Preview: Melbourne Rebels vs Qld Reds - Green and Gold Rugby
Melbourne Rebels

Preview: Melbourne Rebels vs Qld Reds

Toby Smith makes a break. Go big fella!
Preview: Melbourne Rebels vs Qld Reds

Both the Melbourne Rebels and the Queensland Reds will be looking at this game as an opportunity to restore some pride and keep alive their remote, but mathematically possible, chance of playing finals – or at least not finishing last on the table.

If there is one thing that the recent Reds Vs Waratahs and Rebels Vs Brumbies matches proved it’s that two evenly matched teams can provide an exciting contest; even if those teams aren’t particularly good.

The Rebels will be bolstered with the return of Colby Fainga’a after injury. Sean “Mad Dog” McMahon has been named on the bench for his first game this season. For the Reds, Karmichael Hunt and Nick Frisby return, Izaia Perese has been benched, James Tuttle and Leroy Houston have been omitted.

Good to see this bloke back in action!


Melbourne Rebels

The Rebels recent form has been… diabolical. An ugly draw against the Sharks in Durban, followed by a thrashing from the Kings saw them return home to AAMI Park only to receive another belting at the hands of the Lions. In the past two games the Rebels have conceded twelve tries and scored one.

On the plus side, the Rebels have enjoyed relative success at home against Australian opponents over the past few seasons. The last eight home derbies have produced four wins and four losses with none decided by more than eight points. Recently, the Rebels have had the wood over the Reds winning four of their past six encounters.

In several games this season, the Rebels have been competitive in the first half but blown away in the second. They have conceded a massive 31 second half tries, the vast majority of which have come from less than three phases. Is this due to poor defensive systems, lack of fitness, bench players, attitude or, a little of each?

As poor as the Rebels defence has been their attack has been worse. They must find a way to bring their attacking outside backs into the contest. The new halfs combination of the Bens, Meehan and Volavola, have their work cut out.

The Rebels need to keep Kerevi under wraps

Queensland Reds

The Reds recent form has also been less than stellar. They managed to beat the Kings in Round 10 but have since lost to the Waratahs and, last week, were pounded by the Chiefs.

The Reds have lost all of their last ten Australian derbies, including three so far in 2017. They are another team that have struggled in the back half of games, giving up 26 second half tries while scoring only fourteen of their own.

Discipline has been an issue for the Reds all season. They are among the most penalised sides in the competition and they are the most carded with nine yellow and one red.

In a effort to inject some spark into his team, coach Nick Stiles has shuffled a number of his players. Duncan Paia’aua moves from fullback to inside centre, Samu Kerevi shifts to outside centre and Campbell Magnay goes to the wing. After a month on the sidelines, Nick “Box Kick” Frisby returns to the starting side.

Nick Frisby, six career tries against the Rebels

Key Match Ups

Some players to watch this week.

Mitch Inman vs Samu Kerevi

One of the best defensive midfielders against possibly the most attacking. This season Kerevi is third in the competition for carries, second for defenders beaten and top ten for offloads. Inman and others will need to work hard to shut down his influence.

Ben Volavola vs Quade Cooper

On paper this should be no kind of match up at all but, Cooper’s form hasn’t been great and he seems to be carrying an injury. This is only Volavola’s second start at flyhalf for the Rebels and he is something of an unknown quantity. This battle could come down to which of the two makes fewer costly mistakes.

Amanaki Mafi vs Scott Higginbotham

This. This is the big one folks. In poor performing teams, these are the two form backrowers in Australia. This head-to-head match up alone justifies the price of admission.

Why bother?

For one reason, Mafi vs Higginbotham. Morbid curiosity could be another. Also, there is a pretty good chance that these two teams could put on a close and entertaining game even if the standard of play isn’t quite up to some of the other matches on offer this weekend.

Former Melbourne Rebels captain, Scott Higginbotham


It’s a hard one to call. The bookies and the Fox Sports tipsters both have the Reds as warm favourites but, the Rebels don’t have a bad record in recent Aussie derbies and the Reds is shocking.

