Cheika reaping rewards for faith in back-to-basics methods

Jack Quigley Columnist

By Jack Quigley, Jack Quigley is a Roar Expert

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35 Have your say

    The key to rugby success? It’s as simple as running up hills, apparently.

    Cast your minds back four months to June, the Wallabies have just lost to Scotland but it is the manner of the defeat which has Australian rugby fans at wits end. The performance was dire.

    A perfect storm of unforced errors, dropped balls and missed tackles. The Wallabies could barely kick a goal or win a lineout. The basic desire to win the 50-50 moments at the breakdown was seemingly absent.

    The fallout was well publicised. Fans voiced their dissatisfaction with the players, coach Michael Cheika and just about everyone else involved with the professional game right now.

    It seemed as though the Wallabies were broken, and it was going to take a hell of a lot of work to put them back together.

    At the time, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at length with Cheika about the situation we were in, and he was good enough to explain part of his plan to get us back to the top again.

    And it all started with running up hills.

    I suppose, when your team appears to be lacking in the basic fundamentals, it’s best to strip it back to basics, and there’s nothing more basic than making a footy team run hills.

    There’s more to it than fitness, Cheika explained. The fitness is a beneficial, of course. A tired player is more likely to lose concentration. When you are not concentrating you are more likely to drop a ball or miss a tackle.

    Cheika pointed to the Wallabies’ tackling and ball handling at the 2015 World Cup as an example. These were a lot of the same players, so they hadn’t lost the ability to catch, pass and tackle. They just weren’t anywhere near as fit as they were at the World Cup, when Cheika had enjoyed the luxury of an extended build up to prepare the side.

    Tatafu Polota-Nau

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    But what Cheika really loves about flogging the troops is what it creates within the players. The desire to push yourself to your limits and not quit, because you can see the guy next to you pushing himself and he’s refusing to quit.

    He explained how that builds respect for each other. How individually a player might not get to the top but damned if he’s going to give up while the guy next to him is somehow still going.

    In a age of analytics, the NSW Waratahs coaching staff – take from this what you will – stress the importance of the ‘NTR’ quality. NTR stands for ‘No Talent Required’. Basically, hard work. How willing a player is to just get up and keep going.

    Fast forward four months to October. The Wallabies have finished second in The Rugby Championship, losing only twice – to New Zealand, once by a lot, once by a whisker. And halfback Will Genia believes that the current Wallabies setup is the best he’s been involved in, at least culture-wise.

    Genia has been the latest Wallaby to identify the intense fitness sessions the players were subject to following the June internationals as key to the team’s growing confidence.

    Of course there is more to turning around a waning international rugby team in four months than grueling fitness sessions, but they embody the culture of hard work and respect that Cheika aims to build in this team.

    For the first time in a long time, Wallabies fans have cause for optimism heading into a game against New Zealand. While next Saturday’s match will be a dead rubber from a Bledisloe Cup perspective, a win would prove a landmark victory for Cheika.

    It would vindicate his back-to-basics methods and provide the perfect launchpad for the European assault to come in November.

    Jack Quigley
    Jack Quigley

    A long time sports writer and podcaster, Jack has spent the majority of his media career covering football and rugby. He recently joined The Roar on the back of penning a viral Facebook rant aimed at the Wallabies which attracted 60,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_Quigley.

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • October 13th 2017 @ 8:34am
      waxhead said | October 13th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      ok well for 1st time I don’t agree with you Jack.
      A 40% win rate in 2017 so far is no improvement at all – its a continuation of the slide downhill imo.
      The wins were against Fiji, Italy & Pumas (who are also on a current slide).

      The improving world nations are England, Scotland, Ireland.
      So we’ll see this November where the W’s really stand.
      And we’ve also got another potential thrashing coming up against ABs 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        October 13th 2017 @ 9:21am
        PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

        on the other hand they only lost to the AB’s in the rc.

        • October 13th 2017 @ 9:24am
          Kane said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

          But also only beat Argentina.

