The St George Illawarra Dragons are in need of a new coach after Jason Ryles‘ decision to join the Melbourne Storm, and there is a renewed push for former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to be considered for the role. Despite not having an agent, Cheika is open to speaking with NRL clubs, including the Dragons, and believes he could be the left-field choice that the club needs.
The speculation surrounding Cheika and the Dragons first surfaced in January, but it became more serious a month ago when lifelong Dragons fan Graham Rush approached Cheika about coaching the club if Anthony Griffin was let go. After Ryles’ snub, Rush began lobbying Dragons powerbrokers again.
Cheika’s rugby pedigree is esteemed, but he’s also an unabashed rugby league fan, having played the sport in his youth and coached the Sydney Roosters following his resignation as Wallabies coach in 2019. He is currently contracted to coach Lebanon’s national rugby league side until 2025, but his contract with Argentina ends when they are knocked out of the World Cup.
Cheika has a history of leading successful turnarounds in his coaching career, which includes guiding Leinster to win the Heineken Cup in 2009, the Waratahs to their first Super Rugby title in 2014, and Australia to the Rugby World Cup final in 2015. He believes that success comes from changing perceptions and being accountable to fans, something he demonstrated by cold-calling angry Waratahs supporters to hear their perspective.
Despite his accomplishments, it would still be a leap of faith for any NRL club to sign him – particularly for the cautious and conservative Dragons. However, if the Dragons do their due diligence on Cheika, they will find that he’s ready to talk and could be the right person to bring success to the club.