Melbourne Super Rugby team the Rebels have lured former All Blacks manager Tony Thorpe across the Tasman to fill the club’s new Team Director role.
The appointment of the former New Zealand representative player and successful manager for the 2018 Super Rugby season is the first major coup for the Rebels following the announcement of new head coach David Wessels.
The newly established Team Director role will drive standards, discipline, travel and high-performance outcomes after an end of season review into the Rebels rugby program identified areas that required attention.
“I’m fortunate for the opportunity to work with David and the management team at the start of a new era for the Melbourne Rebels and excited by the club’s untapped potential in the growing squad and organisation,” Thorpe said.
“There are some challenges to overcome in a very short period of time but David’s pulling together a group capable of navigating the club on this exciting journey to deliver success for the Rebels.”
Thorpe’s impressive background has included two years as Team Manager with the All Blacks and three Super Rugby championships in the same role with the Crusaders. Thorpe will work very closely with established Team Manager Mark Rowe to create the best environment for the players and staff.
A Canterbury representative lock from 1982-1986, Thorpe joined the All Blacks in 2002 after three years as Team Manager with the Hurricanes underage programs.
Thorpe followed All Blacks assistant coach and former Canterbury teammate Robbie Deans to the Crusaders in 2004, where he played an integral part in establishing the club as Super Rugby’s most successful franchise. After three titles in his eight years at Crusaders, Thorpe first crossed the ditch to work for three years under former Springboks head coach Jake White as Team Director at the Brumbies in 2012.
Thorpe, a New Zealand underage and Sevens representative, most recently held the role as General Manager Rugby for the Fijian Rugby Union, where he was a part of the country’s historic Olympic gold medal Sevens program.
“Tony’s extensive management experience will make him an extremely valuable asset to our refreshed rugby program at the Rebels,” Rebels chief executive officer Baden Stephenson said.
“Our club is going to go through a major transformation and there is so much work to get done in such a small amount of time. Tony knows what success and strong team cultures looks like.”
Following the appointment of Wessels and Thorpe, the Rebels will continue to revitalise its rugby department with the recruitment of key on-field and coaching staff to be finalised in the coming weeks, along with the playing squad.
The Melbourne Rebels will kick-off its 2018 Super Rugby campaign at home against the Queensland Reds at AAMI Park on Friday 23 February from 7.30pm (AEST).