Michael Chieka eyes top NRL job with ex-star dubbing him the ‘perfect’ fit

Jared Wright
Ex-Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika and a South Sydney Rabbitohs logo.

Cheika is plotting his next coaching gig.

Former Wallabies and Los Pumas head coach Michael Cheika is in the race to land a top job in the NRL.

The respected coach has experience in rugby league after coaching Lebanon through the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

The former Leinster, Stade Francais and Waratahs coach also has international experience in union after coaching Australia through two Rugby World Cups, making the final in 2015.

He took over as head coach of Argentina following Mario Ledesma’s departure in 2022 and guided the Pumas to a semi-final of the Rugby World Cup a year later.

Following on from the World Cup, Cheika handed over the reins at Los Pumas to former fly-half Felipe Contepomi and has yet to take a coaching job since.

Stiff competition

Now, he has expressed his interest in returning to the coaching box following the sacking of head coach Jason Demetriou at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Cheika is one of five names on the Rabbitohs’ shortlist, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, but former head coach Wayne Bennett is top of their list.

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Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly already started conversations with potential candidates just 24 hours after Demetriou’s sacking, particularly with Bennett.

“We’ve had some discussions,” Bennett told Sydney Morning Herald. “I wouldn’t be talking to them if I didn’t [have an interest], I wouldn’t be wasting my time.

“I’d know what’s expected of me there, but I’d need to address what players they’ve got and not got. They are the conversations to be had. I will worry about all that later when I make a decision on whether I want to do it or not. I won’t worry about the problems I may encounter or the good things I may enjoy there.

“I won’t get ahead of myself and talk to them and get a feel for the place. I need to convince myself it’s what I want to do … Right now, I’m still enjoying coaching. If someone doesn’t convince me of something else, I’ll be staying in coaching.”

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Cheika’s interest and player’s backing

Meanwhile, Cheika spoke with leading player agent Sam Ayoub and asked him to find a job in the NRL and revealed to the SMH that he intends to have a “proper go” at rugby league.

“Six weeks ago, I spoke to Sam about what I am going to do next,” Cheika said.

“I’ve made that decision that I want to have a go at it and do it properly. But I didn’t want to kid myself. After speaking to Sam, it sounds like it’s worth having a proper go. For me, it’s not about competing for a position. It’s about doing it properly if an opportunity arises.”

Former South Sydney player Josh Mansour backed Cheika for the role having worked with the ex-Wallabies boss when he was Lebanon coach.

“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with,” Mansour said.

“He’d be perfect for South Sydney. He’s a coach that’s very good at bringing a team together. He’s a good man manager. He’s a proven winner. The best trait about Michael Cheika is his ability to instil belief, not only within yourself as a player, but within the team. He’s just extremely passionate about what he does.”

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