Ella’s war of words with Cheika kicks off again

Former Wallaby great Glen Ella

Rugby union great Glen Ella says he doesn’t want Wallabies coach Michael Cheika’s job.

Ella was backs coach for the England team when it toured Australia this year, but told the National Indigenous Times he’s not trying to undermine Cheika.

“That’s definitely not part of my plan,” Ella said. “I’ve been down that track and I don’t want to go back down there so I’ll leave the Wallabies to young Michael.”

His comments came after Cheika early this month questioned why Ella was supporting England against Australia and suggested it might be because he was after his job.

“I don’t know if he’s bitter. Maybe they want to get us kicked out and have a job there, I’m not sure,” Cheika reportedly said.

Ella said Cheika was “clutching at straws”.

“I’ve been pretty critical of him and it’s not only myself,” Ella said. “He’s a bit upset because we were ex-players together in the Wallabies.

“But I’m only making comments judged on what I’m seeing. If it’s not good that’s what you’ve got to write.

“You don’t just make it up so I think he’s a bit upset about that.”

Ella said his relationship with Cheika had become “a bit frosty”, but he hoped they could move on.

“If they (Australia) start playing well I’ll start saying how good they are,” he said.

“There’s no issue with that. It’s a bit frosty but at the end of the day hopefully we can have a beer and see if we can move on.

“But hopefully they will start playing well and I will have nothing but good words to say about the Wallabies.”

Ella said he may have more involvement with the English team, coached by Eddie Jones, in coming years.

“At this stage I could be at some stage in the UK, but that will probably be more towards the middle of the year, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

“There’s a long-term vision that Eddie’s got until the fit out in the ’19 Rugby World Cup in Tokyo.

“There will be a bit more work this year, next year and we’ll see what happens after that.”

Meanwhile, Ella said his childhood rivalry with his brothers, including twin brother Mark, helped spur him onto success as a youngster.

“We had a large family,” he said. “We grew up in the large Aboriginal community of La Perouse (in NSW) where things were fairly competitive.

“Having 12 kids in one family, just getting to the dinner table was competitive.

“Having brothers and neighbours and cousins around to push you was a great environment.

“Twenty or 30 blackfellas running up and down the streets, you just don’t see that anymore. You don’t see kids playing footy on the road or on the grass. Things have changed.

“We had no choice. We couldn’t stay in the house. We didn’t have a TV. We had to get out and occupy ourselves.

“Having that type of environment certainly helped us.”

Ella said in his younger days he occasionally came across racism.

“I’d have to say there were some times when there was some blatant racism, but that was few and far between,” he said.

“The thing we used to do was hurt people on the score board. If they said that, it enhanced our team to score more tries.”

He said raw talent wasn’t enough to bring success, young players also needed to be prepared to work hard.

Those in the bush would have to move to the cities to advance their careers.

He hoped the number of Indigenous players in rugby union would rise.

“If you look at AFL I think it’s up to 12, 13 or 14 percent Indigenous participation and Rugby League is similar, whereas Rugby Union is, I think we’re at about one percent.

“Rugby union has a long way to go before we are at the levels of AFL and NRL. If they can play good in those sports, they can play good in rugby.”

Ella said rugby union at its highest level offered players the opportunity to play at an international level — something you didn’t get with Australian Rules football.

* Ella was a guest, along with Jones, on NITV’s Awaken on Tuesday night where the pair were interviewed by Stan Grant.

Wendy Caccetta

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