Melbourne gets Super 15 team ahead of South Africa's Southern KingsWALLABIES star Berrick Barnes will be chased to be the debut skipper of Melbourne's new Super 15 rugby union team.
Current Wallabies captain Rocky Elsom
is another likely to be on the radar when recruiting starts for the team, to be called the Rebels
, for the 2011 season.
Highly credentialled Michael Chieka
, who coaches Leinster in Dublin, is a possible first coach.Melbourne won the new franchise today ahead of South African bidder the Southern Kings after a South Africa-New Zealand-Australia (SANZAR) panel agreed it was the right choice for the expanded competition.
The Super 15 will comprise five teams from three Conferences, in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
The five teams in each Conference will play each other on a home-and-away basis for eight games in all.
They will then play four of the five teams in each of the other two Conferences home or away for a further eight regular-season matches.
The Rebels' first team will be beefed up by bringing in international stars and targetting some of the young guns from the National Rugby League.
Wallabies vice-captain Barnes comes out of contract the end of next season.
Melbourne-born Elsom, currently in Dublin for Monday morning's Test against Ireland, said today: "The green light for Melbourne is a great win for Australian rugby.
"I know a lot of foreign players would like to play in Australia which is a preferred destination.
"With a bit of time to organise effective recruitment, Melbourne could be strong from day one in 2011. And as any Victorian will tell you, there is no better place for sport."
Elsom has just joined a new Super 14 team, ACT Brumbies, for the 2010 season, so he was, understandably, coy about his 2011 plans.
When asked about the prospect of Melbourne he said: "I'm yet to join the Brumbies so I probably wouldn't be speculating on that."
Although born in Melbourne, Elsom spent his formative years in Noosa in Queensland before attending the famed rugby nursery, Nudgee College.
"This is a vote for commonsense," Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill said.
"Equally we want to recognise that the bid put forward for the Southern Kings was a very good one and it took an even better bid for Melbourne to win out. At some point in time, SANZAR will no doubt enjoy the company of the Southern Kings.
"However, at the moment, this is the right decision for SANZAR and it's a momentous day for Australian rugby and the people of Melbourne."
While there is much to do before the side launches into the elite competition, it is certain to be highly competitive side from day one.
It is believed board approval for a relaxation of of the foreign player rule - which stand at two - could see up to 10 overseas players be part of a 30-man Melbourne squad.
All-Blacks and Springboks already playing abroad plus top liners from Argentina, which is desperately keen to join the Tri-Nations competition in 2012, will be targetted as well as high class local talent coming out of contract.
O'Neill said coming into the Aussie Rules heartland was an exciting prospect.
"Melbourne has an extraordinary capacity for sport and we can now deliver them a Super Rugby side they can embrace and support in an established competition of genuine international standing,'' he said.
"Super Rugby is the most prestigious tournament of its kind in our game and it will now reach into Melbourne, with a team playing out of the new state-of-the-art purpose-built Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
"We are obviously delighted by the outcome. The ARU was always convinced the case for Melbourne was compelling and this decision confirms our positivity and confidence about having the fifth Australian team in Australia's second biggest city."http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/melbourne-gets-super-15-team/story-e6frf9if-1225796747048
Good news, I was hoping Melbourne would get it. I'm not sure if they'll have a HUGE fan base but it shouldnt be too bad