Rebels make history by signing first local player


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Melbourne based Super Rugby franchise have made history by signing their first local player Sefanaia Naivalu from Box Hill on a two year deal.

Centre Sefanaia Naivalu is the first ever Rebel to be signed directly from Victoria’s premier Club Rugby competition, and his signing is a reflection of his hot form in the Dewar Shield and his work in training and games for the Melbourne Rising in the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship (NRC).

‘Sefa’ is also the first player to be offered a Super Rugby contract directly from the NRC since the tournament kicked off.

Naivalu top-scored with seventeen tries in the Dewar Shield as his Broncos team went from a winless wooden spoon year in 2013 to beaten Grand Finalists in 2014, and he has started every game for the Melbourne Rising in the NRC, scoring four tries thus far and impressing with his speed and slick handling.

Rebels Head Coach Tony McGahan was pleased to make history, and praised the hard work of many to get Naivalu to this point.

“This is a wonderful result for the Victorian Rugby community,” McGahan said.

“There have been a lot of people from the game locally who have supported Rugby for many years to give players, like Sefa, the opportunity to fulfil a dream; to become a professional Rugby player.

“This dream is now a reality, but the hard work begins now as he looks to take his ability to the next level under this Rebels Rugby program.”

McGahan said that the level of the Dewar Shield had been improved with all Rebels playing the entirety of their Club Rugby in Victoria as of 2014, rather than returning to Sydney and Brisbane competitions.

“Professional Rebels players have had a solid impact on the 2014 Dewar Shield Competition, breaking records for attendance and participation,” he said.

“We want to ensure this continues to push the standard higher for local players, and then we also have our Elite Programs ready to drive players along the road to becoming a Rebel, with the right performance staff and culture to make them better athletes, and more importantly, better people.”

For Naivalu, the signing represents a wonderful breakthrough following a hectic twelve months which saw him move to Australia from Fiji as part of the Rugby Plus program.

“Personally, I am really excited; it’s my dream to play at Super Rugby level, and now I am ready and proud to get the chance,” he said.

“Now I have to prove myself again with the highest performances that I can give for the Melbourne Rising, and in training with the Rebels.

“It’s a great honour for me to represent Box Hill Rugby Club, and to be the first player from the Dewar Shield to get selected to the next level. My coach at Box Hill (Andrew Slyfield) has worked really hard with me at training, as playing in Fiji is a not as structured as it is here, so he has helped me with that. I have improved a lot since I left Fiji.

“I really enjoy playing with the Melbourne Rising and it’s a privilege for me to represent all of the Fijian community here in Melbourne and Rugby Plus as a player for Box Hill, Melbourne Rising and now the Melbourne Rebels.”

Rebels’ General Manager of Community and CEO of the VRU Peter Leahy said it was a landmark day for Victorian Rugby.

“The signing of Sefa to the Rebels is an incredibly significant event for Rugby in this state,” Leahy said.

“As our first player to be contracted from the Dewar Shield to the Melbourne Rebels, it sets the scene for more local player to follow the pathway and progress to the professional ranks without the need to leave Victoria to further their careers.”

Leahy said that Naivalu’s emergence also showed the positive impact of the NRC on Rugby in Victoria.

“The NRC is the key ingredient that links the club game to the professional game,” Leahy explained.

“In conjunction with our successful Elite Pathways programs, through Junior Gold Cup, Victorian Schoolboys and U20’s, the NRC is now the last piece in the puzzle that gives locally produced talent a dedicated pathway to professional Rugby entirely based out of Victoria.

“Sefa’s signing is proof that the pathway is working. We expect this to be the first of many over the next few years”

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