Huge news in the southern capital tonight, with Melbourne Rebels vice-captain, eleven-time international, all-around nice guy, the Prince of Wales, G&GR’s own Gareth Delve, turning his back on a lucrative offer from Toulon to extend his stay in Super Rugby through 2013.
The Rebels have made a lot of big player announcements in their short history. From claiming Danny Cipriani as their first signing in 2010, through signing James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale in 2011, to letting Cipriani go in a sea of controversy in the middle of 2012. None, I would argue, could match the significance of the press release that snuck out of VISY Park on Sunday night: Gareth Delve signed a one-year extension to his contract.
Very little information on the twists and turns of the offer are available due to legal issues, but here’s how it reportedly, allegedly, possibly went down. The Rebels sought a two-year extension at the end of the 2011 season but this was rejected by the ARU, leading most to believe that Europe was the only option for Delve in 2013.
It is believed that Delve had a pre-contractual agreement with Toulon (but not a playing contract) signed in January this year. A few months ago, after the Higginbotham signing, the Victorian franchise had one more crack at an extension through the Union, and a one-year offer was approved. Before it could proceed to a signing, Gareth had to get out of his pre-contract with Toulon, which happened only during the last couple of weeks. From there, tonight’s announcement was just a matter of time.
This is an incredible coup for the Melburnians, as Delve has been a revelation in Super Rugby. Signing on from Gloucester in 2010 (a team he had just led to the English Premiership), he joined the Rebels in an attempt to reclaim his place in the Welsh squad. Like all northern hemisphere recruits, there were questions about how he would adapt to Super Rugby.
Such doubts were quashed from the first whistle, with his incredible courage and endearing humility setting a worthy example for the teammates to look up to and earning him a new legion of fans at the Rebels. In 2011, he became the first international player to captain an Australian Super Rugby franchise, and it is likely that in 2013, he will become the first international to captain an Australian franchise on a full-time basis.
Recently, when the Cipriani situation was at risk of boiling over in the middle of this season, to the point where it was clearly affecting the team’s form and confidence, it was Gareth who drew the line in the sand with the playing group, and defended the culture and standards that he had helped to create.
He has proved himself an incredible ambassador for the club and the game in Victoria, and personally, I could not be happier to hear he’s staying on.
‘I am thrilled to sign on for another year’, Delve is quoted in the press release.
‘I believe this club is moving in the right direction and now I can continue to be a part of that. There was always an element of risk associated with the move, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Melbourne.
‘From a rugby perspective, playing against the world’s best week in and week out has been great for the development of my game. It was always going to be a massive challenge, but I am very happy I came to Australia to play in this competition.
‘On a personal note, I am thrilled to be staying in Melbourne, I have become very attached to this city over the past two years and it certainly feels like home now.
‘I also want to mention my teammates, I love playing alongside the lads and look forward to the opportunity to push for a finals berth with them in 2013.’
What do you make of this landmark announcement? With Beale, O’Connor, Higginbotham and now Delve, will the 2013 Super season be party-time in Melbourne?