BY AUBREY HAMLETT
18 June 2011
This article originally appeared on The Roar
Last night, AAMI Park became the venue for the celebration of the Melbourne Rebels inaugural season coming to an end. It was as much a celebration for the Rebels as it was for the fans and the Rebel Army.
The Rebels were fighting for a cause: a win for the fans.
Sitting amongst the Rebel Army lead the theme for tonight was of course “the force” as Perth’s Western Force visited AAMI Park for the first time.
Storm troopers, light saber wielding Obi-Wan Kenobi’s, Queen Amidala, even Spiderman and Batman surrounded me standing with the Rebel Army.
Western Force were looking to do what the Rebels did against the Force in round 7, stealing a win over in Perth 25-26.
The crowd was treated to a recap of the Rebel’s season including highlights of their three wins. Fireworks lit up the sky and the Rebel Army started the first chant, “come on Melbourne” as Rebel Army co-founder Gavin Norman played the drums.
It certainly was a very tribal atmosphere.
In the lead up to Friday night’s game, Rod Macqueen handed over his position as head coach to Damien Hill and Western Force pulled out of resigning star player, James O’Connor. Giving Rebels fans hope that he will sign a contract with Melbourne for 2012 and beyond.
Retiring tonight from the Rebels were Greg “Yoda” Somerville, Sam Cordingly and Kevin O’Neill.
The Rebels were hoping to end their season on a high note. Flyhalf Danny Cipriani was again included in the side. His first shot at a penalty looked good nearing goal, but swayed to narrowly miss. Five minutes later Cipriani secured a penalty and the Rebels had the early lead 3-0.
Western Force looked dangerous when they had the ball and left wing David Smith was impressive. He broke through several Rebel tackles, finally being brought down by Somerville and Nic Henderson.
By half time, both sides had kept each other from scoring tries and Western Force had the lead 6-9.
At the 61st minute Smith scored a try.
“I’m blind, I’m deaf, I’m wanna be a ref!” cried the Rebel Army, not happy in the decision leading up to Smith’s try. Two minutes later Western Force scored a try again, taking the lead out to 12-24.
Vice Captain Gareth Delve, told Fox Sports, “it’s been the story of our season, we’ve switched off at the wrong times and it’s killed us.”
The Rebels then scored two tries, one to Rebel Army favourite, Adam Freier and Captain Stirling Mortlock. The crowd roared to life when Mortlock lined up for a second conversion. A hush fell over AAMI Park but the captain failed to convert leaving the scores level at 24-24.
Another penalty to Western Force secured the win 24-27 and heartbreak for the Rebels.
At the final siren, it didn’t matter whether the Rebels had lost, or were bottom of the Australian conference. What matters is Super Rugby has arrived in Melbourne, and its here to stay.
In years to come the Melbourne Rebels will rival other Australian Super 15 teams, not only on the field, but also in membership, fanbase and home game attendances.
The Rebels average crowds of 17,500 at home and overall member satisfaction averaged 7.2 out of 10.
The Melbourne Rebels have created the foundations of a team that can only continue to improve and is determined to build on what has let them down this season.
Inconsistency and obvious work on defence is needed for the Rebels.
“As a maiden season it’s been good for us, we’ve learnt a lot of hard lessons and we’ll be better for it.” Delve told Fox Sports.
It’s clear that Rebel players love their fans. Adam Freier came over to the Rebel Army to personally present his number 16 gurnsey to Norman.
If this year was any indication, I can’t wait for the 2012 season to see how the Rebels have progressed as a team on and off the field. It certainly will be an exciting journey to watch the Rebels progress each year.
The Melbourne Rebels will continue their cause; to represent Melbourne and Victoria and one day lead us to a Super Rugby victory.