Cheika’s Challenge: Combining Two Rugby Dynasties

LeftArmSpinner December 9, 2012 23

No GravatarMichael Cheika, a Randwick District Rugby Union Football Club boy through and through and now the coach of the HSBC Waratahs, has inherited a squad dominated by Sydney University Football Club players.

Back in the day

Sydney University, in its sesquicentenary year, has 11 players in the 36-man 2013 squad, assuming Israel Folau doesn’t hit the books in 2013!  There are at least another 11 Sydney Uni players at other Super rugby clubs (I count six at the Rebels, one at the Brumbies, three at the Force and one at the Reds).

Randwick, a mere 131 years old, has won 32 first grade premierships and has produced 101 Australian representative footballers and 195 New South Wales representatives. Since 1996, when rugby went professional, 11 Randwick men have made their first appearances for Australia and 33 have made their first appearances for NSW.

Sydney Uni has won 27 Shute Shield titles, including seven of the last eight, beating Randwick in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

This year Uni won 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 5th Grade, 1st Grade Colts and 2nd Grade Colts, and were minor premiers in 4th Grade and runners-up in 3rd Grade Colts.

Whatever is said about the Students, and much of it is uninformed, they know what it takes to win. From back office to front row, they are ‘best practice’ for any sports club. They produce excellent candidates for Super Rugby and the Wallabies.

The same was said of Randwick in their pomp. Fairfax, Hawthorne, Smith, Catchpole, Ellas, Campese, Poidevin, et cetera.

Michael Cheika’s job is to merge two of the greatest cultures in Australian rugby in the past 50 years with his own style.

There are significantly more similarities than differences, despite the tired and outdated stereotypes of each club.

He is well equipped. Simply put, he has the work ethic of the Sydney Uni machine and the desire to run the ball from halcyon Randwick days.

This is not to say that previous Randwick teams lacked work ethic nor that Sydney Uni doesn’t run the ball. It is more a matter of instinct, interpretation, emphasis, perceived brand values, subtle variations and ways of thinking.

In one of his first decisions, Cheika chose Pat McCutcheon to be the Club Captain. Pat is a long-serving Sydney Uni player and a no-nonsense country guy.

I both contend and hope that there is little actual differences. The dynasties have many similarities: self-belief, a winning attitude in the form of both a unstated arrogance or even intimidation, and also courage when things were not going to plan.

If Cheika gets it right, and with the cultural change already afoot at the Waratahs, we could be talking of the HSBC NSW Waratahs as the rugby equivalent of Manchester United. By combining an exciting rugby team in a large, sports-mad city, with a global sponsor and the power of social media, anything is possible for the Waratahs regionally.
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Discussion

  • Bruce Ross

    An interesting take on Cheika’s situation, LAS. The bigger task is to try to engage all of the Shute Shield clubs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tommy.tudehope Tommy Tudehope

    Good post but must disagree about the choice of McCutcheon. A first rate player but not of Super 15 quality and is unlikely to see much game time with the arrival of Michael Hooper.

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      Well, capt of Aust sevens at Comm games, so he’s fit, hes good over the ball and he is quick! goes without saying. More like McCaw that Waugh! (say that three times and fast!!!!) And He is CLUB CAPTAIN!

    • Brumby Runner

      Sounds like a repeat of last year’s appointment of Daniel Halangahu as playing captain even though he hardly warranted a starting position. Same old, same old?

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      in days gone by, he would have gone to randwick wth all his joeys mates. now they go to Uni.

  • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

    Hi Bruce, That is a very good point and comes both from:

    1. the number of players in the squad from other SS teams, such as Souths, and current SS runners up and

    2. that the Tahs need to raise the profile of the game and expand the supporter base. As you know, the clubs are under severe pressure.

    I would expect that a well performed tahs outfit would trickle down to the SS clubs in terms of interest, attendance and then sponsorship and cash. Here’s hoping.

  • mjw

    LAS, wasn’t McCutcheon chosen club captain by Gaffney well before Cheika got anywhere near the place?

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      Don’t know but dont think so. I think it would be unlikely that AG would appoint the club captain without reference to the head coach. HE might have made a temporary appointment subject to….. Anyway, MC would have had to approve it, upon arrival. Its a critical appointment.

