AFL's Buckley an inspiration for Cheika and Wallabies

The Rugby Championship
by Sam Phillips

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is looking to the dramatic turnaround of the AFL's biggest club as proof he can turn the Wallabies' worrying form around.

Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley was a dead man walking at the end of 2017 after the Magpies finished 13th and missed finals for the fourth year in a row.

This week, Buckley and the Pies are preparing for their first grand final in seven years and looking for their first flag since 2010.

Should they prevail it will be the second straight year an AFL club has retained an under-fire coach to win a premiership 12 months later after Damien Hardwick and Richmond completed their very own fairytale in 2017.

It's a position Cheika knows all too well having led Leinster to a European Cup in 2009 after a poor season the year prior.

"It's realty interesting to see... it's always the same, you know what I mean," Cheika said.

"I think the year we won the European Cup with Leinster six months before everyone was saying you've got to give that guy the boot.

"They wanted to cut Nathan Buckley's head off last year didn't they and he's in a grand final this week. That's the way it goes.

"It's about who holds their nerve. At the end of the day, you do the very best you can and you stay at doing the very best you can."

Few can hold their nerve better than Cheika and the Wallabies coach is not going to make change for change's sake.

The Wallabies mentor will only "move the dial" should he decide the Wallabies' current plans are not what the team needs in order to win the World Cup next year.

"Part of it is understanding when the right time is to move the dial, not to be too stubborn, and move the dial sometimes when things get to a certain situation," he said.

"You've got to understand exactly what it it is that you need to move before you just move to appease others.

"There's a difference between moving to appease others and moving to actually get the outcome that you want.

"This is where doing it for a job and not doing it for a job but a passion and something you love makes all the difference.

"If you are doing it because it's just a job and you are looking to pay your mortgage that's when you move the dial for others."

Things turned ugly for the Wallabies after a disappointing loss to Argentina on the Gold Coast and Lukhan Tui's altercation with an irate fan was tough to watch.

Cheika understands these frustrations and though side have won just two of their six Tests this year, Cheika doesn't see the point of dwelling on the defeat.

"Sometimes it doesn't go right, does it?," he said.

"You can't cry about it. It seems like there is a feeling of we are going to be scarred here... but that happens in rugby.

"Everyone goes through those periods where tough times come but tough times go.

"You have to be tough and understand what you can do right to get on the right side of the scoreboard again and keep working hard at it.

"You can't suffer it because if you do you will get beat again the week after."

Richmond, Collingwood and Cheika's Leinster tenure have shown that those tough times can in fact come and go under the eye of the same coach.

The playing group must respond in order to do so and this Wallabies group have their first chance to do exactly that against a red hot Springboks outfit on Sunday morning (AEST).

"One thing about our guys is they want to be accountable and you’ve got to take ownership of everything, the good and the bad," Cheika said.

"All of us, not just the players.

"It’s about turning around the things that we didn’t do in that game, stamping out the things that cost us that game and building on the things that we did do well and being consistent with our footy.

"There’s not going to be some solution you’re going to pick out of somewhere that is going to solve all of those things, you just want to be preparing to play the best you can and it’s a new dynamic this week, a different contest completely and like all things in footy, what happens the week before never matters.

"The week before we beat South Africa. It’s only what happens in the week you’re playing.

"I know everyone loves to look back because you can pick the bones out of that, whether it’s positive or negative.

"The real art in it is to look forward because that’s all that counts - that next game."

The Wallabies take on South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday September 29, kicking off on Sunday at 1:05a AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.