Impressive Mafi gets nod as Rebels' best
ONE of the few shining lights for the Melbourne Rebels in 2017, Amanaki Mafi, has been announced as the club's best player for the season.
And on a potential bright note to finish the wooden spoon-winning campaign, six Rebels have been named in the Wallabies' extended national train-on squad ahead of next month's start to the Rugby Championship - including homegrown selection bolter Jordan Uelese.
Japanese international Mafi was one of just three Rebels to play in every game this season and, in the award voted on by his teammates, he was the only player to poll votes in each round.
The destructive No.8 led the competition for runs (184) and was Super Rugby's most prolific forward in terms of metres gained (1378m) and offloads (30).
Mafi, expected to return to the Rebels next season should the club's place in the competition remain secure, finished ahead of Colby Fainga'a, Marika Koroibete, Reece Hodge and Tom English in the count.
The award was given to the 27-year-old at an in-house function on Wednesday that rounded out the club's season, which netted only one win from 15 games.
The ceremony came on a day in which Wallabies coach Michael Cheika named 38 players in his preliminary national team squad.
Despite battling an ankle injury, winger Sefa Naivalu has been named, as has fit-again lock Sean McMahon, who missed the June Test window through injury.
Winger Marika Koroibete, utility back Reece Hodge and utility forward Lopeti Timani remain after featuring in last month's squad, but the selection of Uelese is a huge vote of confidence in the up-and-coming 20-year-old hooker.
Uelese is New Zealand-born but Victoria-raised, having been educated at St Kevin's College and played club rugby for Melbourne University.
He starred for Australia at the recent under-20s World Cup.
Despite featuring last month, prop Toby Smith missed out on selection.
There are still significant cuts to be made to the squad, with Brumbies players not yet included due to their participation in the Super Rugby finals.