8 August 2007

UQ students James Hanson and Michael Hobbs will play their first match for new Australian Rugby Competition (ARC) side the Melbourne Rebels this weekend following a season of exceptional performances in Brisbane.

Only a year ago Mr Hobbs and UQ SPORT scholarship holder Mr Hanson were playing for Colts 1, but the promising young stars shone in their first outing for University Premier Grade this year.

The ARC will be held from August to October, and has been developed to fill the identified gap between traditional club rugby and the game's elite level.

At just 18, Mr Hanson will be one of the youngest players taking part in the competition.

Having won the Under-19 Rugby World Cup as part of the Australian team last year, the former UQ Rugby Academy (UQRA) member said he was looking forward to making the step up to the next level.

"I'm extremely thrilled to be selected for the Rebels," Mr Hanson said.

"At the end of last year it was an aim of mine to be involved in one of the ARC teams. I had been working hard towards it but I didn't know how realistic that goal was," he said.

"But now I've achieved that, and in a sense it is only the start, it's just a matter of working harder to secure a starting position and performing well."

The UQ players will train alongside Australian greats David Croft, Matt Cockbain and Digby Ioane, and Mr Hanson said it was a determining factor in his decision to move to Melbourne.

"I think the knowledge I'll get from playing and training alongside some of those more experienced players in a full-time rugby environment will be invaluable for both my on-field and off-field development," he said.

Also heading south is UQRA director and University Premier Grade head coach Nick Leah.

Mr Leah has secured the role of assistant coach of the Rebels, and said he had a high opinion of the young UQ recruits.

"Both James and Michael possess genuine talent and I'm looking forward to seeing them take the next steps in their rugby careers," Mr Leah said.

"I'm sure we'll see these players in international colours before too long."

Media: James Rigby (07 3346 7518, jamesr@uqsport.uq.edu.au) or Rachel Hawksford (07 3345 6031, rachelh@uqsport.uq.edu.au) at UQ SPORT