Wessels steps down as Super Rebels coach

·3-min read

A public plea from his captain wasn't enough to save Dave Wessels, who jumped before he was pushed, quitting as Melbourne Rebels coach on Friday.

Rebels Test playmaker Matt Toomua last week implored the board not to sack Wessels after they missed the Super Rugby AU finals with three wins from eight games.

But Wessels himself decided it was time for a new voice, telling his players he won't be leading them through the trans-Tasman portion of Super Rugby which starts in mid-May.

Off contract and with a underwhelming win rate of just 44 per cent in his four years at the helm, the board had already started to scope out his replacement.

"I was feeling like it's the right time to go," Wessels told AAP.

"It's not an easy job and I obviously care a lot about the players and the club.

"I just need a little bit of a break for a bit and spend time with my kids and wife."

The 39-year-old spent four months away from his young family last year with the Rebels forced interstate for the entire competition.

They made the 2020 three-team play-offs but this year's failure plus an ugly game plan meant the writing was on the wall.

Marika Koroibete, one of the world's best wingers, didn't manage a single try in eight games this season with the entire team only scoring 14.

Despite losing many players through the financial impact of COVID-19 and then regular captain Test fullback Dane Haylett-Petty (concussion) for the season, four of their five losses came in the last play of the game.

They were also forced out of their regular training facilities in the pre-season, unable to share with Collingwood AFLW due to COVID protocol.

While acknowledging it was a results-based business, Wessels pondered what might have been.

"Almost every little bit of bad luck that could happen, happened at different times," he said.

"There's so many games that it came down to the last kick of the game but it wasn't to be.

"I think also there's challenges around things like not having our own training facilities and all those little bits and pieces - you spend a lot of time sorting all of that stuff out as opposed to the coaching piece, which is the bit I really love.

"I think in the end that was probably a big part of the decision."

It was a sad end for Wessels, who joined Melbourne after two seasons with the Western Force when the Perth franchise was cast out ahead of the 2018 season.

With many Force players also joining the Rebels, he managed to galvanise the fractured squad.

Wessels will remain with the club for the next few weeks, working with chief executive Baden Stephenson on contracting, with Toomua top of the list.

He hoped one of his assistants, Kevin Foote or Shaun Berne, would step in for the trans-Tasman competition to prove themselves as a head coach.