2018 Rising Squad Announced
The Melbourne Rising have today confirmed their 33-man squad for the 2018 NRC campaign.
The squad offers an interesting cross section of full time Rebels contracted players as well as a band of aspiring club talent.
For Rising Head Coach Eoin Toolan, the announcement and assembly of players is a welcome relief from the business of pre-season planning.
“There’s been a lot of preparation to this point assembling the team. This has been the first week we’ve been able to get all of our non-professional players in the club so it’s great to finally have everyone under one roof,” explained Toolan.
Particularly pleasing to the coach was the emergence of local players who had come through the Victorian pathway.
“There are a couple of really exciting players to come out of Dewar Shield this year. Obviously Melbourne Unicorns had an exceptional year and were undoubtedly the best team in the competition so for Sakaria Noa and George Noa to make the 33 is probably a fair reflection on how the team performed,” said Toolan.
“Both those two guys really stood out individually for that team so I’m really excited to see those two brothers.”
Standing in their way for a starting spot is established back row stars Richard Hardwick, Angus Cottrell and new recruit Isi Naisarani. Naisarani will be keen to impress since relocating from Canberra, as he sets his sights on a Wallaby call up in 2019.
Despite being on the wrong end of the scoreboard for Saturday’s Dewar Shield Final, Harlequins playmaker Kemu Valetini did enough to catch the eye of the Rising selectors.
“Obviously, his brother Rob has gone on to do good things in the professional environment up in Canberra, and Kemu has the potential, in the right environment, to progress further in his career,” said Toolan.
“I think he’s shown really classy touches in the games that I’ve seen him play and I think when he’s surrounded by some strong players he’s really going to shine.”
Perhaps the most interesting selection was that of outside back Sione Tui. The nineteen-year-old had a breakout season for Melbourne Unicorns, culminating in a Man of the Match Dewar Shield Grand Final performance last weekend.
“Sione Tui showed his potential in that final when he scored that try. He told me it was from 90m, but it was probably closer to 70m,” laughed Toolan.
“But I think he’s got exceptional pace coupled with some impressive evasive skills. He’s an really exciting player with a bright future.”
When quizzed on the team’s expectations for 2018, Toolan wouldn’t be distracted by looking too far ahead.
“I think it’s a game by game focus really. It’s an environment where we are trying to develop the individual so going into this campaign it’s all about technically making our players better. Through that, hopefully we will see that transfer to a team scenario where our players improve week on week which will lead to team results.”
“For now, we can’t look past Fiji in Round One.”