The Melbourne Rebels have retained the services of homegrown players Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota until the end of 2019.
The pair have penned two-year extensions with the Rebels this week after they became the first Victorians players to graduate from the local elite pathway to sign their first professional contract with the club ahead of the 2016 season.
Tuipulotu and Leota, along with team-mate Harley Fox, were last week named in the Australian U20 team for the 2016 World Rugby U20’s Championship in Manchester, UK, in June.
“It’s fantastic to have both Sione and Rob re-sign with the Rebels,” said Melbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan.
“They’re local players that have done really well and worked their way through the system so we’re excited about the talent of those two and more importantly where we think they can end up in our program at the Rebels.
“To have two young talented Victorian kids showing the way is exciting and we’re hopeful there are many more young men in Victoria playing Rugby that are inspired by their opportunities and follow in their footsteps.”
Tuipulotu made his Super Rugby debut at outside centre against the Queensland Reds in Round 3 in front of family and friends at AAMI Park.
The 18-year-old, born and raised in Frankston, has made three appearances for the Rebels since joining the club and will contest his second underage world championship with the Australian U20 team.
“It’s exciting to re-sign with the Rebels and gives me confidence in my game so I’ll be sticking around Melbourne for a little while longer which is great to continue to have support of my friends and family,” said Tuipulotu.
“I’ve seen my game develop in leaps and bounds since joining the Rebels. I’ve always been coached how to carry the ball and tackle hard but the opportunity to train and play alongside experienced wise heads have helped me to understrand my game better.”
Preston-native Leota recently returned from an ankle injury, which has sidelined the 19-year-old since he impressed during the Rebels pre-season, to make his Australia U20 debut in the two-game series against New Zealand.
“I’m stoked to be able to stay and play professional Rugby in my home town,” he revealed.
“It’s a massive honour to be able to put on the Rebels jersey for my family and friends. It’s great that Sione and I have shown the young Victorian players that there is a goal to strive for here in Melbourne.”
Leota, Tuipulotu and Fox travel to Sydney on Wednesday to join ther Australia U20 team-mates at the Sydney Academy of Sport, Narrabeen for a final camp before heading to Europe to kick off its latest World Championship campaign.