‘We think it’s mental’: Rebels hire AFL sports psych as coach backs ‘tough’ Carter to overcome RWC battle

Melbourne Rebels coach Kevin Foote has backed Carter Gordon to bounce back from World Cup disappointment, while the club has recruited a top sports psychologist for the new season.

The Rebels have recruited Andrew Waterson to help their battered Wallabies players and the under-performing Rebels find success.

Andrew Waterson, who was part of the Melbourne Demons’ AFL flag success in 2021 before spending the past two seasons with Hawthorn has joined the Rebels.

The Melbourne side have narrowly missed the Super play-offs in a number of seasons, only participating in finals once, in 2020, in a domestic format due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Foote wants more from the under-performing outfit, who have Test forwards Taniela Tupou and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto among some highly-rated signings.

He is hoping that Waterson can help the Rebels close out a number of close games which proved costly to their finals hopes while also support the Wallabies players, who were part of Australia’s worst-ever World Cup campaign.

“We’ve got a performance psychologist on board now which will be very crucial for a lot of our Wallabies boys coming back into the program,” Foote told AAP.

“And not only that – we look at our results last year and in the final 20 minutes, we don’t believe it’s a physical thing, we think it’s a mental thing so we’ve brought a sports psych in supporting us there.

“Andrew was with the Demons when they won the flag and with Hawthorn last year but he understands rugby which is good and I think he will be really positive for us.”

Gordon, 22, had a break-out Super Rugby Pacific season this year which saw him earn his first Test selection.

The Rebels are looking forward to getting Wallabies No.10 Carter Gordon back for pre-season.

The only specialist five-eighth in the World Cup squad, he was heavily targeted by Fiji and yanked by then coach Eddie Jones during their historic pool-match loss.

Foote backed the youngster to bounce straight back for the Rebels after the disappointment of losing his starting Wallabies jersey.

Carter Gordon. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

“Carter’s tough. I’ve been in lots of environments with him where he gets challenged and he’s quiet stoic, he’s strong and he doesn’t come across as someone who’s mentally frail,” Foote said.

“We want to make sure that he’s not the fall-guy as everyone’s accountable as much as Carter so we want to make sure when he gets back into Melbourne it’s a fresh environment for him and he doesn’t feel that pressure any more.”

Gordon’s 20-year-old brother, Mason, has been elevated the senior squad after playing Australian U20s this year.

He can play five-eighth or fullback, where he will compete for a starting spot with Wallabies utility Andrew Kellaway, ex-Western Force back Jake Strachan and Nick Jooste.

The Rebels are in the midst of formal pre-season training with the World Cup players to resume with the squad on December 4.

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