What the Wallabies expect from Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

From the Wallabies rookies to some of the team’s certain starters, Michael Cheika makes players “want to run through brick walls” for him.

With Wallabies season nearly upon us again, his charges are raring to get back into the gold jersey.

Backrower Sean McMahon made his debut under Cheika in the 2014 Spring Tour and remembers his first impression of the national coach.

“It was a very intense moment,” he said.

“When he went on the pitch, he was straight to the point.

“He’s had a massive influence on me personally though he was the one who gave me the opportunity on the Spring Tour to have a crack.

“He’s really pushed me to better my game and believe in myself and my abilities. It not so much about focus on my weak points as much as he wants you to build on those but to really focus on those strong points in my game.

“I think he’s really brought that belief and just really pushed me to go to places that I haven’t been to better myself as a player.”

Michael Cheika has a presence at training. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyA handful of current Wallabies played under Cheika at the Waratahs and one of those, now at the Queensland Reds, Kane Douglas says there’s one main difference in Cheika’s transition but you won’t normally find it on a rugby field.

“I don’t think he uses too many props at the Wallabies,” he said.

“He used to bring a few props to the Waratahs… the golf clubs used the analogy of letting the club go.

“If you’re hitting golf balls and have a full follow through you could even let the club go, the message was basically don’t hold anything back.

“Before one of the matches, he let it go, it swung and bounced off the wall.

“He likes to keep you on your toes.”

As unpredictable as training under the Wallabies coach might be, Douglas echoed McMahon’s thoughts that he knew himself better than ever under Cheika.

“I think he’s delved into areas of me as a person and rugby player wouldn’t have thought to delve into,” he said.

“He’s honest, you know where you sit with him tell, he doesn’t beat around the bush or tell you you’re going well when you’re not. He’ll tell you what you need to do.

“I really liked him at the 'Tahs and that’s hard to walk away when I went overseas.”

Michael Cheika helped sign Israel Folau to the Waratahs. Photo: Getty ImagesCheika was a major part of bringing Israel Folau to the Waratahs, after his stint in the AFL and the star back said it was as much about relationships as rugby.

“The boys really appreciate what he’s done and he’s been a huge influence on the way that I've played rugby. He’s helped me a lot with that,” he said

“For anything he’s doing relationships are important and when your head coach is wanting to get you a little bit better and it’s more personal, it’s more than the game itself it makes you feel a little bit special.

“It makes you want to go out there and play the game for your teammates and also for him too so it’s a great thing.”

Wallabies winger Rob Horne said that was a feeling that resonates through the entire squad.

“I mean everyone that’s ever played for him would run through a brick wall for him so he’s that type of character and that type of person,” he said.

“He makes better people and by being a better person you’re a better football player.”

Cheika’s new deal keeps him with the Wallabies for another World Cup, but this is his first as a national coach with no Super Rugby responsibilities.

And flyhalf Bernard Foley says that should make 2016 an interesting one.

“It’d be different now to see how he’s had a lot of time off (from day-to-day coaching) and how he can reinvigorate himself,” he says..

“I’m sure he’s just itching to get his hands on a team and even just run around on the field.”