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The Roar


Exclusive: Wallaby refused to play for Rebels against Reds over outstanding debt

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18th March, 2024
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As Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels sit down to discuss the debt-riddled Super Rugby franchise’s future, it can be revealed star recruit Filipo Daugunu missed last week’s loss to the Reds because of an outstanding debt owed to the outside back.

Officially, Daugunu, 29, missed the Rebels’ 53-26 loss to the Reds for “personal reasons”.

Unofficially, The Roar can reveal an outstanding $7,000 relocation debt owed to Daugunu forced the Wallaby’s hand to miss the match.

It’s believed Daugunu’s agent Damian McGregor-Lowndes gave the Super Rugby franchise until mid-Friday afternoon to settle the debt, but when it wasn’t lodged in time the Wallaby withdrew.

Filipo Daugunu chose to sit out of the Rebels’ fixture against the Reds last weekend. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The issue surrounding the debt comes after the Rebels slipped into voluntary administration in late January.

Only days prior to that, Daugunu lodged his fee.


But when the Rebels fell into voluntary administration, Daugunu became a creditor.

While Rugby Australia is currently honouring the contracts of players and staff, Daugunu’s relocation fee sits outside his contract.

Recognising the can of worms that could be opened by paying Daugunu’s relocation fee, the governing body chose not to settle the fee.

That said, it’s understood RA presented several other options to try and come up with a temporary solution, including fast-tracking a later installment to resolve any cash-flow issues. It was turned down.

Daugunu, who featured for Australia A last year and has played seven Tests for the Wallabies, wasn’t sighted at the loss on Friday.

The star outside back, who has increasingly featured in the midfield, also wasn’t present at training on Monday ahead of Friday’s match against the Hurricanes.


As revealed by The Roar, Daugunu turned up at training on Tuesday but Rebels coach Kevin Foote has since told AAP the star recruit won’t be eligible for their next match across the Tasman.

“It’s between him and his agent and Rugby Australia and they’ve been trying to work it out,” Foote said.

“Filipo actually came to training today which is great – he’s not up for selection this week because it’s too late as we’ve already finished our training week but just to have him back is very pleasing for us.”

Filipo Daugunu of the Wallabies scores a try

Filipo Daugunu has played seven Tests for the Wallabies since debuting in 2020. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The back’s absence was felt against the Reds, with the Wallaby one of the side’s strongest over the ball.

Unable to slow the Reds’ ball down in the first half, the visitors scored five tries to a match-winning lead into half-time.

Such was the pace of the game that the Rebels replaced their starting props after 33 minutes, including mega-signing Taniela Tupou.


The messy situation gives a snapshot into the perilous state of affairs at the Rebels, as the franchise tries to keep it together as their future is played out publicly.

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Foote, whose contract was taken over by RA earlier this year and is employed until June 30, said the Rebels needed to get some clarity over their future soon.

“No news is not good news in this scenario because you actually start living in the future and that’s not good either,” Foote told AAP.

“You start worrying about things you don’t know anything about.

“There’s only three pay cheques left and when you think about that it’s very concerning.

“But the last thing I want is that they tell us that we’re not going to be around because then there could be a mass exodus or people thinking about jumping off.


“We’re still in the belief that we’ll be around and we can keep this group together because it’s a very talented group and we can do good things.” 

After threatening legal action against RA earlier this month, it’s believed the national body has been brought to the table to meet with the Rebels this week.

RA chief executive Phil Waugh was in Melbourne on Monday spruiking the release of tickets for next year’s British and Irish Lions Tour.

Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh says the Lions will still play a tour match in Melbourne on July 22 regardless of whether it’s against the Rebels or not. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The city will host the second Test against the Lions at the MCG on July 26, while a Rebels fixture is still slated earlier that week at Marvel Stadium.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Waugh couldn’t’ guarantee the Lions would take on the Rebels given their financial situation but added it would be against someone, possibly Australia A, on July 22.

Waugh admitted the process was taking longer than he would have liked.


“The sooner we can get to an outcome for 2025 and beyond the better for everyone so we’re working through that,” he told AAP.

“Are we closer? Yes. Are we moving at the speed that we’d like to? Probably not, so we need to accelerate that and not just for the fans and those engaged in the sport in Melbourne but for the players and the staff.”