Michael Cheika deserves a break – and our respect

Gishan De Soyza Roar Pro

By , Gishan De Soyza is a Roar Pro

Tagged:
 , ,

237 Have your say

    We would all do well to remember that Michael Cheika was approached by Rugby AU and not the other way around.

    At the time, there were no other viable options and I doubt there are many now. Maybe a few contenders will come up post-2019.

    I was disgusted throughout the England game and felt worse after it. Reading the Cheika-bashing in the articles that followed has given me a sick feeling in the stomach and still does.

    This article is by no means an attempt to justify the Wallabies’ loss, referee decisions or trying to say his attitude is right.

    This is an attempt to get some perspective from Wallaby supporters on Michael Cheika’s worth and contribution to Australian rugby thus far.

    The debacle with Ewen McKenzie should have never happened, and Rugby Australia should make sure that it doesn’t happen again. But that is one example of the dire state Australian rugby was at the time.

    Everything went pear-shaped after the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi against New Zealand, meaning we never got to the standard we were leading into the World Cup.

    Then came the Lions Tour. It was the worst timing possible but, in terms of challenges, it was perfect. Even though the first two Tests were very closely fought, with injuries and so on, a Lions win was not surprising.

    That said, we could have taken the series even though the Lions squad was better.

    After the result, Robbie Deans was gone. His successor followed him shortly.

    This is where Cheika steps in.

    Michael Cheika Wallabies

    (Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

    He’d never coached an international team before, but his passion for the game and his country saw him accept the offer. Make no mistake, he is a very successful man and he does not depend on Rugby Australia’s pay cheque.

    So it was always going to be his way or the highway. This is good because, at the end of his reign, Cheika and only Cheika will be accountable for the results.

    His task was to coach Australia, a team with a great history and that is expected to be No. 2 or 3 consistently in the world rankings.

    This itself is a very tough ask and there aren’t many international coaches who are up for the job.

    If there were, we would have seen more teams claiming the No. 2 or 3 spot more consistently. Cheika is trying to give us something better, for Australia to consistently be No. 1 by playing attractive running rugby for the fans.

    This is not something that can be achieved in a short span of time, ideally two world cup cycles or close to that.

    Think Clive Woodward and Graham Henry. So that is what Cheika has taken upon himself to do, not to be liked or to be seen as a nice decent guy or everything else the fans and public are accusing him of.

    He is not in the business of politics. Sure he is not perfect but who is? He is passionate, stubborn, arrogant at times and makes bad calls. But that’s who the man is and that is what works for him and makes him successful.

    So who are we to judge him? As Wallaby fans we have the right to question his selections, tactics to a certain extent, but to accuse him of his behaviour is way out of line.

    The reason he behaves like that is because he truly believes in what he and the Wallabies are trying to achieve, so yes, he loses his cool when he thinks the ref got it wrong. It shows how much he is into it.

    See, the truth is I don’t think Michael Cheika really cares about what people think of him or if he is liked by many or not. He does care, however, about making the fans proud of their Wallabies through the performance on the field.

    That’s enough for me. I think we are building nicely for the future and when he leaves, he will leave the Wallabies in a much better place from where he got them.

    We will have a quality, consistent team for the next coach to carry on from where he left.

    He might even have the William Webb Ellis Trophy in the cabinet.

    Australia's head coach Michael Cheika

    (AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU)

    Can anyone deny there hasn’t been big change in the Wallabies set-up since he took over up to now? I doubt anyone could. No matter the methods, he has changed it for the good.

    The Wallabies are not worthy of being number one yet even if they beat both England and New Zealand. So there’s a long and hard way to go to achieve that.

    It is not by coincidence that he took Leinster and the Waratahs to maiden championships, and took the Wallabies to the 2015 Rugby World Cup final in such short time.

    The significance is the transformation of the teams in every one of those Championship runs.

    Even if Leinster and the Waratahs ended being runners-up, he still deserves credit for the transformation and consistency he is trying to build into this Wallaby team – who had slugged into some low standards for quite a while.

    So please let him do his job. If the rest of the world don’t like him that’s their problem, they can keep baiting him and have the camera on him all day, but at least Wallaby supporters should have his back.

    As passionate supporters of the game and the Wallabies, we can disagree with some of his selections and tactics, but we shouldn’t start hating him and start calling for his head just because we didn’t get our way.

    We either trust in what he is doing or not. There is a big difference between criticising to this extent and opinion sharing about what he should do or should have done.

    Australia's head coach Michael Cheika, second right, walks with his side before playing Ireland

    (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)

    Coming back to the weekend incident of his behaviour, he swore and was talking to himself animatedly inside the coaching box. It’s his human right for Christ’s sake. Players swear to themselves all the on the field.

    As long as there is no malice shown towards another player or the referee there is no problem. And Michael Cheika showed none.

    As fans, it’s ok to question his selections and tactics but come on, let’s not hang him for being passionate and standing up for the team. Let’s show him some support, some of us might not like the man but let’s do it anyway.

    Note to the media, get a life. Stop trying to earn your living at the expense of another person’s emotions. If you don’t like what you see don’t look. Rugby is not a game for the faint-hearted.