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Dave Wessels resigns as Melbourne Rebels head coach

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30th April, 2021
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Dave Wessels’ tenure at the Melbourne Rebels has come to an end after he resigned as head coach of the franchise.

Wessels’ decision is effective immediately, meaning he will not coach the Rebels in the upcoming Super Rugby Trans-Tasman season. No interim head coach has been announced yet, although the Rebels said they will “communicate [their] decisions” for the tournament next week.

Wessels took over as head coach of the Melbourne side at the start of 2018 after leading the Western Force prior to their axing from Super Rugby.

However, after missing the Super Rugby AU finals this year in a campaign that was hampered by an extensive injury list and a number of near-misses, and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, he said it was time to pass the role onto someone new.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve reflected a lot and I feel the time is right to pass the baton to someone else,” Wessels said in a statement released at lunchtime on Friday.

“Living in Melbourne and coaching the Melbourne Rebels has been a wonderful experience. I’ve learnt an incredible amount, built some really strong friendships and I feel confident that I am leaving the club in a really good place.

“When I was first appointed interim head coach at the Western Force I had the final three games of the 2016 season to start leading and preparing the club for the future. It gave me the opportunity to gain some valuable experience and test myself without the full responsibility of the job. I would like to give someone else that same opportunity; to test themselves and grow for the next phase in the club’s journey.”

Under Wessels, the Rebels made their finals debut in Super Rugby AU 2020 despite having to spend the entire competition on the road due to the pandemic, but they also missed a number of opportunities to break their post-season duck earlier, with a series of near-misses in the previous seasons.

They finished second in the Australian Conference in both 2018 and 2019, but missed out on making the semi-finals after losing their last three games of the season in both years. That left them two points shy of eighth place in 2019, while points difference had kept them out of the finals the year before.

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Before the pandemic forced the suspension of the Super Rugby season in 2020, the Rebels were in second place in Australia, although were once again ranked ninth in the overall standouts.

Last year, Dave was kind enough to write an opinion piece for The Roar, outlining some suggestions to improve rugby union right now.

“When Dave commenced the role at the end of 2017 it took a very special coach to lead our club through a period of intense change and he has done an almighty job to establish and evolve many foundations that the club will continue to build on in the future,” Rebels CEO Baden Stephenson said.

“Dave developed Wallabies, identified and unearthed some elite talent, achieved the most successful seasons in the club’s history amongst some very memorable victories. Dave’s work ethic, detail, desire, generosity and leadership were hallmarks of his tenure and I look forward to working with him over the coming months to set the club up for future success.”

After finishing fourth in this year’s Super Rugby AU tournament, the Rebels begin their Trans-Tasman campaign on May 15 at home against the Blues.