Cheika’s chaotic culture in crisis

wre01 Roar Guru

By wre01, wre01 is a Roar Guru

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    One red card, three yellows and a Disciplinary Review of Michael Cheika’s off-field behaviour. All in 160 minutes of rugby.

    That is a spectacular failure of team culture and values. A failure from the coach and captain through to two of the Wallabies’ most experienced players, Kurt Beale and Sekope Kepu.

    There is a crisis of hypocrisy and authenticity in Michael Cheika’s much vaunted ‘team culture’ that is rubbing off on coaches, players and spectators alike.

    And that crisis starts and ends with Michael Cheika himself.

    Sitting through the England game at Twickenham, I found myself surrounded by Englishmen smiling delightedly at me repeatedly.

    Each pivotal decision that went England’s way was celebrated in a typical understated Pommie fashion. Cheeky glances over the shoulder, a nod towards the big screen, polite chuckles.

    Was I to applaud hollowly and put on a brave face, or decry the refereeing?

    Watching Michael Cheika storm down the stairs just before half time mouthing off at spectators, I decided the world (and TMO) must be against the Wallabies. It must be.

    The truth is much more worrying.

    The tight victory against the All Blacks now must be considered more of a total anomaly than a false dawn. When you factor in that New Zealand was playing with its third choice ten and no Brodie Retallick it becomes even more hollow.

    Kurtley Beale makes a break

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Drawing twice against the South Africans also becomes even less impressive than it already was in light of Ireland’s systematic thrashing of the Boks. They are a side in disarray for reasons not of their own making.

    Then there is the last game of the season, the game where you salute a 129 Test stalwart and put down a culture marker for next year. That went well didn’t it?

    The Wallabies didn’t just give up against Scotland, they almost looked like a team that felt like the world owed them, especially in the last 30 minutes of the game.

    The players appeared totally incredulous and convinced they’d been hard done by. Kind of like how Michael Cheika convinced me that the refs owed the Wallabies more at Twickenham.

    Cheika talks a good game. The ‘no excuse culture’ I think he calls it. Yet his sullen, confrontational press conferences and grandstand antics paint a different picture.

    The players on the field seem to be taking his lead. Where is the accountability for stupid decision making and even stupider disciplinary infractions?

    Michael Hooper is now the most yellow carded player in Test match history. Will he be captain and play 7 when Dave Pocock returns? You betcha.

    Beale was carded in successive games. Will Michael Cheika tell him it was stupid or just bad luck? I’d love to know, but I suspect the latter.

    The Kepu red was a coach killer. But again, I suspect that Cheika will put it down to the rub of the green going against the Wallabies.

    It is no wonder that discipline is falling apart on match days given the history of accountabilty within the Michael Cheika regime.

    I’ve written before that the tone was set by the circumstances surrounding Cheika’s appointment as Wallaby coach.

    Ewen McKenzie lost the support of senior Waratahs, I mean Wallabies. Their reward for the greatest crime in Australian rugby history outside of the Force fiasco was the coach they wanted.

    Hooper was appointed captain – a mystifying decision that means it becomes very difficult for David Pocock, the best 7 in the world, to actually play 7 at the next world cup.

    Beale was rushed back into the side and all past indiscretions deemed unworthy of Mr Cheika’s attention. It’s not his job to worry about character and discipline off the field as I understand it.

    Michael Cheika Wallabies

    (Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

    Nathan Gray’s defensive coordination, or lack thereof, conceded more than 100 points against Wales, England and Scotland. Will he be held accountable? He wasn’t after the Wallabies had 40 points put on them in as many minutes in the opening Bledisloe. So again accountability now must be doubtful.

    It’s a new defensive system after all. Players still a bit unsure and at sea. Just bedding in really. Excuses in a ‘no excuses’ culture.

    You could go on.

    Players awarded with selection despite being totally underwhelming even at a provincial level is perhaps the most obvious hypocrisy totally at odds with the ‘accountability’ mantra.

    And again, all of this starts and ends with Michael Cheika.

    The excuses are now wearing very very thin indeed.

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    The Crowd Says (138)

    • November 27th 2017 @ 5:42am
      Manic said | November 27th 2017 @ 5:42am | ! Report

      Top article! It is easy to drag Cheika’s nane through the mud, but he does such a good job of it himself, so why not jump on? The moment Link resigned, I knew bad culture was on the horizon. Hooper was instructed not to weigh in on the Patterson saga, but he did by supporting Beale 100% in a media conference. I’m glad you raised this point because it is the decisive moment, which has led us here. I actually thought that it was brushed underneath the rug long ago. The environment is toxic and the ARU needs to to put the Cheika experiment to rest. Or, at least give him PR intelligence fence. For all of his whinging he must realise, talk is cheap.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 6:58am
        RM said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

        I’ve also been thinking a lot recently about the manner in which Cheika became Wallabies coach, the players who were involved and what it meant to the culture of the team.

