The youngster tackling rugby’s biggest challenge
NEW coach Dave Wessels says he opted for the Melbourne Rebels over European offers because of a sense of loyalty to Australian rugby.
And it is that commitment to the local game that means the South African is happy to be touted as a future Wallabies coach, rather than a Springboks boss.
Wessels was the coach of the ill-fated Western Force last season.
Now 12 of those players find themselves in Melbourne, as do Wessels and several assistant coaches.
For Wessels, Melbourne felt like the natural fit after everything the Force endured in 2017.
"We were lucky enough to have some options to go to different places," Wessels said.
"But we love living in Australia. I certainly wouldn't be a Super Rugby coach had I not moved to Australia and I've got a lot of people in Australian rugby to thank for that.
"I just thought, without wanting to sound over the top, I felt a lot of people had been loyal to us through this process, certainly a lot of our coaching group.
"I didn't want to feel like I was leaving them high and dry when the time came.
"I felt like they'd stuck by us through the difficult time and that it was the right thing to stick by them and the wider community of Australian rugby."
Wessels turned 35 on Sunday.
He is the youngest coach of any side in Australia's four football codes.
And he arguably has the toughest job of them all this year as he tries to bring together two playing groups.
Wessels was born in Johannesburg and later studied in Cape Town before moving to Canberra to take up a job with the Brumbies.
He said he was never destined to be a top player, but becoming a head coach wasn't a deliberate pursuit either.
"I played third team at school, it wasn't a high level at all," he said.
"I've been lucky in that I didn't waste my time in the first couple of years of my adult life playing, because I was so terrible.
"So I've been coaching since I was about 18 and coaching in Super Rugby since about 26. I've been lucky that I've kind of grown in to it in a way.
"I'm not sure I ever really had aspirations to be a head coach.
"I got put in the position in a caretaker role originally (at the Force in 2016) and at that time I wasn't really thinking about being a head coach.
"I was lucky enough at the time that I quite enjoyed it and was lucky enough to be given the job full time."
YOUNGEST AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL COACHES
35 Dave Wessels (Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby)
38 Brendon Bolton (Carlton, AFL)
38 Stuart Dew (Gold Coast, AFL)
40 Trent Robinson (Sydney Roosters, NRL)
40 Trent Barrett (Manly, NRL)
41 Brad Scott (North Melbourne, AFL)
41 Chris Scott (Geelong, AFL)
41 Dan McKellar (ACT Brumbies, Super Rugby)
41 Simon Goodwin (Melbourne, AFL)
42 John Aloisi (Brisbane Roar, A-League)
* Must be currently coaching