Michael Cheika can take any amount of criticism, no matter how blunt, because the Australia rugby coach is his own “harshest judge,” he has told AFP.
The 51-year-old was world coach of the year in 2015 after revitalising a demoralised squad and guiding them to the World Cup final within a year of taking over.
But he concedes that life is not, as many would like to believe, always “positive and got to be great.”
On Sunday (2am AEDT) at Twickenham, Cheika sends his players into their 13th and final Test of the year — bidding for only their fifth win — against an England side coached by his old Randwick teammate Eddie Jones.
“I am not worried about having terrible moments. That is part of life,” he said.
“Your family members pass away, you get married, you have a child, they break a leg.
“We have gone into a world where we think everything has to be positive and got to be great.
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“But melancholy and sadness are part of human emotion.”
Cheika, the only coach to have won both the northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere continental club trophies, with Leinster in 2009 (European Cup) and the Waratahs in 2014 (Super Rugby), says people must just battle through.
“When it happens you have to live it and be optimistic about coming back,” he said.
“The thing for me and why I have always been able to keep it level is I am the hardest judge of myself.
“There is nothing you can say that I haven’t said worse to myself.”
Cheika, who took time out of rugby to forge a successful career in the fashion industry, including winning the rights to sell Victoria Beckham jeans in Australia, says the self criticism serves a purpose.
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“I want to give it to myself so to push myself to be better,” he said.
“As long as I am giving my absolute best I don’t fear failing.
“When everyone is doing their best you can’t do anything else and I believe results will follow from that.”
Cheika still has strong ties to countries he has played or coached in — for instance, three of his four children hold Irish passports.
He says his Lebanese parents — especially his father, Joseph — are an example of what he wants to see from his players.
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— ‘Spirit of Australia’ —
“My father left Lebanon in 1950, he had no money and came on a work visa the Australian government hocked over there,” said Cheika, whose mother Therese arrived from Lebanon with a letter from Joseph’s family recommending he marry her.
“He turned up in Sydney, got a cab but he didn’t know where to go and got dropped at Redfern, I guess it’s where the ‘Lebos’ (Lebanese) hung out.
“He never saw his parents again,” Cheika recalls.
“I just follow what he taught me. If you don’t give everything then you are letting yourself down. If you commit everything and you are not great or not perfect at it and people give you grief, well it’s ‘c’est la vie’ as far as I am concerned.”
Cheika’s father went from working for a sewing machine company to running his own business and receiving an award from Queen Elizabeth II.
His son says results are not always as important as the team’s attitude.
“I want the Australian rugby supporters to see us play in a way that is courageous and represents the spirit of Australia,” he said.
“When we do not play like that is when I am most disappointed.”
Cheika, whose side’s win in June over Six Nations champions Ireland is the latter’s only defeat in their last 18 Tests, says he tries to shield the team from external criticism.
“You have got to stay optimistic, not fake positive — that is what leads to resilience,” he said.
“They are not easy lessons to teach because we live in times of ‘oh we broke that phone, let’s go and get a new one.’
“However, the experiences we are having this year will make us better.
“The team and the staff will want to use those next year to make it even sweeter.”