        And I agree entirely with this comment and this article.

        How can there be a disciplined, cohesive team out on the field when there’s ill-discipline, bad behaviour and a ‘aw it’s just boys being boys’ attitude off the field? Moreso – in the case of Beale and Hooper not only are these things not discouraged, they are rewarded.

        I said in a comment under a different article that discipline on the field starts with discipline off the field and the Wallabies are playing at a huge disadvantage because of Cheika’s poor leadership on this issue.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 1:26pm
        Cliff (Bishkek) said | November 27th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        Manic, there has been a bad culture in the Wallabies for a long, long time, going back to past the Eales era. It is called Player Power. There was an incident at the Brumbies I was told, but not certain of its validity. Stephen Moore spoke to Jake White at a training session and said something like :this is not how we do it here”. White answered with something like “well it is and if you do not get on board then you can leave”.

        The Wallaby players are a power unto themselves and it has not changed. The Link/Pattison episode was the worst of a long list of player actions.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 7:12am
          Ruckin' Oaf said | November 28th 2017 @ 7:12am | ! Report

          The Brumbies are a great example of what player power can do. It was player power that got David Nucifora sacked despite winning the super 12. And it was only another 9 years until they made the finals. When Jake White was coach.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 10:41pm
        MA said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:41pm | ! Report

        I agree completely with this article. When the Waratah players within the Wallabies force out the coach to get there own guy in there and are rewarded with captaincy and positions guaranteed despite continuous poor performance the culture can only be toxic. We often hear from non-waratah wallabies how great the culture is. I have no doubt that these players know that if they do not bow to the Waratahs then they are out.

        Cheika along with Grey, Hooper, Beale and Foley are the worst thing that ever happened to the Wallabies. If I was appointed coach then I would tell Hooper he would never start a test again he will be a finisher only. Foley would have his Wallaby contract torn up along with Beale’s. Tom Robertson, Ned Hannifin should be laughed out of the Wallaby camp.

        • November 28th 2017 @ 10:01pm
          jack said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

          totally agree

        • December 1st 2017 @ 6:34am
          Mega Coach said | December 1st 2017 @ 6:34am | ! Report

          I agree entirely with these comments.Wallabies should be picked and dropped on form not by contractual obligations including that Fake Captain who never quite makes it in cover defence or close to the ruck or ? anywhere – or wait – the old back inside for the guy with the gas ? Not there now ..And the 5/8 can’t pass or kick and Only now a fast Winger . Give the Coach Captain 5/8 Fake Hannigan Slow Kerebi and a few others a Red Card and pick for a series only.

    • November 27th 2017 @ 5:47am
      mania said | November 27th 2017 @ 5:47am | ! Report

      if not cheika then who? no one foreign wants the job and no one domestic has the skills.
      stick with the devil u know…or someone could go find out what link is up to. that would have a bit of irony to it

      • November 27th 2017 @ 8:22am
        Adsa said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

        Laurie Fisher would be handy Mania, Scott Johnson is doing great things with Scotland and he tried hard in the past to get the top gig in Oz Mania. The last thing we need to believe is that there is no one out there. No one is irreplaceable.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 8:30am
          mick said | November 27th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

          Matt Taylor, the Scottish assistant coach would be handy as well.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 9:16am
            mania said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

            i like the irony of having Scotland assistant coaches taking over

            • November 27th 2017 @ 1:16pm
              Marlins Tragic said | November 27th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

              Both are Aussies

      • November 27th 2017 @ 10:41am
        Bang said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

        mania …. when did this happen, no one coaches rugby anymore … I’m astounded ?

        Honestly man, after Stuart Lancaster, the RFU ran a process and found Eddie Jones. We shouldn’t be afraid of doing the same.

        If you want to look within, Larkham plus Byrne is a good start. Rod McQueen as an advisor and seek a broader set of ideas around defence and set piece.

        Big questions also sit around leadership and discipline. The most penalties are given away by the Captain? How can that be and the man is still asked to lead ?

        Professional sport is brutal and this group should be measured by its results and progress. Its average by any measure, changes need to be made.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 1:22pm
          mania said | November 27th 2017 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          i dont have faith in larkham tbh. was an awesome player but hasnt really come up with anything at brumbies since jWhite left.
          i never agreed when hooper was made captain. a good enough player but not really leadership material.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 9:39am
          Derp said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          To be fair to Hooper, its the nature of his defensive role in the team. Hes there to push the boundaries when we are under pressure and it worked all RC. We just got so smashed in all other areas that he got exposed up north.