          After a impressive performance against NZ in Dunedin they backed it up with a draw. The week after that team lost 57-0 to NZ.

          It’s the consistency that isn’t there. They aren’t putting in acceptable performances week in and week out.

          • October 13th 2017 @ 9:28am
            Fionn said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report

            No one aside from England and New Zealand are putting in acceptable performances week in and week out.

            Ireland, Australia and South Africa are all inconsistent.

            • October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am
              Kane said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

              I agree but that doesn’t mean there is an improvement on last year.

              • Roar Guru

                October 13th 2017 @ 9:32am
                PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

                that I agree with.

                Only the spring tour matches against England and Scotland can be measures if they have improved since last year.

                They have improved since the june series though where they were turgid.

              • October 13th 2017 @ 9:38am
                Fionn said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                June was the lowest I have ever seen the Wallabies… Aside from perhaps Bledisloe 1.

                If we lose to both Scotland and Wales then I hope Cheika resigns.

                If we lose to England but at least win the rest of the EOYT matches I won’t be happy with the season, but it won’t be the abomination that it could have been. At least it will have demonstrated some solid improvement.

            • October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am
              Kane said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report


              • October 13th 2017 @ 9:30am
                Kane said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report


            • October 13th 2017 @ 10:16am
              In Brief said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

              You say below that June was the lowest you have ever seen the Wallabies? I take it you only started watching rugby in May? Seriously there have been plenty more lows in the past. Coming off the worst ever super rugby season June was an expected dip (also due to the fitness regime Cheika was required to implement). Things were plenty lower under Deans when the Wallabies played turgid rugby, they were lower under knuckles when we got smashed by England in Marseille, they were lower under Macca when the team drowned under the coach’s corporate dribble and hubris. This is a team which according to Genia has the best culture of any wallaby team he has been associated with. And it shows – these are exciting times for Australian Wallaby supporters. Drop the gripes and get on board or you may miss the ride.

              • October 13th 2017 @ 11:47am
                BOGGLES THE MIND said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                In Briefs,
                ” Coming off the worst ever super rugby season June was an expected dip ”

                So why did Cheika pick most players from the second worst oz super team ?? the team that came 16th out of 18th in SUPER 18 RUGBY.Surely you pick most of your players from the best performed teams-Right ??

              • October 13th 2017 @ 12:40pm
                Snapsterino said | October 13th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

                In Brief – thanks for bringing some perspective. A lot of negativity on this site that’s based in a very short-sighted analysis.

                Sure it’s an unproven work in progress, and the Spring Tour will provide some answers, but even that will just be part of the story.

                Squad development, culture improvement, the first green shoots of belief – this season has been a big step up from the last, and the future could be very bright indeed. Some of us are pumped.

            • October 13th 2017 @ 10:06pm
              PiratesRugby said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:06pm | ! Report

              Cheika’ wallabies were rubbish last year, they’re rubbish this year and they’ll be rubbish every year that he is coach. We are seriously off the pace set by NZ and England. Our brave losses to the ABs were on par with Italy’s near win against us. That is, we are the AB’s Italy. It’s embarrassing. The Wallabies will never win anything with Foley at 10 or Cheika as coach.

              • October 14th 2017 @ 8:37am
                enoughisenough said | October 14th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

                Exactly. Cheika is reaping the rewards he deserves, 4 wins from 9 games, the wins coming against Argentina, Fiji and Italy. Go Cheika, you da man! I cannot believe how forgiving of this guys appalling record and selections some people are. And how forgiving they are of him having the majority of his side picked from the SR that came second last in the competition. At times there have been 9 Tahs on the field for the wallabies, 10, if you count Beale. I suppose given that, 4 wins out of 9 is an outstanding effort.
                But, but, but, we came second in the RC! Woohooo. Go Cheika, go Tahs!

          • Roar Guru

            October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am
            PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            sure , however the constant message being pushed of the win rate is treating the 2 draws with boks as losses.

            Since they were home and away a fair assessment in terms of that sort of analysis is to treat the home draw as a loss and the away draw as a win.