I’m tipping the men from Melbourne to bounce back from their thrashing by the Lions to win by four points in a cliff hanger.


1. Toby Smith
2. James Hanson
3. Laurie Weeks
4. Steve Cummins
5. Dominic Day
6. Hugh Sinclair
7. Colby Fainga’a (Captain)
8. Amanaki Mafi
9. Ben Meehan
10. Ben Volavola
11. Marika Koroibete
12. Mitch Inman
13. Tom English
14. Sefa Naivalu
15. Reece Hodge

16. Siliva Siliva
17. Fereti Sa’aga
18. Tyrel Lomax
19. Culum Retallick
20. Sean McMahon
21. Harrison Goddard
22. Will Miller
23. Jack Maddocks


1. Sef Fa’agase
2. Stephen Moore
3. Sam Talakai
4. Rob Simmons
5. Lukhan Tui
6. Hendrik Tui
7. George Smith
8. Scott Higginbotham
9. Nick Frisby
10. Quade Cooper
11. Eto Nabuli
12. Duncan Paia’aua
13. Samu Kerevi (Captain)
14. Campbell Magnay
15. Karmichael Hunt

16. Alex Mafi
17. Kirwan Sanday
18. Taniela Tupou
19. Izack Rodda
20. Adam Korczyk
21. Moses Sorovi
22. Hamish Stewart
23. Izaia Perese

Match Details

Time: 7:30pm Saturday, May 13th

Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen

Assistants: Shuhei Kubo, Ed Martin

TMO: Damien Mitchelmore

Forecast: Sunny, 17°. Light winds.

Statistics courtesy of OPTA Sports

Here’s what happened last time.

  • Adrian

    I tipped the Reds, but didn’t know Frisby was playing. I’ll stay with it, but really not sure

    • idiot savant

      Yeah the Frisby decision got me thinking about Stiles coaching. Stiles has chosen to publicly humiliate Frisby and use his power to all but terminate his Wallaby ambitions by sending him back to club rugby. Now I dont have any idea of the ins and outs and Frisby might well have attitude problems etc etc.

      What I have seen on the field though is the Reds staying out of their own 22 in the first 3 matches, largely due to Frisby’s kicking. Their exit kicking has been a lot worse since and last week with Cooper on one leg there was no one who could kick with any effectiveness.

      I also have seen Cooper put his team in a bad position by repeat offending a high tackle and missing games and by making a lot of poor decisions at the back half of games. If Stiles is going to read Frisby the riot act, has he had the balls to do the same to Cooper? Or is Cooper allowed to put his team in a bad position and Frisby not? And whats with dropping Tuttle (if he’s so much better) entirely?

      Its going to be fascinating to see if Stiles has allowed Frisby to kick tonight. I think with different rules for Cooper, the fact he is playing injured, Frisby under a kind of last chance with restraining instructions, there is a recipe for chaos in the halves. Having said that of course, Cooper will probably have one of those magic nights where he puts on 4 tries, Stiles will be a genius, and Ill look like more of an idiot than I usually am….

      • Chinese Dave

        Mate, regardless of what happens tonight, Stiles has a lot of questions to answer. I like that he’s picking young players, and that he’s given Kerevi a leadership position. KHunt has certainly gotten a lot better this year, and I really like the potential of Tuttle. But there’s a lot of weird stuff around who is getting picked to play, substitutions, the consistently bad disciplinary record and Stiles’ own temperament.

      • Adrian

        I agree re treatment of Frisby. Though he’s not a great player, his treatment was appalling. A cheap stunt by the coach

    • Adrian

      My apologies to Frisby. Apparently he played well

  • James Pettifer

    That video gives some pretty good reasons why the Rebels have sucked this year.

    Well one reason – no Sean. 2 tries and a clean break leading to a try. Sigh.

    • Chinese Dave

      Oh I can think of a few others. How about these:

      1. You forgot Tony McGahan. When a team blows a 26 point lead in half time against, of all teams, the miserable Waratahs, it’s on the coach, especially if he’s been there for the last three years or so.

