MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia coach Michael Cheika contacted a disgruntled Wallabies fan whose social media critique of the team’s performance in the loss to Scotland on Saturday struck a chord with disappointed supporters.
Jack Quigley, a self-described “player, coach and referee” branded the Wallabies a “disgrace”, and accused them of lacking passion and being out of touch with the common fan in an 800-word Facebook rant after their 24-19 defeat in Sydney.
The post had drawn nearly 9,000 comments by Monday and been shared more than 4,000 times.
Quigley, 29, told state media that he had written the post after drowning his sorrows with “16 beers”.
Cheika told reporters in Brisbane on Monday that he had contacted Quigley and urged him to keep the faith.
“I think that’s important that you talk to the fans,” Cheika said in comments published by News Ltd media, in the leadup to this weekend’s match against Italy at Lang Park.
“I just spoke to him about some of the things that we’re feeling and what we want to do and what’s going on in the background because we’re feeling the same thing as the fans, too.”
After cruising to a 37-14 win over Fiji in the opening test of the June internationals, the world number three Wallabies crashed back to earth against Gregor Townsend’s side and woke up to damning headlines in Sunday’s newspapers.
The defeat to sixth-ranked Scotland has re-ignited fears of a tough Rugby Championship to come in August against the rampaging All Blacks and a revived South Africa.
Fond of using motivational props, Cheika said he had put Quigley’s post on the wall of the Wallabies’ dressing room at their Ballymore training base.
“I think that was pretty confronting for a few of the guys who hadn’t seen it because it was pretty heavy in some ways,” Cheika said of the post.
“But I think that’s the message there and then because I spoke to him, he’ll be up at the game cheering loud.”
Cheika said it was not the first time he had reached out to disaffected fans.
“I remember when I started at the Tahs as well in 2013 we were getting death threats at one stage (from) some of the members who weren’t happy,” said Cheika, who guided the New South Wales Waratahs to the 2014 Super Rugby title.
”And I just started calling the ones I could on the way home and just spoke to them as honestly as I can.
“I‘m not saying we’re going to be perfect, but we’re going to be doing our best to show what our supporters want. Considering the season we’ve been having we’re lacking a little bit of belief in ourselves.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by John O'Brien