          He’s been about our best and most consistent all year.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 1:38pm
        Cliff (Bishkek) said | November 27th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        Mania, if the leadership was stronger and more with a leadership and management capability, then many ways of arranging Coach changes can be bought in. Step in and clean out and look at a Coaching Team of an individual but with his Coaching Team choices having to be agreed and approved by the RU.

        There is always a way to skin a cat. In Australia, you are correct that Cheika may be the only available Coach but we need to look, because we will not even run close in 2019 to the RWC with Cheika as Coach and Foley as No. 10 and Hooper at No. 7.

        On Saturday evening, afternoon in Scotland, Hooper did nothing, squat all to rally the troops during the game!! Cheika is gone in the eyes of the Aussie Fans!!

        • November 28th 2017 @ 4:49am
          mania said | November 28th 2017 @ 4:49am | ! Report

          cliff. i truly understand yours and the rest of aus’ frustration but i’m not sure there are better aus coaches out there. but then i dont really know of any aus coaches offshore other than whats been mentioned here.
          other then eddieJones there arent many aus coaches standing out, or for me, doing anything noticeable.

          i like cheika. he’s accomplished some good things. found some depth. and he has a lot of passion and love for the WBs. his passion may get away from him but he’s honest and overt

      • November 28th 2017 @ 3:40pm
        Perthstayer said | November 28th 2017 @ 3:40pm | ! Report


        That is one of the saddest comments I read on Roar.

        The current system is failing, and worse is dragging the team into international disrepute. Respect has/is evaporating from the opposition, the authorities, and supporters. Yet some are prepared to keep the status quo.

        The status quo is a 55% win ratio and continued/further disrepute. A new coach achieving 55% yet reversing the off field issues is an improvement. There are many coaches who could achieve 55%.

        Australia………..Have more self respect.

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:48am
      Cynical Play said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      Man yours a glass half empty kind of guy. 2 losses and you go all unhinged. I see you sneak a bit of Waratah kicking in there.

      Poor discipline cost The WBs on Sat, no doubt. But why don’t you also blame climate change on Cheika? Maybe it was him who was dealing with the Russians and swung the US election. Or, maybe he is to blame for house prices.

      Go read Geoff Parkes today for some perspective and try again.

      • November 27th 2017 @ 6:52am
        Fionn said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

        Did you seriously just equate holding the coach of a team accountable for the culture of his team with holding that same coach accountable for climate change?

        • November 27th 2017 @ 7:21am
          Cynical Play said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:21am | ! Report

          Do you seriously not understand hyperbole? Taught in Grade 8.

          • November 27th 2017 @ 7:25am
            Fionn said | November 27th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

            But it was nonsensical use of hyperbole from you. As coach Cheika is leader of the Wallabies. Therefore, he is absolutely responsible for the culture, attitude and behaviour of team—their behaviour and discipline is a direct reflection of his coaching.

            To try and absolve him of this responsibility and equate holding him accountable for the team’s behaviour with blaming him for climate change is ridiculous. I suppose you missed the lesson on hyperbole?

            • November 27th 2017 @ 9:26am
              Adsa said | November 27th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

              “Is absolutely responsible for the culture, atitude and behaviour of the team” – And it is a no excuses culture Fionn, except when Refs, Touchies, Video Ref, opposition media, opposition coaches, cartoonists or Super Coaches can be blamed for things not falling in Cheikas lap.
              No Excuses!

              • Roar Guru

                November 27th 2017 @ 11:05am
                Cadfael said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

                Cheika’s lack of discipline does not help the team. It flows on to the team. Three yellows and a red card over two games is pathetic and in all cases the cards were warranted. To cap it off, we had the expected meltdown in the coach’s box seeing an investigation in place.

                Well and good to wear your heart on your sleeve as Cheika does but he has to temper it which he doesn’t. I thought it a good move in appointing him as coach, Waratahs success and success in Ireland. He just seems unable to take the next step up to international level. Any of those mentioned above would be able to do the job. I would not have either Grey or Larkham as assistants.

                The call for Pocock to come back is out of place at the moment. Le’s see how he plays first.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 12:22pm
                Fionn said | November 27th 2017 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                Cadfael, Hooper is playing really poorly at the moment. Further, even when he plays well there has been no year in Pocock’s career when he has not been superior to Michael Hooper, and I really doubt that there will be one coming up in 2018.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 4:31pm
          Colin Fenwick said | November 27th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

          Only plausible if they could envision a way to tax Cheika

      • November 27th 2017 @ 10:40am
        TC said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Hopeless selector. Fullstop. How can you have that many Tahs in a national team when they can barely play super rugby. Week after week they were dished up, heartless some may say, but there they are, week after week producing much the same in gold.

