Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby franchise have signed lock Sam Jeffries on an Extended Playing Squad (EPS) contract to join the Club for the 2014 Super Rugby season which leaves just one place to be filled in the Club's 35-man playing roster.
Jeffries, who attended Nudgee College in Brisbane, represented Australia U20 in 2012, and joins the Club from the Rugby nursery at Sydney University.
Sam, who played alongside fellow new recruit Sean McMahon in the Australian U20s, was awarded his contract after an outstanding three week trial period with the full-time playing group.
General Manager, Rugby Sam Cordingley was pleased to able to give Jeffries the opportunity to become a Rebel.
"Sam is a great kid, very raw and aggressive, and has a lot of learning still to do," he said.
"He has impressed Tony McGahan and the coaching staff during his trial, and the Club have offered him an EPS contract for 2014 which he has accepted.
"Sam is coming back from a lisfranc injury in his foot and he actually was in the rehab group for his first week down here before he joined full training, but we really wanted to get him down to Melbourne and have a first-hand look (at him). Sam is very aggressive in contact and showed that he is willing to mix it with our senior players.
"In that week of rehab, Sam was working alongside Scott Higginbotham and it was great for Sam to see the level of professionalism that Scott brings to his training. It would have been a fantastic experience for him, and would have helped him maintain the right work ethic during that time."
Cordingley said that having the opportunity to bring a player in on trial was certainly an advantage when it came to making sure the Club signed the right young players.
"You get a little more insight into the character of a player, not only what you are seeing based on their performances on the field. We got to see his work ethic, how he approached training and how he fitted into the group dynamic, which we thought was important, and he ticked the boxes."
Jeffries is looking forward to the challenge of his first professional Rugby contract, and believes being forced to 'sing for his supper' in the form of a trial was a positive experience.
"I couldn't be more over the moon and I am just looking forward to ripping in with the boys," Jeffries said. "It was a challenge to have to come in and work as hard as I could for three weeks to try and earn a contract.
"I did everything, from lifting to field work, and I actually got a few sprays in the first week. I had to really prove myself amongst the boys, but it's proven worthwhile. Now, I'm definitely feeling settled here, and looking to move in with a few of the boys after Christmas as I settle in Melbourne."
With Jeffries being awarded an EPS contract, one of the five previously announced EPS squad players for 2014 will be rewarded with an upgrade to the main group, however Cordingley said that decision was yet to be made.
"Signing a lock was our main focus," Cordingley said.
"Locks are a little bit of a premium worldwide. Good 200cm locks with athleticism are hard to find, but we have Cadeyrn Neville and Hugh Pyle who are Wallabies of the future. Luke Jones is a classy player either in the backrow or as a lock, and then there is Chris Thomson who has been unfortunate to not receive any opportunities thus far but is a big lad who competes hard. Add Sam Jeffries to the mix and we are very happy with our lot.
"We yet to decide who we will upgrade from the EPS group and we are working diligently around the final position in the main squad".
Cordingley was pleased to sign another Australian, and continue to provide opportunities for young Aussies to get their first crack at Super Rugby after seeing Tom English, Bryce Hegarty, Jordy Reid, Angus Roberts and Alex Rokobaro break through for their Super Rugby debuts last season.
"We still have several of our foreign quota spots unfilled, but obviously we would prefer to sign local talent such as Sam and we'll continue with that approach. We have a big focus on developing domestic talent, and our final signing will most likely be Australian as well."