I have embraced taking on a mentoring role
Rebels and Wallaby scrumhalf Nick Phipps is leaving the franchise at the end of the 2013 season, to return home to Sydney and play for the Waratahs.
On Monday Phipps started his final week at the franchise, which turned the young Sydney University grade rookie into an accomplished Wallaby.
"I have reflected a lot during the break," Phipps said.
"I've thought a lot about the last three years; even being a bit homesick while I was with the Wallabies shows what Melbourne and the Rebels mean to me. Meeting and playing with such a great bunch of blokes, who I have always said are the biggest asset that the franchise has, and gaining an opportunity in the first place is something I will always be grateful for.
"The best thing about this franchise, and something I will always hold especially close to me, is that when we moved down we only had each other so we have been each other's family through it all."
While his departure was announced mid-season, Phipps' unwavering determination to win games at the Rebels hasn't been affected. You only had to witness the joy he took from defeating his new employers to see that there were no conflicting loyalties this season, and while the Waratahs will be expecting the same when the tables turn in 2014, Phipps admits it will be strange playing against the Rebels.
"It will be weird playing against the Rebels in 2014," he admits. "Weeksy [Laurie Weeks] and Pyley [Hugh Pyle] have been joking that they will be out to get me. After being so proud to be playing in the navy blue with the stars down the middle, it will be strange to look across at it."
Phipps' journey from third choice Rebels scrumhalf to Wallaby starter in such a short space of time has come, while richly deservedly, as a surprise to many, and when he reflects on his beginnings at the franchise it seems crazy to think how about how quickly it has all happened.
"Three years ago I got the opportunity to sign a rookie contract with the Rebels, which was outside my wildest dreams. Damien Hill, who was an Assistant Coach at the time, was the main guy to get me down here, and he painted the picture of creating something new in a new city; it was quite enticing.
"I was seen as the third string halfback behind Sam Cordingley and Richard Kingi and I was just happy to be in the squad, but then it all happened so quickly and I was suddenly playing Super Rugby and then for my country. Coaches of the calibre of Hilly, Nathan Grey and John Muggleton will always be instrumental in your development and I owe a lot to them for my quick rise."
That quick elevation has also allowed Phipps, or 'Fanga' as he is more commonly known, to embrace an unexpected seniority within the side and pass on advice and experience when required.
"This year has been the first time I have really embraced taking on a mentoring role with the younger players. Stirzy [Nic Stirzaker] is a phenomenal young halfback, and he has been biting at my heels for the last two years; I've loved working with him and some of the other backs.
"I can't offer too much because I'm still a young guy myself, but being in their ear for a chat or to take them out for a feed is something I have loved doing. Experiencing the highs and lows of the game is still something I learn from, so to help them through it as well has been great.
"Being part of the leadership group this year has also given me the opportunity to help mould the direction of the franchise, and I've loved it. There's no shortage of guys here who will take the club to the next level."
Phipps is almost certain to be one of the halves in the final match of 2013 at AAMI Park, with fellow Rebels including Gareth Delve, Ged Robinson, Nic Henderson and his 'big brother' Tim Davidson.
"There would be nothing more special than if I could get the opportunity to play one last game for the Rebels at AAMI Park against the Highlanders," Phipps said. "I have been thinking about it heaps for the last three weeks. It would be one last time playing with a few of the guys who are leaving or retiring, and it would tick off a great three years for the group and for the fans that have been so unbelievably loyal. The quality of blokes in this team, both who are leaving and staying, is so high that they deserve a win to finish off the year."
Source: Rebels media unit