Wallabies coach Michael Cheika blasts Australian rugby for 'eating itself'

Michael Cheika wants the Australian Rugby Union to embrace imperfections, just as much as perfections, saying they are eating themselves with the expectations. Photo / Photosport
Michael Cheika wants the Australian Rugby Union to embrace imperfections, just as much as perfections, saying they are eating themselves with the expectations. Photo / Photosport

Winning the Grand Slam for the first time in 32 years will not fix Australian rugby's problems, Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has declared while calling on the game's warring factions to unite.

In a revealing interview with the Daily Telegraph on the eve of Australia's opening spring tour Test against Wales, Cheika believes Australia has "eaten itself" in search of perfection and wants the bitterly divided identities of the code to unite by next year and save rugby from its downward spiral.

Several well-known rugby officials including Brett Papworth, Nick Farr-Jones and Alan Jones recently banded together to write a letter criticising the ARU's lack of community support, exposing further rifts between those who administer the game and those who operate on the ground level.

With television ratings and match attendances declining, Australian rugby is at an alarming juncture, and Cheika says not even winning all of their Tests on the tour will solve the underlying problems.

"It would give us a lot of pride back home, but I would say this; those differences would still be the same, you can't paper over it with a Grand Slam," Cheika said.

"We were in the World Cup final last year, and you have the same issues brewing underneath.

"Those underlying issues won't be solved or papered over with wins here and there."

This has been a dire year for Australia by any measure, with the ARU facing backlash from some of their most famous former stars, and the Wallabies losing seven of 10 Tests.

"Australian rugby has eaten itself because a lot of the times we want everything to be perfect," Cheika said.

"We want the playing style to be perfect, we want all the results to be perfect, all the off-field to be perfect, and we set it up so it's got to be like Wonderland, and life's not like that.

"No team's like that. You even can talk about the team that's best in the world, they've even had their own off-field problems.

"I don't know why we search for that perfection, we should enjoy the imperfections of the game just as much as the perfections.

"I see the bigger picture for rugby as not as much the results of the national team, I think it's the unification of the game, and people to stop having a go at each other between club and state and national.

"And get all the people who love rugby; the stakeholders, the participants, all those people together. You've got a good brand in the game itself.

"Once all these people join together and really support the game across the board and there's respect at all levels I think we'll be powering.

"We don't need to be the most popular sport in Australia, we're never going to be.

"But we've got a great group of traditional participants and supporters and volunteers, and also a lot of people interested around the fringes.

"If there's league fans or AFL fans, we can be the second-favourite sport because we play as a national team so many times a year.

"When the Socceroos are playing I'm supporting them, even the AFL when they went to play the international rules against Ireland, I've been there for the game, I'm supporting them.

"To expect to do that, we need to get all of our people, the great rugby supporters across Australia, participants and players, all believing in the one thing again.

"It's definitely possible, it needs a really strong element of compromise and respect and understanding, but if people will really want it to happen, it can happen.

"It's not far stretched because we have commonality, everyone wants the same thing, rugby.

"Brett Papworth has been quite vocal about rugby, but for me, even though he might say some things about the ARU I think it's great because he loves his rugby.

"And if he can love his rugby and another guy loves rugby who may be against him, and they can learn to compromise and get a good outcome, then we're going to a lot more powerful and the game's going to be a lot stronger.

"There'll be more demand for TV, there's going to be more demand to watch the game as a whole, as opposed to being splintered and saying 'I'm playing club rugby and I've got a problem with this'."

"I've actually loved it this year, I like it when it's tough, that's my thing," Cheika said.

"Last year was brilliant, we were on a roll, but I've been more involved in turnarounds always in my career as a coach.

"We always knew that the age profile of the team had to change, and it's been coming for a while.

"Wat we got out of the team last year was pretty amazing. With the changes we've made, I've never had to do it this way before because with a club team you can buy a player in, here it is a genuine renovation for youth.

"I know everyone remembers the Sydney Test in particular, and that was a really terrible match for us, but all the other games this year, even the ones we've lost, we've been right in it.

"[The players] know that when we're successful with this group of players in the future, which we will be, we will look back on this year and say 'That was the making of us'.

"It's an accurate of description of Australian rugby at the moment. The last period of recent times have been quite tumultuous for Australian rugby; a lot of incidents, a lot of positive, a lot of negative, the World Cup year was a positive for us, a lot of the years were relatively negative with off-field incidents, we're losing players with depth, the money situation.

"And there's always a bit of negative tinge around the game.

"What we're experiencing now is people addressing that at a football level, saying 'Right, we're always moaning and whingeing we don't have the depth, now we're actually trying to do it.

"Yeah we might take some pain for it, people might not agree with everything we do, but our intention is to grow players and have more players available who can do the job in the gold jersey.

"Some of the changes we've made have been forced upon us and some we've decided to make.

"As an overall it's probably changed more than I thought, there's been a lot of debutants this year and there will probably be more before this tour is out.

"The main thing is that none of those guys have been discarded, they're all still on the tour. The only guy that's not here is Leroy Houston and that's due to the situational circumstance.

"All the guys that have been capped are in the squad, there's have been no throw-aways, that's a positive sign.

"No one hates losing games more than me, and I really feel terrible when we come home with a loss and I've really felt it.

"At the same time I know sometimes you've got to take the pain to get the gain later on."

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 29 Mar 2017 08:40:13 Processing Time: 1364ms