Finegan: Talk is cheap

by Owen Finegan

I have been coached by both Michael Cheika and Eddie Jones. These two men share many similarities, but there are major differences that make them unique.

Cheika and Eddie have similar philosophies, a deep understanding of the game and strong tactical insights, born out of rugby careers that started at Randwick Rugby Club.

There is no right or wrong style in managing your players. The points of difference between these two men have made them successful and unique in their own right.

Eddie was the most statistically driven coach that I ever played under. Players were individually scored, ranked and compared to other players in the same position across the world. All players had individual statistical targets that Eddie believed were key to the team’s success.

There were also the key performance indicators that the team had to meet to ensure their ultimate success.

Cheika also was a student of the game with an intimate understanding of the competition, opposition, individual drivers and the keys to victory. Cheika's greatest strength was his man management, personal understanding of the individual, knowing what made them tick and getting the best out of them.

Is there a media war amongst these two coaches? I don’t think so but New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has weighed in suggesting that Cheika has been bullied by Jones. It is great to see Trans-Tasman rivalry is alive and well.Steve Hansen criticised Michael Cheika. Photo: Getty ImagesOne coach that understood the positive and negative influence of the media, and who strongly believed there was an important role in ‘playing the game’ and controlling the media, was Rod Macqueen.

The Wallabies of the successful Macqueen era went to extreme lengths to control the messaging and the media environment surrounding the team.

The Wallabies created a new internal television news crew in an attempt to provide easily available content that disseminated the right messages.

Early in the preparation during a Test match week there was always time for the Agenda A / Agenda B meeting that reinforced the different messages that we wanted the external media to run with and then the internal agenda of what the team was trying to achieve.

Is there a preferred style of coach in the media? What do the fans want? All coaches believe their method is the best thing for their team.

This Test series has definitely seen two distinct styles. Cheika has been relatively quiet encouraging his players to improve the quality of their play and Jones has talked “bodyline”, “rope a dope”, conspiracy theories, tactics and everything in between. The job of the media is to feed the fans with the information they want about the game they love.

A couple of Wallabies’ errors in try scoring opportunities has been the difference between the teams and is the reason why this weekend’s match is not going to be a decider. The performances on the field are the determining factors, not the supposed battle of the media.

A series loss to England and the threat of a clean sweep will be hard to swallow but this Wallabies squad is continuing to develop from the squad that performed admirably in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. England on the other hand had a dismal World Cup but have bounced back the best way possible.

They say any press is good press. Roll on Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship, Rio Olympics and the Wallabies Northern Hemisphere Spring Tour. More than anything it is the action on the field that will decide the victors, not the chat off it.

Talk is cheap.

A former Captain of the ACT Brumbies, Owen Finegan played 90 matches for the Brumbies and 56 Tests for the Wallabies. He is currently the CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project Australia.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.