Cheiking in: Would the former Wallabies coach bring success or just more misery for Parramatta?


Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has been thrown back into the NRL fray, as the Parramatta Eels have emerged with intentions to head-hunt the cross-code thinker for 2025.

According to The Daily Telegraph, the current Pumas coach has made the final cut for the head coach role out in Sydney’s West, and could be in talks with the club this week to pencil in a contract.

Cheika joins five other candidates – Blues coach Michael Maguire, Storm assistant Jason Ryles, Sharks second in command Josh Hannay, Eels interim Trent Barrett, and Brian McDermott, who is currently the deputy at Newcastle.

Michael Cheika looks on as a Roosters assistant coach in 2020. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The 57-year-old has had a checkered past in the coaching realm, often knocked down only to lift with the chips against him.

The 2015 World Rugby Coach of the Year has thrown his hat in the NRL ring over the past five years, having served behind Trent Robinson at the Roosters in 2020, to then coach Lebanon at the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.

While statistics don’t endorse Cheika as a world-beater in percentage win rates, his resume more than pumps up his ability to perform in big moments and build a side up to premiership standards.

Before taking on the Wallabies gig, Cheika was verified in victory through both northern and southern hemisphere competitions – winning the 2009 European Cup with Leinster and the 2014 Super Rugby title at the Waratahs – an unbelievable achievement given the expansive 15-team competition at the time. Fast forward 10 years and the old Tahs can’t win a raffle.

Most notably, the veteran coach took the green and gold to a Rugby World Cup final in 2015 against the All Blacks – World Rugby’s benchmark side for the last decade and a half (yes I know about the last two World Cup results, but the All Blacks remain seeded No.1 for me).

Again, fast forward almost 10 years under the guise of Eddie Jones, and the Wallabies were in shambles, missing the group stage for the first time in history. Granted, the squad lacked depth and experience, but making a World Cup final and missing the group stage is a major disparity for an Australian outfit. It so happens that Cheika’s Argentina side went on to topple Wales in the quarter-finals and were the first side through to the cup semis.

So, does a renowned rugby union coach have the knowledge and presence to make a genuine difference at Parramatta?

Cheika admittedly has little experience in comparison to the likes of former England assistant Anthony Seibold, who was a backbencher at the Melbourne Storm and South Sydney, before being crowned Dally M Coach of the Year in 2018 with the Rabbitohs.

Having form lines around Trent Robinson is where question marks on his NRL mind become intriguing. The Roosters three-time premiership man has had many successful understudies.

Michael Cheika shakes hands with Bernard Lapasset, Chairman of World Rugby, following the Wallabies 2015 final loss. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Craig Fitzgibbon is the current alumni with the most rapport, whilst Adam O’Brien also got his chance at the Knights after serving Robinson – but has since been put under the blow torch.

Jason Ryles has too been a servant at Bondi and will be competing with Cheika at the Eels interviews – but my point is that Robbo would not call upon Cheika’s services without knowing his worth.

Robinson told The Telegraph in 2020 that Cheika was recruited for his ‘skilful attacking style’ and knowledge, also applauding the coach for his punchy delivery.

It’s a fresh perspective that could change the dynamic at Parramatta, who have had a very similar spine set-up without much success since their Grand Final loss to Penrith in 2022.

The Eels forward pack has also struggled in recent times, with form slumps of their main big-men Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo not helping the lack of depth reality.

With the sacking of the Melbourne Rebels going forward, Cheika’s connections in the rugby world could lure names cross-code, those who are without a contract and have an uncertain future.

Yes, he is untested as a NRL club head honcho, but taking a risk is something the Eels could find success in. Sticking by Brad Arthur may have taken Parramatta to a highly anticipated Grand Final appearance, but otherwise it provided little.

While their top eight hopes are not yet dusted, having a crack with a completely new name is a refreshing prospect that could inspire a rebuild in 2025.

He might not be a serious candidate for Gorden Tallis, but he cheiks a few boxes.

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