This year’s Melbourne Rising squad will have a very strong Victorian flavour, with local Club rugby players to make up more than half of the playing list.
Out of the 45 players who have been named in the Rising’s extended squad, 23 of those listed are current Dewar Shield competitors, flagging an exciting opportunity for Victoria’s best Club talent to gain higher honours.
The top three sides of the competition have been equally represented, with the Melbourne Unicorns, Harlequins and Box Hill all having six players make the squad.
Melbourne University will have two players in Ola Tauelangi and Junior Uelese represent the Rising, while Navarre Haisila (Power House) and JP Sauni (Endeavor Hills) round out the selected Dewar Shield listed players.
Adding to depth of the Rising’s already impressive Club talent will be the return of a further four players who have been plying their trade in interstate competitions, yet possess Dewar Shield experience.
Skilful winger Ahmu Tuimalealiifano (Gordan/ Harlequins), former Rebels Emerging Players young-gun Mahe Vailanu (Gordan/ Harlequins), bustling hooker Moli Sooaemalelagi (Sunnybank/ Northern), talented former Rebels 20’s representative Harry Potter and mobile flanker George Noa (Warringah/Unicorns) will all return to Melbourne to represent the Rising.
Another Victorian who will return to his home state is former Brumbies and Western Force centre Rodney Iona. Originally born in Melbourne, the 27-year-old will return to his place of birth to play rugby for the first time since his early junior playing days in Moorabbin.
With Melbourne Rebels listed players Trevor Hosea (Harlequins), Fereti Sa’aga (Melbourne Uni/ Northern), Esei Ha’angana (Melbourne Unicorns) and Robert Leota (Melbourne Uni/ Northern) selected, it means 32 players in the Rising’s squad will possess a strong affiliation to the Dewar Shield.
Former Dewar Shield forward, now Melbourne Rising Head Coach Pom Simona, says he’s excited by the vast majority of Victorian Club rugby talent who make up the squad.
“It’s a credit to all the players who have been selected in the squad,” Simona said.
“We felt the direction we wanted to head towards in selecting the squad was choosing the best local talent in Victoria to help supplement the Rebels listed players who’ll be playing in the NRC.
“Having this many local players in the squad is a win for rugby here in Victoria, because it means a host of the Dewar Shield’s best players will be exposed to other players of Super Rugby quality, which can only mean good things for the pathway here in the state.
“I have full faith that this squad can be competitive and achieve success in this year’s NRC competition.”
Melbourne Rebels General Manager of Professional Rugby and Pathways Nick Ryan believes the NRC will provide a number of players the opportunity to test themselves against high quality opposition and enable Club players to put their hand up for a Super Rugby contract.
“One of the key aims of the NRC is to help bridge the pathway gap for players looking to make that jump from Club competitions to Super Rugby in Australia,” Ryan said.
“Having this amount of Club players in our side will be a wonderful opportunity for not only the players, but also for us, as we’ll be in a great position to see who can mix it and match it against Super Rugby talent.
“It’s also a wonderful opportunity for Rebels contracted players to maintain match-fitness in the Super Rugby offseason, so the whole competition is a real bonus for us.”
The Rising’s NRC campaign kicks off on August 31 at Box Hill Rugby Club, when the side takes on the Canberra Vikings.
Melbourne Rising 2019 NRC squad
First name Last name Club
Rodney Iona Moorabbin
Taylor Acheson Harlequins
Navarre Haisila Power House
William Lewesi Melbourne Unicorns
Justin Marsters Harlequins
Ahmu Tuimalealiifano Gordon/Harlequins
Angus Cottrell Rebels
Richard Hardwick Rebels/Harlequins
Robert Leota Rebels/Melbourne Uni
Ola Tauelangi Melbourne Uni
Katinali Tai Harlequins
Pat Morrey UQ
Joseva Tamani Box Hill
Semisi Tupou Rebels
James So'oialo Melbourne Unicorns
Isaiah Leota Harlequins
Delai Moto Box Hill
Reece Fuller Melbourne Unicorns
Theo Strang Sydney Uni
Anaru Rangi Rebels
Mahe Vailanu Gordon/Harlequins
Moli Sooaemalelagi Sunnybank/Northern
Tetera Faulkner Rebels/Moorabbin
Matt Gibbon Rebels
Fereti Sa'aga Rebels
Esei Haangana Rebels/Melbourne Unicorns
Ross Haylett-Petty Rebels
Trevor Hosea Rebels/Harlequins
Matthew Philip Rebels
Junior Uelese Melbourne Uni
Vaauli Faamausili Rebels
Angus Arundel Harlequins
Will Clift Melbourne University
Noa Noa Melbourne Unicorns
George Noa Warringah/Unicorns
Nailati Ukalele Box Hill
Michael Moloney Box Hill
Jermaine Ainsley Rebels
Lolohea Loco Box Hill
Lloyd Johansson Harlequins
Boyd Killingworth Warringah
Matai Nairavu Melbourne Unicorns
JP Sauni Endeavour Hills
Ikapote Tupou Rebels/Unicorns
Harry Potter Sydney Uni