    • Gnostic

      Well spotted MJW and totally correct. At the time Chieka was in and out of the race for the position with his name being included as a possibility for the Force spot.

      http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/rugby-gold/waratahs-to-install-pat-mccutcheon-as-club-captain-for-2013/story-fnbzp42o-1226446230831

      I wonder if Chieka had any choice in the Club Captain appointment at all and really he would have no choice but to acknowledge and accept the appointment when he took the coaching role nearly a month later. on the 19th of October. In any case looking among the Waratahs Squad McCutcheon is really the only experienced leader of quality in the whole set up and I include Robinson in that assessment. It is one area that the Waratahs remain seriously undermanned. Leadership on and off the field.

  • NTA

    Uni have money. They have organisation. They identify talent and use it to dominate the competition, and you can’t blame them for that. But it IS to the detriment of other clubs and often puts Uni candidates at the head of the queue when they otherwise might not deserve it. Look at some of the guys Jake White has made into Super Rugby players in Canberra, and the clubs they played for. Uni can be the big fish in a small, fetid pool until the end of time; it doesn’t guarantee that the players in a dominant club will turn into dominant provincial players.

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      The other clubs need to catch up. it can be done, but it requires a marshalling of resources and leadership.

      • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

        And what’s it going to take for my Highlander’s to finally get it together?

        Talk about a Trilogy of Tears that I’ve signed-up for. Gordon Highlanders, Waratahs & Wallabies. Why do I keep doing it to myself?

        • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

          BBof B, there is some hope, but it is early days……..very early days, I hear they are still sorting out the mess from the previous management.

        • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

          Cheers mate. If ‘hope’ is all I can ask for at this stage, then I’ll take it every time.

        • http://www.facebook.com/barry.p.smyth Barry Smyth

          Gordon did very, very well at the State Jnr comp this year. I think they won all but one age group, some good players coming up through the ranks

      • NTA

        Well, I think it goes a little further than that – the problem with growth of rugby can be nailed down in one statement: the schools system. We really need a broader competition to allow smaller rugby programs to have a chance, and get exposure for kids to top level rugby, particularly at public schools. Talent is being pissed away to league at the moment – and soon to AFL – as rugby’s grip on Western Sydney goes from “weak” to “necrotic”. Parramatta have done well, but they made the finals on the back of the finals series including a majority of clubs competing, while Subbies organisations like Drummoyne continue to buy titles and other top-Division clubs don’t establish juniors.

        We can’t continue to rely on three or four schools generating talent – look across the ditch. They still have their high level private schools, but anyone’s a shot.

        • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

          schools system is shot, in the CHS system and GPS. CAS are doing well.

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      Uni’s problem is that there might not be enough competition in SS at some time in the future.

      But, Norths are on the way back, Souths are doing very well, Parramatta have shown it is possible and Woodies lost their way at critical stages last year. Manly have some secret plans that will make them strong.

  • Nick

    Hahahaha… Tahs have just a little way to go before being seen as having potential to be rugby’s next Man U! Maybe mention it again when they’ve won three Super Rugby titles on the trot??

    Nice article though… always interesting to consider the influence of the club scene, which will surely continue to be the true determinant of NSW and Australia’s rugby future.

    • http://twitter.com/LeftArmSpinner LeftArmSpinner

      yea, but that is the potential. At the moment, it is all potential but Jason Allen and Michael Cheika know that. None of the others have that, be it RL, AFL or other Super rugby clubs except the Saders.

  • Andy

    Syd Uni and Randwick don’t have junior development models. So anyone saying that all the other clubs should follow their example would be to the detriment of the game. Fact of the matter is, Uni scout directly from the Australian Schools program and don’t add anything before that. The rest of the clubs are the ones developing our rugby players when the secondary schools aren’t and they don’t get enough credit for it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/barry.p.smyth Barry Smyth

      Yes they do! I am a Manly supporter not a Uni one. Are you saying they dont support & foster the local Jnr system in their areas, like any other club team?

  • http://twitter.com/scrumblue Steve Bell

    If Cheika is thinking about bullshit Sydney club politics, then I reckon we’re in for a tough 2013 season.

    Maybe I’m missing the point of the article, but with respect, I think it’s fanciful to think that Cheika’s key challenge is to find a middle ground in clubland politics/playing style.

    His key challenge is to find, develop and pick dominant players (whether from Sydney clubs, schools or country rugby etc); devise a winning strategy (in response to global/S15 styles and direction…not club style); win shit; get more bums on seats; repeat.

    My impression is that he would treat any club-based pretension in the organisation with contempt…the Waratahs are bigger than any one club.

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