Tuipulotu and Leota sign for Melbourne Rebels

Sione Tuipulotu has signed for the Melbourne Rebels

Melbourne Super Rugby franchise the Rebels have for the first time confirmed the signing of two homegrown talents in Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota on two year deals.

In a pivotal moment for the Club, Southern Districts centre Tuipulotu and Northern Panthers forward Leota will become the first ever Victorian players who have entered the professional Rugby pathway without having to leave their home state, a privilege not previously afforded to Victorian talent.

Melbourne Rebels’ Head Coach Tony McGahan said it was satisfying for everybody involved with the Club to sign the eighteen year old duo.

“From the inception of the Melbourne Rebels in 2011 until now, there has always existed a desire and need to develop our own elite local talents,” McGahan said. “It has taken a huge amount of work from a number of people in the Victorian Rugby community to make this possible, and we are confident that we will see this occur with greater regularity in the future.

“Nic Henderson, in his role with the Elite Pathways program, has played a big part in helping these players grow and graduate into the professional environment. It is Sione and Rob’s natural ability, work ethic and sacrifices that have led them here and that will allow them to succeed at the Rebels.”

This is a landmark announcement for the Melbourne Rebels who, since new ownership in July, have developed and begun implementing a five-year strategic plan. General Manager of Rugby, Baden Stephenson said he was pleased to be making inroads.

“One of our objectives is to develop elite local talent into Melbourne Rebels players, and the signing today of Rob and Sione is a key component in our strategic plan. It is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of these young men and look toward the growth of our future Rebels program.”

Frankston-born and raised centre Sione Tuipulotu will be familiar to fans of the Melbourne Rising, after he played every game in the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).

A product of Southern Districts Rugby Club, Sione first represented Victoria at U12s level back in 2009, playing in every state age-based side over the past six years. He has also represented Australia at both Schoolboys and U20s level, and in 2014 he Captained St. Kevin’s College to the Victorian Schools Rugby Union (VSRU) premiership.

“I’m very excited to sign with the Melbourne Rebels; it has been a dream of mine for a long time, and it’s something that every kid playing Rugby in Melbourne now sees is achievable,” Tuipulotu said.

“I know I have a huge amount of hard work ahead of me; there’s so many challenges ahead to ensure I progress, learn from good players and ultimately push for selection further down the track. Now that Rugby is becoming my job I know a lot more will be expected of me, but I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Preston born and raised, Rob Leota first played for Victoria at U14 level in 2011, and in 2014 he played a key role in the Melbourne Rebels’ U17 Junior Gold Cup side’s run to the national Grand Final. A Northern Rugby Club junior, Rob is in the final stages of completing his secondary education at Thornbury High School. This year saw Rob win a Rugby Sevens silver medal at the Youth Commonwealth Games for Australia, and represent the Australian Schoolboys.

“Being a Victorian boy growing up here in Melbourne and playing all my Rugby here, I am really keen to rip in and develop as a Rugby player at the Rebels,” Leota said. “Working with Tony McGahan and (Assistant Coach) Zane Hilton will help me develop as a player and as a person with my approach to the game, and I’m looking forward to that.

“It’s awesome that Sione and I get the opportunity to pursue our dreams without having to leave home, and to hopefully represent our state and pull on that jersey would be incredible. To stay in Melbourne and play in front of our families and friends is something very special.”

Sione Tuipulotu honours:

Victoria U12s (2009), Victoria U14s (2010-2011), Melbourne Rebels U16s (2012-2013), Melbourne Rebels U17 Junior Gold Cup (2014), Melbourne Rebels U18s Schoolboys (2012-2014), Australian Schoolboys (2014), Melbourne Rebels U20s (2015-2016), Australian U20s (2015), Melbourne Rising (2015), Melbourne Rebels (2016-)

Rob Leota honours:

Victoria U14s (2011), Melbourne Rebels U16s (2013), Melbourne Rebels U17 Junior Gold Cup (2014), Melbourne Rebels U18s Schoolboys (2014-2015), Melbourne Rebels Youth Rugby Sevens (2015), Australian Youth Rugby Sevens (2015), Australian Schoolboys (2015), Melbourne Rebels U20s (2016-), Melbourne Rebels (2016-)

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