Unless Wallabies coach Michael Cheika breaks the law or is guilty of gross misconduct, he won’t be fired by his employers the Australia Rugby Union. However, they would be advised to have a word with him, at least, about his responsibilities.
At the moment he is failing himself, the team, and the game.
Cheika was signed last year following Ewen McKenzie’s departure as head coach and with the Wallabies at a low ebb, meaning he will be on a valuable, cast-iron contract. The ARU, with their significant financial issues, simply can’t afford to fire him in a money sense before his contract expires after the World Cup in 2019, but they can’t afford to let him continue to run amok, either. It’s time to rein him in.
It’s one thing, after six consecutive defeats, to deflect from another poor performance by your team to blame referee Romain Poite, although bringing Nigel Owens into it when the Welshman wasn’t involved in either of the two Bledisloe Cup tests this year was downright unusual.
It was also odd to hear him complain about a pre-test meeting between his All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen and Poite, a meeting which simply didn’t happen, but it’s another matter entirely to be filmed by the match broadcaster apprently using the sort of abusive language not fit to print on a general news site. The broadcaster did not capture the sound, but the words used seem apparent from the film.
Clearly enraged by something on the field at Westpac Stadium during his team’s 29-9 defeat, and with the Australian flag pinned to the wall behind him in the coaches’ box, Cheika appears to shout: “Oh, f*** off, f*** off, you f***ing cheating ****”.
There is no indication who Cheika was referring to. The Wallabies and Australia Rugby Union have been approached for comment.
That apparent outburst alone should have attracted the attentions of match organiser Sanzaar, who last year refused to enforce a suspension on the then Waratahs coach for confronting referee Jaco Peyper at halftime in a match against the Blues. That transgression should have triggered a World Cup ban, as Cheika was already in trouble for allegedly verbally abusing a television camera operator in South Africa.
There is a trend here of poor behaviour being condoned by the rugby powers and it is continuing, just as the poor behaviour of the Wallabies is. The Australians tried to do a hatchet job on Dan Carter in the World Cup final last year, with prop Sekope Kepu continually targeting the All Blacks playmaker off the ball.
Their performance at Westpac Stadium was fuelled by the frustration of the 42-8 humiliation a week earlier in Sydney. Their vaunted “improved attitude” appeared little more than a determination to disrupt the All Blacks with niggle and sledging. Nick Phipps’ act of throwing one of Malakai Fekitoa’s boots into the crowd was embarrassing.
As a self-made millionaire, Cheika doesn’t need the job to pay his mortgage. He’s already well off financially and recent behaviour appears to reflect that.
That’s why it’s doubly important that he be reminded that the game’s laws apply to him as well. He has a responsibility to be a role model for his players at least and the edge creeping into their game isn’t a good look for anyone.
Story by NZ Herald