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SportsOctober 26, 2016

The real reasons Michael Cheika got so angry: a Spinoff investigation


What really made the pugnacious Wallabies coach lose his rag after the Bledisloe Cup loss to the All Blacks on Saturday? Surely it can’t have just been that cartoon. Guy Montgomery investigates.

It has now been four sleeps since the All Blacks set a new world record for consecutive test match wins by beating the Wallabies at Eden Park. That means Michael Cheika has had four days to calm down after going off his nut in a press conference about a newspaper cartoon depicting him as a clown.

At least, that’s what he claims made him so angry. I sense a cover up. Here are some more likely explanations*.

A genuine fear of clowns
Michael Cheika could be the first known high-profile sports figure with coulrophobia (a specific fear of clowns) meaning being portrayed as a clown would not only be infuriating but also terrifying. If this is the case I think an apology should be issued and Cheika given a platform to talk about this surprisingly common fear.

New Zealand Herald illustration: Rod Emmerson
New Zealand Herald illustration: Rod Emmerson

He can’t swim
Unrelated but undoubtedly grounds for frustration. Cheika lives with his family in Sydney, a city best known for its outstanding climate and proximity to beautiful beaches. Years of living in the city, day after day of wearing a jacket in thirty degrees plus, building up a thick coat of sweat and dank musk without being able to take a refreshing dip in the ocean can take its toll on a man.

He accidentally misspelled his own name on his arrival card and had to fill out the whole thing again
Cheika is known for his nerves when flying into New Zealand, never knowing whether to put ‘Business’ or ‘Recreation’ as his reason for travel. This might seem simple – obviously he is here for business. But if he writes that, the customs officials taunt him by saying things like “Are you in the business of losing, Mr Cheika?” If he writes ‘Recreation’ the customs officials rightfully arrest him for lying to immigration.

He thought Eden Park was going to be a garden paradise, rather than a hostile sports stadium
I am clutching at straws here, based on the evidence before me Michael Cheika has been to Eden Park for professional sports events multiple times before. It is very unlikely this is why he is so upset.

He doesn’t like losing
Fair enough. I don’t know anyone who likes losing. To like losing would actually be a tremendous asset as an athlete, alleviating the bitter disappointment that all athletes face at different points in their career.

Michael Cheika seems angry about something (Photo: Getty Images)
Michael Cheika seems angry about something (Photo: Getty Images)

He can’t find his car keys
We all know how this feels. You’ve got a big day of activities with the family planned, somehow finding a suitably enjoyable middle-ground for you, your partner and the kids. Everyone has been looking forward to this for a week and the excitement in the house is at fever pitch when on your way out the door, all of a sudden you cannot for the life of you remember where you left the flamin’ car keys. The family all dig around the house in the hopes of saving the day but after an hour of looking the vibe is ruined and the trip spoiled beyond repair. Infuriating and relatable.

He had spent a lot of time and energy making a very expensive clown costume for halloween that he feels he can no longer wear
It is not well known to the wider public but Cheika is a big-time Halloween fan and loves nothing more than impressing his family and the Wallabies alike with his intricate hand-made costumes, often spending upwards of eight months preparing them. Those closest to Cheika have often pondered whether his commitment to creating the ultimate Halloween costume this year has distracted him from his job as coach of the Wallabies.

One rumour is that at half time during the first loss to England this year, Cheika accidentally walked into the locker room wearing one comically oversized shoe. The players said nothing. Only now does the picture come clearly into focus.

Following a professionally challenging 2016 and looking forward to some time off before the Wallabies tour of the Northern Hemisphere, the one thing that has been getting Cheika through was the promise of revealing his magnum opus of a Halloween costume to his family and the players. In the wake of ‘Clowngate’ that too, has been irreparably sullied by New Zealand sports media and the All Blacks. Nothing is sacred any more.

* Both Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen were unavailable for comment as I do not have either of their phone numbers, emails or any means of contacting them.

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