      2. Tony McGahan again, under his tutelage, quite a few very promising Australians have gone backwards instead of forwards. Stirzaker, Jack Deb, even Reece Hodge, and the list continues. Sean Mac is the exception, and I put it down to him rather than the coaching.

      3. Recruitment Policy. It seems like the Rebels are hell bent on hiring every off-brand Kiwi as they can. The Garden Backup guy, the dud Retallick (oh, what a contribution from him last week, one for the ages, 50 seconds of pure skill). Say what you will about the Reds and the Waratahs, both teams have very few if any crappy imports (I’m looking at you Angus Taavau) and give way more chances to young Australian talent. Why, for example, the Rebels couldn’t offer Mack Mason a contract as a starting 10 is beyond me. There’s no way the Rebels’ 10s are better. They’ve had one of the strongest NRC teams right from the start, but their SR team is loaded with shitty imports.

      • James Pettifer

        Well yeah. Tony is kinda sucking. The injury issues over the past 2 years have to be at least partially related to the training regime (given most happen outside games)

        I’d say Timani has got better. Holding off on saying that about Sean Mac as he hasn’t played this year so maybe he has gone bad.

        It is a hell of a lot easier for the Waratahs. They get a massive top up (2016 was $2.6 million compared to the Rebels $120k). They are spending so much more money on players than the Rebels are allowed to which is why they were able to take Beale and Phipps from the Rebels as well as keep Foley from moving and still stay under the farce that is the salary cap.

        • Chinese Dave

          Mate, don’t blame the top ups (though there’s probably injustice there, it’s not the root cause). Unless you think Mack Mason is getting paid more by the Waratahs than Garden Backup is paid by the Rebels, then tops ups have nothing to do with it. If the Rebels develop Wallabies they will have top ups. That’s why the Brumbies have a bigger top up than the Reds, even though the Reds are way more in the ARU clique than the Brumbies are. Sure, it’s conceivable that the Waratahs, Brumbies, and Reds players get picked for the Wallabies more easily than Rebels and Force, but the top up follows developing players not the other way round.

        • James Pettifer

          The flaw in that argument is that expansion teams are on a hiding to nothing.

          The whole idea of a salary cap is to equalise the teams. The Rebels are sucking this year but last year we were 1 win behind the Tahs and had $2.5 million less in player spend.

          On developing players, can we have back Phipps? Or how about Ioane or Lealiifano?

        • Chinese Dave

          Again, you’re not following me. Phipps didn’t come to the Waratahs because they had this extra top up to give him. The top up followed Phipps when he became a regular Wallaby. The Tahs don’t just get this pool of money for top ups from the ARU (with the exception of those special deals for Folau, etc, which I totally agree, are extremely unfair). Why Phipps left the Rebels I don’t know, perhaps he wanted to make sure he was in an environment that would develop him better, perhaps he wanted to play in a team that was better, perhaps he thought that playing for the Tahs will enhance his chances of being selected just by virtue of wearing the sky blue. I don’t know what the reason was. I do know that it wasn’t that the Waratahs had this magic Wallaby top up money to just hand to him even if he wasn’t a Wallaby. Had he stayed at the Rebels, the Tahs’ top up would have been less amount X and the Rebels’ would have been that same amount X higher, X being the value of his top up.

        • James Pettifer

          I understand your point. But I think there are 2 fundamental issues with the system

          1. Waratahs seem to get picked more often than Rebels and thus the Waratahs are able to retain players better. The better Rebels player such as Hugh Pyle, Luke Jones and Higgers didn’t get top ups and left. Whereas the middling Waratahs (say Skelton) get topped up and thus stick around for longer
          2. Salary caps are there to equalise talent across the teams. Look at the NRL or AFL. If you get a great bunch of youngsters and develop them, you won’t be able to afford to keep them. Which is the point. And the expansion teams tend to get massive boosts in their salary caps so that they can develop a following.

