Rebels stand-in skipper Matt Toomua admits news of the latest scheduling switch which keeps them out of Melbourne for an extra two weeks initially hit his Super Rugby AU team hard.
While they will wear the big V and the iconic Melbourne logo on their new away jerseys in a partnership with the Victorian government announced on Wednesday, it’s ironic their home state is the one place they can’t go.
The rugby nomads haven’t played at home for more than a year after they were forced out of Victoria because of COVID-19, and now their round-three match on March 6 against the Brumbies has been switched from Melbourne to Canberra.
This will allow them to travel to Perth a week later, which they couldn’t have done from Victoria due to a Western Australia travel ban.
After making a sudden exit on February 12 to avoid being locked out of Queensland for their season-opener against the Reds, Toomua said it was blow to the team who spent three months on the road last year and were set on returning from Brisbane on Saturday.
“There was a bit of friction if I’m being honest,” Toomua told AAP.
“I think initially being told to get out of Melbourne, that was a little bit hard to take for some guys after spending plenty of time away from family last year and memories of that came back straight away.
“But as the dust settles we realised we’re in a different space now and Melbourne’s actually got some good measures in place to hopefully allow us to be back in very soon.
“We’re very grateful to Rugby Australia and in particular to the Brumbies for swapping that match.”
As vice-captain, Toomua has again taken over the captaincy with no timeline for the return of regular skipper Dane Haylett-Petty, who is worryingly still battling concussion symptoms from the Tri-Nations late last year.
Haylett-Petty also missed six weeks of last year’s Super Rugby AU with a knee injury.
Toomua’s Wallabies campaign was also cut short with a serious groin injury but he says he’s good to go on Friday night against the rampant Reds, who crushed the Waratahs in their season-opener while the Rebels had the bye.
But Melbourne will be without a key man in hard-running No.8 Isi Naisarani, who has a hip injury.
The Rebels also announced their leadership group for 2021 on Wednesday with some new faces, including flanker Brad Wilkin, prop Cameron Orr and Wallabies Marika Koroibete, Jordan Uelese and Reece Hodge.