      • Roar Guru

        November 27th 2017 @ 1:38pm
        Train Without A Station said | November 27th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        2 losses?

        The Wallabies have a less than 50% winning record since the 2015 RWC.

        2017 is the easiest draw the Wallabies will ever get outside a RWC year. They won 50% of games.

        • November 27th 2017 @ 4:12pm
          Cynical Play said | November 27th 2017 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

          Cheika has 55% win stats. Not great I agree but why leave our the early stats.
          What were Links? 50%
          What was Deans WB win stats? 58%

          so…. is it the cattle? Sure, looks like it.

          Eddie thinks the cattle make the coach. Said so today

          But dont let that stop the fun.

          • Roar Guru

            November 27th 2017 @ 4:33pm
            Train Without A Station said | November 27th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

            Because I’m talking about results since the 2015 RWC.

            But despite that, in 2015 the Wallabies played 12 tests.

            5 of them were against Fiji, Uruguay, USA and Argentina, teams traditionally fringe 1st tier or lower.

            Since then he has played normal strength draws.

            McKenzie coached against the All Blacks for over 25% of the tests he coach due to starting at the RC, and finishing after the RC meaning it skews his results. Which you of course are well aware of.

            Compare the cattle to 2013 and we are vastly superior.

            The only top form players we do not have available right now from 2013 is James O’Conner and Folau for only 4 tests.

            Otherwise the cattle is better. Kerevi, Coleman, Arnold, Koribete, McMahon and Hodge weren’t even playing Super Rugby in 2013.

            • November 27th 2017 @ 5:15pm
              Cynical Play said | November 27th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

              This has been the year from hell. The most disruptive politically and the worst in terms of SR performance. Coinciding with the continued improvement of the NH teams, with all their wonderful structures and money. Many, including me, predicted 2 wins form 4 on the tour. Plenty would have taken that as reasonable on the back of the recent RC form. No one expected the drubbing from the Scots, but there you go.

              Your assertion that the cattle are better is subjective. You might be right, but hard to prove. Certainly the depth is no better, as we’ve just found out.

              But this whole appraisal of the coach as the main culprit, and the mob mentality of wanting to roll coach after coach is ignorant of the above.

              • November 27th 2017 @ 5:53pm
                Train Without A Station said | November 27th 2017 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

                It’s also been the year from heaven in terms of ease of draw.

                Your assertion that we don’t have the cattle is subjective.

                The coach hasn’t had success and good results have been an anomaly across a 12 Test period where we only played 6 tests against traditional Top 6 Nations.

                What 2016 and 2017 has shown is that the 2014 EOYT wasn’t a long way off the mark in the way of results.

                Expecting this to change under Cheika would be foolish given that the weight of results across multiple seasons says otherwise.

              • November 28th 2017 @ 1:05am
                Rebellion said | November 28th 2017 @ 1:05am | ! Report

                The mob (Australian Rugby Public) didn’t want to roll McKenzie.

                Hooper and his naughty little Waratah mates took care of that

          • November 27th 2017 @ 11:44pm
            adastra32 said | November 27th 2017 @ 11:44pm | ! Report

            “Eddie thinks the cattle make the coach.”

            If that is the case, why did not Stuart Lancaster succeed with, as everyone is always at pains to stress, essentially the same set of players? In his current position, smart coaches like Eddie big up the team – and yes, such raw material has to be top grade. But we all know that, love him or hate him, his leadership has made a huge difference to the England team since he took over.

            • November 28th 2017 @ 10:14pm
              FunBus said | November 28th 2017 @ 10:14pm | ! Report

              ‘If that is the case, why did not Stuart Lancaster succeed with, as everyone is always at pains to stress, essentially the same set of players?’

              While everyone may ‘stress’ that, it’s absolute cobblers. Of the 23 selected against the WBs in the 2015 RWC the following players are not now even in the extended squad of 45:

              Tom Youngs

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:52am
      Not so super said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      Aren’t you nasty ?

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am
      Not so super said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      I Ewen McKenzie lost the support of senior Waratahs, I mean Wallabies

      Hahahaha, those damm people from Sydney centric ARU!!

    • November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am
      Barry from Adelaide said | November 27th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      ‘No Excuses ?’ – all we hear are excuses – most recently around the red card. ‘The guy’s right leg slipped and he was lower… blah blah’ – no-one else saw it that way. I bet the rest of the world is happy with Cheika as coach and Hooper as captain – I would be if I was them…

      • November 27th 2017 @ 10:21am
        David said | November 27th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Oh I hope he stays until 2019. And then because of the draw, I hope Australia make the semi-finals (realistically by playing relatively easy opposition) and Cheika’s given a 4-year contract renewal for the good effort he’s put into the team.

        Australia matches are my favourite sitcoms right now.

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