Cheika adamant 2019 will be a winner for Wallabies, slams Farrell call

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There might be a few Australian rugby fans glad to see the back of 2018 but Michael Cheika isn’t one of them.

Australia's loss to England on Sunday morning was the ninth in a dismal season and their sixth-straight to England in the past three seasons.

Asked on Sunday whether he was glad this year was finally ending, Cheika said there was a moment of deja vu about the end of 2018, harking back to 2014, his first tour as Wallabies coach.

On that tour they also won just one game and finished with a 26-17 loss to England at Twickenham, with less than a year to go until the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

Four years on, Cheika’s Wallabies have returned one of the poorest records in Australian Test history but his attitude was of determination as much as anything else speaking post-match.

“I love footy and you can’t just have the good bits. Everyone wants the good bits nowadays. 'My phone’s busted, throw it away and get a new one'. You’ve got to have the bad bits,” he said.

“You don’t want to have them but when they occur you’ve got to live them and own them.

“There’s no law that says you can’t feel sad or feel pain because that’s what’s happened to us this year.

“We’ve felt sad often and we’ve felt pain often. We will use that when we come back.

“I almost feel like I’ve got a repeat of this very day in 2014.

“I think I might have been asked that question because I was new in there and the year before which I hadn’t participated in… there’s a lot of great people in our team and a lot of great things happening behind the scenes that right now aren’t turning themselves into wins but we’ll turn them into wins next year.”

Captain Michael Hooper said he had learned a “hell of a lot” in a tough 2018 and that they simply had to take the lessons of the year into 2019.

“It would have been a nice tick on the end of the year, a little energy boost, it didn’t happen unfortunately, but It’s been a tough year,” he said.

“We’ve learned a hell of a lot lot, our staff, I certainly have as part of the leadership team a hell of a lot.

“We have got to be that way, take it in to next season we’ve got a couple of days now to digest and look forward to next year to build and we are going to have to take this tough lesson and move on.

While the Wallabies have lots of improvement to do, they were exasperated by some bad refereeing luck in England.

Cheika slammed a “ludicrous” call that denied Australia a probable try in their sixth-straight defeat to England.

The Wallabies coach was fuming over a probable Izack Rodda try that was stopped by England flyhalf Owen Farrell in a clear no-arms tackle.

That tackle went unpunished by referee Peyper, who said that Rodda had dropped his own shoulder on the way, a statement tat perplexed many.

Cheika opened his press conference when asked about the Farrell try, by being sure to declare that England were the superior team in a 37-18 defeat but the Wallabies were still aggrieved by the no-try call.

“I think  so, yeah, I do (it should have been a penalty try),” he said.

“I felt that, I want to make it clear obviously that England were the better team, deserved to win, they had us under pressure for many moments of the game and I thought we resisted really well.

“I don’t want it to be seen like a carry on but the justification that Rodda tried to take him on with his shoulder is ludicrous.

“That's what the referee said. That's what you do when you carry the ball.”

Hooper was similarly taken aback by the call.

“I was surprised it was turned around against us,” he said.

“As a ball carrier, you carry with your shoulder. Simple as.

“I was surprised there was no look at it.

Cheika was part of the biannual coach and referee meeting ahead of their first November Test a fortnight ago and pointed to another incident involving Farrell, who escaped being cited for a no-arms tackle on Springboks back Andre Esterhuizen.

“I went to the referees’ meeting that they had here in the first week before the Wales game and they referred back to the Owen Farrell tackle against South Africa and the referees left Angus Gardner hanging out to dry by saying that should've been a penalty in front of all the coaches.

“And now, if that's a penalty, this is three penalties.”