I am never scared to make unpopular decisions: Cheika

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Michael Cheika preaches belief to his players and Australian rugby fans but it’s a driving belief in himself that could ultimately define his time as Wallabies coach.

Cheika has faced more external criticism this year than ever before in his Wallabies tenure with just a 27 per cent win rate this year,, but he said he had to take the bad with the good when it came to making decisions, something he said he wasn’t going to shy away from it.

“You’ve got to get on with it and not be ignorant of the things you have to change, make those changes and don’t be scared to make changes or don’t be scared to make decisions that not everyone may like,” he said.

“As long as your intent is for the success of the people you are representing, and the team you are a part of, then every decision is good.

“I’m never scared to make those and also accept the consequences that come with them.

“It’s an addiction of some sort, maybe, the adrenaline, the thrill of it as well as trying to make sure that you have prepared yourself correctly to make the right decisions because when it does come off it’s a real buzz.”

Despite the turbulence of this year, Cheika said he had to maintain a faith in himself to make the right decisions, with the team at heart.

“You’ll have some success and you can’t enjoy the successes unless you enjoy and acknowledge the hardships that come to you too,” he said.

“You’ve got to have melancholy, you’ve got to be upset and angry sometimes and something you’ve got to be extremely happy. It’s how we work.

“That’s a reflection of life too.

“It comes from a lot of intrinsic belief in oneself. I believe in myself a lot, very humbly as well.

“I know I’ve got stuff to learn and people to learn from but I believe in the intent of what I am doing always so it makes the challenge more interesting because you are putting yourself on the line.”

The adrenaline and buzz Cheika speaks of first manifested itself in the city where he will be coaching again this weekend.

Padova’s Pertraca club gave him his first professional gig and that lit the fuse for what has turned into a near two-decade tenure.

“It's so much fun just doing it - coaching. It's the challenge of trying to get the best out of people,” he said.

“I was coaching in another language which wasn't that easy. But learning to deal with different cultures. 

“It was where I learned to get the best out of people no matter whey come from and what background they have.”

“I was just with Vittorio Munari - he was the guy that brought me out here in the first place. He took a bit of a risk I suppose. I'd never coached anyone before.

“At all the clubs I have coached at I have made good friends and got good relations with all of them. This is what rugby is all about.

“I was here 18 years ago for one season and I still have such solid friends from that year and the connections that you build are the friendships for life.”

A handful of jobs later this Test could be a pivotal one for Cheika and on the field he’s made some important moves.

The partnership of Matt To’omua and Bernard Foley in the 10-12 channel is one that has yet to be tested since To’omua’s return to the Test fold.

Striking a balance of those two with Kurtley Beale could be the key to unlocking the Wallabies attack, which stuttered against a strong Wales defence last weekend.

Whether they perform well enough to force a dilemma in next week’s Test against Twickenham is yet to be seen but Cheika is keeping his options open.

“Let’s see how they go. Definitely we consider every player so the opportunities that are given is so you can see how they perform together,” he said.

“You don’t ever say, ‘this is brilliant’ off one performance or say “it’s terrible off one performance.

“You look at what they can bring all the time and in different combinations and the reality is we will have to play different combinations.

"At the World Cup we’ll only be playing 31. There are some games you’ll have to mix and match players according to the mix you take of forwards and backs.”

The Wallabies take on Italy in Padova on Saturday November 17, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 1am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports Foxtel channel 515 and SBS.