Sydney - With two big-name signings, last year's Super Rugby wooden spooners the Melbourne Rebels are suddenly packed with promise.
Wallabies Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor will join good
friend and England import Danny Cipriani to form a potentially
explosive play-making trio and lift the fortunes of the competition's
And yesterday Beale moved to dispel any concerns the
trio's off-field activities would take the shine off their exploits on
''I think we've all got this expectation of ourselves and
what we bring to each other and also to our team-mates, so we don't want
to let anyone down and let anyone think that we're only in it for just
the fun side of things,'' the 22-year-old said.
The ''fun side of things'' have got a little out of hand for a couple of them in the past year.
There was Cipriani helping himself to a bottle of vodka
as part of a prank in a bar while his team struggled through their debut
There was O'Connor's big night in the eastern suburbs,
which led to his no-show at the Wallabies' team announcement the next
morning and subsequent one-Test ban.
And then there was Beale's own mysterious black eye in
France. O'Connor and Quade Cooper eventually hosed down speculation,
saying it was a scrap between mates and nothing else.
Beale and O'Connor went on to produce impressive, if
injury-marred, performances at the World Cup. But Cipriani missed out on
selection for the England squad and continued to make headlines for his
prolific dating habits.
Beale defended his friend, saying Cipriani was an easy target for the English tabloids and was ready to get down to business.
''He does have a [reputation], I guess playing in England
he's dated a few [high-profile women] and obviously he's very popular,
he's awesome talent and the paparazzi just got on him from there.
''[But] seeing Danny, he's looking in great shape and
he's getting the ship set really well down there with the boys in the
pre-season, and he's just really pumped to start next year, he's really
switched on and that's the exciting thing.
''A lot of people may have their judgments but that's the way it is and I'm sure he'll turn a few heads next year.''
Beale will be missing when the Wallabies' spring tour of
Britain kicks off next week due to a hamstring injury suffered during
the World Cup, but said he was glad to have the extra downtime.
Beale was in Sydney on Thursday for lunch with Wallabies
greats Lloyd McDermott and Mark Ella, who is also a family friend.
Ella, who was recently appointed head of sport at the country's only
indigenous broadcaster, National Indigenous Television, said Beale had
matured as a footballer and as a person.
''He had a couple of difficult years [at] the Waratahs
and now he's gone back to fullback and he's just an accomplished
footballer,'' Ella said.
Moving to Melbourne would give Beale time away from ''the spotlight of Sydney''.
''He's got his best mate [O'Connor] down there and he's
got Danny, which could be a little bit of a distraction, but
collectively they've got to work as one, to win games and try and claim a
little bit of a sporting landscape in Melbourne,'' Ella said.
And Beale said he was completely focused on doing his
best for his new club. ''At the end of the day, it all comes down to
the team because they're the guys making you look good,'' he said.
''I've always got respect for the guys around me and I'll be very upset
if I let them down.''