10 Oct 2018

Rugby: Why the Wallabies need Michael Cheika

11:29 am on 10 October 2018

Sports Call - I like Mike. Michael Cheika that is and I hope he stays on as Wallabies coach.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika Photo: Photosport

And it's not because of the disappointing record Australia has had under his guidance in recent years, which has therefore been a positive thing for the All Blacks.

Rather, he's the sort of person that I love being involved in sport.

Cheika meets with the board of Rugby Australia this week to discuss his future, with some commentators saying it's time for him to go.

I hope not.

There are plenty of examples of mentors being cool, calm and collected while on the sidelines, but Cheika wears his emotions on his sleeve, and I love it.

He has that typical Australian drawl, and because he's normally speaking after a loss that accent is often tinged with an element of desperation.

That doesn't sound appealing, but it's his passion in defeat that I find enthralling.

The Wallabies have won just three of their nine Tests so far this year and managed to avoid the Rugby Championship wooden spoon for the first time with a come from behind victory over Argentina.

Unfortunately Cheika's record at the top level hasn't been great the last couple of years.

He coached the New South Wales Waratahs to their maiden Super Rugby title in 2014 and was the obvious choice to take over the national side later that year.

In 2015 he led the Wallabies to the Rugby World Cup final where they were beaten by the All Blacks.

The signs were good, but in 2016 the Wallabies had one of their worst ever seasons, winning just six of their 15 games. That improved slightly to seven wins from 14 games in 2017.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

I don't think Cheika can be blamed entirely for those results. It's more a sign of the game in Australia.

Their playing resources were stretched with five teams in the Super Rugby competition and they was brutally exposed.

They're now down to four teams and the competition for places in the national side should be much higher.

So, I've put his record aside and my support for Cheika comes from his personality.

He's a fair-dinkum Aussie, he talks and acts like one, he's intense and emotional and gets rattled in the coaches' box, especially when he's not happy with the officiating of a game.

In June this year he took the extraordinary step of inviting the referee and his assistants to the post-match media conference after the Wallabies series loss to Ireland.

Cheika was staggered by some of the calls of the officials and unfortunately the referee didn't take up his offer.

"I don't want to be the guy who looks like he's a moaner because that's how it always ends up," Cheika told the media.

"You get portrayed as a moaner or a whinger, so let's just get on with it and they can answer it themselves, to be honest."

Wallabies coach Micheal Cheika and captain Michael Hooper talk to the media.

Wallabies coach Micheal Cheika and captain Michael Hooper talk to the media. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

He also erupted during the Wallabies Test with England late last year and he went out of his way to speak with New Zealand referee Ben O'Keeffe at half time.

While that is probably unacceptable in modern professional sport, I like his pluck.

When a side doesn't have a winning record, I suppose it's hard not to come across as a whiner - the best teams in the world seem to get all the breaks and the rest are usually left to suffer.

Rather than tow the sporting cliché line and give credit to the opposition, Cheika never hesitates to express his thoughts after a game.

Australia will be competitive at next year's World Cup and with a bit of luck could make the final again.

I've enjoyed Michael Cheika in defeat. Imagine how great he's going to be in success!

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