Why the Wests Tigers have reached out to Michael Cheika

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The Wests Tigers have reached out to former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to gauge his interest in working in rugby league when his commitments with Argentina end after the Rugby World Cup.

While former player Mark O’Neill appears the frontrunner for the vacant general manager’s role, the Tigers have sounded out Cheika about potentially joining the Wests Tigers.

Pumas coach Michael Cheika shakes hands with Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.Credit: Getty

Club management on Monday night put a recommendation to the board for the club to pursue O’Neill as general manager, but aren’t guaranteed to lure the former premiership-winning player away from the Parramatta Eels, where he performs a similar role.

If negotiations with O’Neill fall through, the Tigers are expected to revisit the possibility of having Cheika on the books in some capacity.

Cheika, who led Lebanon to the quarter-finals of last year’s Rugby League World Cup in the United Kingdom, comes highly regarded by club legend and assistant coach Robbie Farah.

Cheika is also related to injured Tigers star Adam Doueihi, who is hopeful of returning from an ACL injury midway through next season.

Michael Cheika took Lebanon to the quarter-finals of the Rugby League World Cup last year.Credit: Getty

The former Australian rugby union coach has formerly worked with Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson and impressed with his knowledge of the game during his stint as Lebanon coach.

He has indicated a desire to work within rugby league but has been limited due to the 18-month contract he signed with the Pumas which doesn’t expire until the end of Argentina’s World Cup campaign in France.

As for O’Neill, the Tigers have held informal discussions with him about his interest in returning to the club.

One of the driving forces behind the push for O’Neill is his former teammate Benji Marshall. The new head coach has given the Tigers his support to lure O’Neill back to the club.

O’Neill’s relationship with Marshall extends back two decades. Before Marshall’s retirement in 2021, O’Neill told the Herald he once told Marshall, ‘You’re not the king’ after watching the then-teenager sign a crown above his signature.

Marshall respects his 2005 premiership-winning teammate, who is 10 years his senior.

O’Neill has expressed his interest in discussing the role but is currently employed by the Eels, where he has been general manager since 2018. The Tigers will discuss the matter at a board meeting on Monday night.

O’Neill doesn’t have a contract with the Eels for a specified time frame and would be free to leave immediately if he opts to sign with the Wests Tigers.

The Tigers haven’t had a general manager for the past 12 months after deciding to appoint Tim Sheens as head coach. The club opted against bringing Sheens back into the administration role despite the veteran coach signalling interest in doing so after being replaced as head coach.

The previous general manager, Adam Hartigan, is now working with Phil Gould at the Bulldogs.

The Tigers also had discussions with Knights head of football Peter Parr, who decided to remain in Newcastle despite a third party organising a meeting.

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