Split loyalties for Somerville


imagesWhen the RaboDirect Rebels run out against the Crusaders on Friday night at AAMI Park, most people will have a strong idea of whether they are cheering on the 5 Stars or the Red & Blacks.

So spare a thought for All Black legend Greg Somerville; alumni of both Clubs, and while he spent just the one season at the Rebels in comparison to a decade at the Crusaders, ‘Yoda’ admits it will be tough to decide who to barrack for.

“I had different experiences with both teams, and I have fond memories of both,” he explains. “I hope the Crusaders and Rebels find form, and we see a great game; I don’t want to try and pick a winner!”

The big prop played fourteen matches in his one season in Melbourne, hanging up the boots and heading back across the ditch at the end of 2011, but clearly has a close affinity with the city he called home.

“The group when I was here were fairly reasonable blokes,” Somerville says with a laugh. “I still miss Melbourne; it treated us very well for the eighteen months we lived there and we really enjoyed it. I’m sure my wife would jump on the plane and go back over there in a heartbeat!

Somerville has enjoyed following the progress of two former rookie teammates, as well as a front row partner of his, since he left the Club.

“I’ve definitely enjoyed watching Foundation Rebels Hugh Pyle and Luke Jones improve over the last couple of seasons, after I played alongside them,” he says. “They were both pretty raw when they first arrived, but it’s been great to see them both develop and also stick with the Rebels. Considering how well they have been playing I’m sure they would have been chased by other teams in the last couple of years, so it’s awesome that they have stayed in Melbourne and I hope they are the ones who can help grow the culture and keep developing the franchise.”

“I’ve followed Laurie Weeks’ closely, after packing down in the front row with him at the Rebels. Laurie has always had the potential, and can play some great games, but the challenge for him is to put consistency on the board and put in big performances week in and week out.

“The new scrum laws probably favour him a little, being a little shorter and not as long in the limbs as others in the front row! The strength of keeping low and keeping the pressure on probably does suit him quite a lot, and I hope Weeksy goes as far as he can. He has the potential, and was always a guy you remember fondly as he was the heart and soul of the team with plenty of great banter. He’s one of those genuine guys that you enjoy playing with, and you always want to see those guys do well.”

The Rebels head into the match with a 50% record for the season, and on the back of a disappointing result in Perth last week, but Somerville has seen positives in the Club’s preparation for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

“I try and keep an eye on Super Rugby, (and I’m) watching more and more of it. I like to watch the trends and see how my old teams are faring.

“The Rebels did really well against the Cheetahs, with a new coach on board. They have obviously gotten rid of a few players and brought in some new guys, trying to find the right balance in the team. It was great to see them start the season with a win, and despite a loss last weekend against the Western Force, the camp should still have a good vibe. They had a very good pre-season as well, and good outcomes breed confidence in the camp; I’m pleased with what I have seen.”

The Crusaders, seven time champions, started the season with losses against conference rivals the Chiefs and Blues, but got their first win on the board against the Stormers on Saturday evening in Christchurch.

“The Crusaders getting off to a slow start is not all that foreign to them, to be honest,” Somerville says. “The franchise has been known for being a slow starter, but they back their systems and their players and grind their way back into the competition to be there at the end of the season. It’s a long competition, and they’re a classy outfit.”
Somerville retains some involvement in Rugby, and would love to get back over to AAMI Park to take in a match amongst the Rebel faithful this season.

“At the moment I am living just north of Auckland. I have been sampling odd jobs since I finished in Rugby two and a half years ago; it’s sort of like leaving school in that you try different jobs until you settle on one that’s going to be the ticket.

“I’ve been working outside on orchards, farms and vineyards; all sorts at the moment. It keeps me busy, along with looking after my kids. I have been working with the Rugby academy in Palmerston North, and I will also be the scrum coach this year for Hawkes Bay in the ITM Cup.

“I’m not the best communicator when it comes to keeping in touch, but it would be great to catch up with a lot of the boys. I would love to come over and hopefully I can do that later in the season, see what is happening and how things have changed and progressed. It would be great to catch up with a few of my old mates!”

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"