2016 Biggest storylines: Coaching feuds

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

As 2016 ticks down, rugby.com.au is looking back at some of the biggest moments and storylines of the Australian rugby year.


Coaches’ wars of words

For too long, coaches of so many sports in Australia have rolled out cliches and given little to the public or the media in terms of emotion.

Not so much in 2016 - Eddie Jones, Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika made sure that there was little vanilla to be found in their tete-a-tetes this season.

Jones and Cheika came first, in June, though the former was throwing his opinions out there on Australian rugby well before he landed on his home shores in the first week of June.

That series was marked by Jones baiting his former Randwick teammate and the Wallabies coach absorbing his remarks and holding his tongue somewhat.

It was Cheika’s relative silence that then brought Steve Hansen, the third point of a fascinating triangle, into the mix, months before the first Bledisloe kicked off.

Hansen suggested Jones had ‘bullied’ Cheika and won the media war in their first clash as Test coaches, as England won the series 3-nil.

It was from there that tensions escalated, culminating in the exposure of a bug in New Zealand’s Double Bay hotel on Bledisloe game day, a development that dominated the conversation in the lead-up and even in the aftermath of a 42-8 flogging for the Wallabies.

While Hansen remained adamant no one was pointing fingers at their opposition, the timing of the story and its inferences were not received kindly by the Wallabies.

Whether invitations to pre-match referee meetings were extended to both sides was another point of tension throughout the season for Australia, from England to New Zealand.

It was the final Bledisloe in Auckland where the fireworks truly lit up for the trans-Tasman rivals, after a cartoon of Cheika depicted as a clown appeared in the New Zealand Herald ahead of the match.

Cheika and his captain Stephen Moore were furious at the depiction and Cheika, still holding the bugging scandal in his mind, let rip on the All Blacks over a lack of respect from their opponents.

Hansen followed him in and returned fire, accusing Cheika of hijacking the press conference after New Zealand’s record win.

Cheika changed his tack against England come November, letting loose on Jones and Wallabies legend Glen Ella in a number of extraordinary press conferences during the week.

Jones suggested Cheika had brought a ‘machine gun’ to the Test week, so scathing were some of his remarks.

Once the dust settled, Jones and Cheika shared a red wine and a laugh after both declaring a great deal of respect for the other in their final 2016 Test.

While the same may not be said for Cheika and Hansen, the spice provided by the trio gave rugby the kick it needed off the field when the biggest matches rolled around.

Let's look back at the countdown so far

Number 10 : Sydney Bledisloe

Number 9: Wallabies' generation next

Number 8: Global player routes

Number 7: Super Rugby cleanouts.

Number 6. Brumbies vs Michael Jones

Number 5: What will become of the Force?

Number 4: Former Wallabies hit out at the ARU

Number 3: Rugby world rallies around Lealiifano