        • Chinese Dave

          To your point #1, I think all but the most one-eyed Tahs fans would concede that it is easier to be picked from the Tahs (and the Reds and Brumbies), and that is indeed an unfair advantage the big teams have.
          As to #2, again, I agree, the salary cap is less meaningful when there are top ups and some teams have an advantage in getting them (see #1). At the same time, it’s not an inherently unfair system, and the Rebels aren’t helping their cause by recruiting non-eligible players (who are shit players to boot). I think, if the Force are allowed to remain, by time the WC comes around, we’ll see a much more even distribution of cap money (not equal, just less unfair than now), as they are producing a number of players who are either already Wallaby material or certainly would be if they were at the Tahs or Reds.

          Anyway, cheers for the civil discussion, on what can be (somewhat justifiably) quite an emotive issue for the non-Tahs side of the ledger.

        • Mr Wobbly

          Sorry for barging into this conversation late.

          The problem isn’t the top ups per se, They provide a decent solution to helping keep some of our best players in the country. The unfairness of the system comes from the massive additional spending power the Tahs get because they are paying well below market value for their most expensive players. I don’t know how much Folau is paid, I’ve read anywhere between $450-$900k/pa but it doesn’t matter. The point is he only costs the Tahs $150k and that gives them somewhere between $300-$650k (and over $2.5m in total) per season extra to spend on other players.

          That is the reason the Tahs could afford Phipps and what allows them to stockpile guys like Mason.

          Incidentally, Phipps left the Rebels because they signed Burgess and couldn’t pay Phipps the amount he wanted. No such issue for the Tahs.

          If the tops up were included in the salary cap it would level the playing field and allow the Rebels and Force to negotiate with players fairly. Sadly, I doubt there is any desire from those in power to make the system fair.

          Contrast that to the way the AFL do expansion. The don’t give teams like Collingwood or Essendon special dispensation. They pump resources into the expansion sides through draft and salary cap concessions. They visit schools, run clinics and give away shit loads of free tickets. They know that if you win the kids over you win the parents. This is why Western Sydney will become an AFL stronghold in the near future.

      • idiot savant

        Your Mason example really nails the amateurish way Australia’s rugby is administered. Without a centralised system and with fiercely parochial state franchises (Reds, Tahs, Brums) run by private schoolboy croneyism everything about the national game and the wallabies becomes so much harder.

        As you point out why have we got 2 flyhalves who are not among the top 10 flyhalves in NZ starting for Australian franchises when we are seriously lacking in depth in that position (If Foley and Cooper both go down there goes the next RWC). Mason won’t get much game time behind Foley. He should be racking up minutes elsewhere. The Brums lack of a decent 10 really hurt them last night.

        The coaching summit is the first smart move Ive seen from Australia’s rugby administrators in a long time. Its a centralised move.

        • Chinese Dave

          Exactly right mate, nothing shits me to death more than watching Foley and Lance’s’s limited game, and Cooper’s broken game. Actually, something does. It’s watching Garden Backup and Hawera shitting it up for the Rebels and Brumbies on a weekly basis and knowing that there’s a 95% chance that if an Australian was playing there he’d be better. The most annoying thing is, as a G&GR resident, that we’re going to be having the same dumb stupid fights over Foley vs Cooper come the RC, and there isn’t anything we can do about it because they’re STILL the only options.

          I mean, I like Tomas Cubelli, but thank fuck he was badly injured, or we’d never get to see Joe Powell.

      • Keith Butler

        Hard to argue against any of your points. Recruitment is the one that really shits me. The Rebels have by far the worst recruitment team in SR bar none. Admittedly, we have picked up some decent u20 talent who instead of being allowed to develop have, because of our injury list, be thrown in at the deep end. Ben Volavola at 10 truely frightens me after his crap performance last week. Good to have Sean Mc back. I’d have hi as captain over Stirzaker any day of the week.

  • Brumby Runner

    Volavola’s very poor defense is a well known quantity. QC not much better, but BV is probably the worst tackler I’ve seen going around in SR this year.

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