a name for himself as a strong first rower for Shute Shield side Southern Districts.
A quietly spoken and humble individual, Gibbon was initially part of a large group of Club and NRC players who were invited to take part in the Super Rugby preseason program with non-wallabies listed Rebels.
While thrilled at the idea of being a part of a professional rugby program, Gibbon says he only thought of the opportunity to train with the Rebels as a chance to better his game.
“This is my first time being properly in this sort of environment,” Gibbon said. “Coming down here into the Development Squad, I haven’t had that chance anywhere else because I’ve had a few niggles and shoulder reconstructions.
“I didn’t think much of it, I was thinking about becoming a better player and if they keep pulling me through then so be it.
“I thought if they’re going make me a better player, then I’m going to try and be it.”
However, things quickly changed for the 23-year-old when his form during training caught the eye of a number of Rebels coaching staff.
While working closely with Forwards Coaches Geoff Parling and Nic Henderson, Gibbon was continually given positive feed from both Assistants.
In his typical unpresuming style though, Gibbon kept his head down and didn’t read too much into the increased engagement from the Coaches. Which led to one of the biggest surprises of his life when he went to the office of Head of Rugby and Pathways Nick Ryan to try and book a flight home.
“I went to Nick Ryan about one week before the end of my RDS contract ending and I said, ‘hey mate, when are you going to book my flights to go back home?’,” Gibbon said.
“He said,’ mate I don’t mean to blindside you but they’re thinking about keeping you down here’.
“And I was like oh well that’s great. I was pretty ecstatic about that.”
However, the positive news didn’t stop for Gibbon, who catapulted himself to selection in the Rebel’s match day 23 against the Brumbies.
And the news was something which made Gibbon feel that all of his hard work had finally come to fruition and the announcement even brought a tear to the eye of one of his dearest relatives.
“When Dave Wessels named the team last week, I was like wow this is actually happening here,” he said.
“After that, I was lost for words really. All my tough work had paid off.”
“I called my grandma and she was crying straight away, because I live with them and everyone was ecstatic. I called my brother who’s my closest mate, and he was so chuffed for me.” I
t left Gibbon in the midst of preparing for his first Super Rugby game, when only six months ago, he was sitting on the bench behind NSW Country Eagles skipper Paddy Ryan in the NRC.
And the prop found himself in the thick of the action right away when he was thrown into the game with twenty minutes left during a high scoring try bonanza.
Reflecting on the experience of his debut, Gibbon says his initial nerves to perform were replaced with stillness as soon as he crossed the white line.
“When Thorpey (Tony Thorpe, Team Manager) told me to get up, I don’t know how to explain it,” Gibbon said.
“The first day arriving there and going onto GIO Stadium, I was like this is a big stadium I don’t think I’ve ever played in a place like this before.”
“When I went on though, everything sort of just calmed down, and I was just focusing on the tells and just thinking about doing my job.”
Now that he’s had a taste of Super Rugby action and landed a spot in the side at the start of the season, Gibbon could be forgiven for thinking that he’s now in a jostle with the rest of the forward pack to secure his spot.
However, in true Gibbon style, the forward isn’t worried about any external factors controlling his game, saying his sole focus is on himself and continually improving his game.
“I try not focus on what other people are doing and just focus on what I’m doing,” he said.
“That’s just the way I was brought up. It’s a bit of farm attitude where if you work hard, it’ll pay off.
“If they keep selecting me, then how good.”