            They draw with a higher ranked team away from home at altitude and a venue where they have rarely won or drawn.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 9:03am
      Bill said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      Not sure about next week end Jack, i think it might be a mountain to high at this stage. After a close win against SA the Kiwis will be highly motivated to put big brother bacon the box. I think as fans as long as we can see a WBs team having a decent crack and not making stupid mistakes, silly kicks and missing tackles then we should be happy.

    • Roar Guru

      October 13th 2017 @ 9:27am
      PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Since the June series.

      The defence is a continuing worry, they miss too many first up tackles but the cover defence and scramble has improved.

      The attack has improved a lot especially the set piece.
      The passing and handling has improved.
      The support play has improved from a very low bar.

      The general play kicking has improved.

      A lot of this improvement though is due to Beale at 12 but not all.

      What Cheika did do well is after a disasterous super rugby season where every single team failed, none has winning seasons, none beat a nz teams. Where the players were unfit, and used to losing , he did turn them around in those areas.

      Still have issue with his selections, and with lack of flexible tactics and only plan A, however unlike some I will give credit where it is due. Part of that is accepting that he was handed a mess when super rugby finished and he had a lot of remedial work to do, not helped by the ARU bungles re the force.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 9:28am
      Kane said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:28am | ! Report


      • Roar Guru

        October 13th 2017 @ 9:31am
        PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        the only unacceptable performance in the rc was the first game against NZ.

        The away game against NZ and 2 bok and 2 arg games were acceptable IMO. Not exceptional or best ever, but acceptable.

        That is 5 games that is fairly consistent.

        • October 13th 2017 @ 3:22pm
          BOGGLES THE MIND said | October 13th 2017 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

          Two draws against SA are not acceptable.
          Both Bledisloe games were not acceptable. At 17 nil up, no other aussie team in history has ever lost against the ABS.
          Argentina wins were expected, so nothing special.

          That is 5 games of consistent Rubbish

          • October 13th 2017 @ 9:12pm
            Rebellion said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:12pm | ! Report

            But Chieka called up Jack Q so it’s “Chieka..I love you ? “

    • October 13th 2017 @ 9:40am
      Luke Ringland said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      The Wallabies are an improved outfit on last year in all areas except defense. They have defended well in patches, but they have lacked consistency.

      Although I will say this, it seems as though generally speaking in rugby, attacks have the upper hand right now. Think of how many tries the All Blacks have let in this year. In the two tests we played them we must have scored more tries than any tests I can remember. This is positive for the game of rugby, but only underscores the importance of good defense even more. Maybe 30 points is the new 20 points as far as beating the ABs, and if we can do that we can win, because quite clearly we can score points against the all comers.

      • Roar Guru

        October 13th 2017 @ 10:03am
        PeterK said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        the teams that have improved the most, as shown in rankings, are the ones that have improved their defence rather than their attack.

        England, Ireland and Scotland last 2 years since the rwc and Boksthis year compared to last year.

        Scotland beat Aust this year because of its defence not because of its attack.

        • Roar Guru

          October 15th 2017 @ 4:17pm
          Fox said | October 15th 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

          Except that that best form of inverted attack is great defence.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 11:27am
      Tooly said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:27am | ! Report

      Where is the base for the turn around and what is the evidence of one . You can only look at what Chekko has done
      since Ewan did a Leichhardt on us . Ewan had at last settled on a team and was looking good so the early success
      Chekko had was mostly due to McKenzie since then it’s been steadily down hill . A turn around can be from one poor
      half or a poor game but to be of any substance it must be prolonged over the coaches tenure . Wins over Fiji , Japan and Argentina are expected not exceptional and its far easier to look good in these games than it is in games against
      any NZ side . I expect the ABs to give us a real touch up in Brisbane .

      • October 14th 2017 @ 9:02am
        PiratesRugby said | October 14th 2017 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Doesn’t anyone remember how bad our scrum went against the ABs last time? It was on skates. Now Ledesma is leaving. The house is on fire and we’re all arguing about what’s on tv.

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