Excuse me Mr Cheika? One question please Sir? Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?
There are some things I just don’t get:
- Horwill reselected after the last 2yrs of performances? You kidding me?
- Lock pairing of Horwill & Skelton? What the?
- Only 2 accepted jumpers going into a test (Horwill & Fardy)?
- Reselecting Palu?
- Pocock on the bench behind Hooper?
And I haven’t even started on the Backs yet…
But here’s the thing: if a coach selects a wild-card (like Quade at 10) and the gamble pays off then he is a legend. If it doesn’t then he’s a fool. That’s the nature of footy in any code. Imagine if Beale had slotted that 3pter against the Lions? We would of won the series, Beale would be supremo and quite likely Dingo still the coach. Just think about that for a sec. But no, Beale slipped, missed and the doors slid open/closed in a different way.
Of all Cheks selections this coming weekend, for QC personally I hope the gamble pays off if for no other reason than he gets to expunge 2011 from his psyche. This is his chance at inner redemption from which to resettle his still-restless soul and become the fulcrum we all know deep inside he could/would/should be. Think of the heights he can rise to with a win this weekend?
This alone makes his selection commendable as a human touch as much as anything else. No matter what else happens in his life, QC can’t say Cheks gave him no shot at resurrection and this chance will motivate QC like nothing else could.
However personal generosity aside, why has this coach selected him at 10 for such a massive game? Why does he make such “out of the box” selections continuously?
For me the QC decision is indicative of the 4 things driving Cheks at the moment:
1. Bill is the main game. Make no mistake that this weekend whilst important is a sub-plot to Bill. Why? Well number one it’s Bled vs Bill and Bill counts. Number tow imagine the damage to a team if this WAS No1 and they bombed? Would/Could they recover for Bill after investing so heavily in this? Highly unlikely.
2. Because Bill is the main game, experimentation is still the driving opportunity in the lead-up to Bill. The opportunity is there so take it. Thinking otherwise is short-term. And to be fair, we won the Tri-Nations in 2011 too, but who gave a shite when we bombed Bill?
3. Denials to the contrary, the Super Finals taught Checks quite brutally that you can’t keep doing the same shite and think the opponents won’t get creative. Such predictability is death. So he is now quite deliberately not allowing his opponents to settle. To be clear, this is a non-core issue in that I don’t think it’s change for the sake of change alone, but if an opportunity for change is presented through other considerations then he will take it if for no other reason than to deny an opponent predictability. He doesn’t fear altering a side for a reason – he embraces it as a tactic.
4. This is the big one for me – it’s all about team culture and player expectations. Now I must confess I am a bit of a cynic about culture. I am wary of too much time on the mental and not enough time on the grind. But even I see that one of the greatest contributors to the decade long black hole of rugby we fell into post 2003 Bill was that there simply was that certain folk were allowed to be deemed “untouchable”.
This gave rise to the situation of breeding ultra-precocious crap represented by none-better than the 3 Amigo’s and the famous “hot-tub” pic and the rejoinder to every ARU contract reneg which was “I’ll go to league!”. That virus even led to the disgraceful downfall of a truly great servant to Aus rugby (Link). Now this malaise being broken has been contributed to by a number of factors: deeper pool of players from new Franchises and pathways and a more sensible selection policy.
But to be more precise, Cheks has broken that malaise in under twelve months. Think your spot is safe? Boom! You’re benched or not even in the 23. You think you can position things so you’re untouchable? Pow! And now suddenly no one is Tweeting before a game anymore and no one is missing a team bus are they? And has anyone missed a team photo-shoot lately? Hmmmm…
So in regards to Mr Cheks I say good luck to you. You make your selections that I don’t get and you swing your golf club as hard & often as you like as to-date the proof of your madness is in the pudding. The positive changes implemented under your tenure have not only resulted in a fair degree of success, but more for me has restored some faith and pride in Oz rugby with a side truly competitive, a scrum to be proud of, some toughness and selflessness in the play and a depth of players hitherto unforseen let alone experienced.
Go you good thing. I for one have faith in you.