The departure of Gareth Delve to Japan means the Melbourne Rebels have needed to appoint their third captain in just its fourth seasons of rugby. The man to lead the team in 2014 will be Wallaby Scott Higginbotham, but is Higginbotham the right choice for the Rebels? All roads lead to an overwhelming ‘yes’.
With the majority of the Rebels inaugural squad already gone – most of which were players that could be labelled as ”well-weathered” – the younger, fresher-faced Rebels side need someone with experience to guide the club into the next phase of its life. Higginbotham fits the bill perfectly:
• He has 23 caps for Australia, has been in the Super Rugby scene for several years (previously with the Reds) where he has made a name for himself as a top player,
• Has already spent a season familiarising himself in Melbourne in 2013, and
• Was the stand-in captain on several occasions last year in Delve’s absence.
Despite the Wallabies recent poor performances in the Rugby Championship, the national side seems to have surplus stocks in its back-row – most of whom are exceptional talents. Higginbotham’s injuries at the back-end of last season meant he was left out of the Wallabies squad for 2013, so he will want to impress at the Rebels in 2014 to regain his spot for Australia.
This works out perfectly for Melbourne. A club captain willing to lead by example and wanting to get himself back to the top of his game is probably one of the best situations to have. This is unlike Mortlock and Delve whose national team days were well behind them during their respective tenures as captain.
Higginbotham is going to be a motivated man in 2014, and at 27 years of age he still has quite a few years of service in him for the Rebels as a long-term leader.