Michael Cheika’s past misconduct came back to bite him as the NSW Waratahs’ coach was slammed in a damning finding by Super Rugby’s judiciary for verbally abusing a sideline cameraman.
The Waratahs and their coach were declining to comment on Wednesday as he decided whether to appeal, having pleaded guilty to misconduct at his hearing.
SANZAR judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC said he was taking previous incidents into account when he handed Cheika a suspended six-month ban from the game, ordered him to write an apology to the South African cameraman and pay $6000 in costs.
“I do not regard Mr Cheika to be a first-time offender and it would be farcical to disregard other matters over the past nine years, including proven misconduct allegations from his time as a professional coach in Europe and a warning from SANZAR during the 2013 Super Rugby season,” said Hampton.
“This matter bears a number of striking similarities with past instances, particularly the use of foul and abusive language towards those charged with running a match and the propensity of Mr Cheika to behave in this manner is disturbing.
“Given his previous record and the factual findings of the investigation, I regard this as a serious offence and do not see it as a result of any provocation, nor is there any excuse for it.
“This decision sends a clear message that this type of behaviour and the inherent lack of respect it demonstrates is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.”
Hampton found that Cheika breached the governing body’s code when he repeatedly told the TV cameraman to “f*** off” during his side’s Super Rugby match against the Sharks in Durban on March 29.
He said Cheika was also guilty of inappropriately claiming that witnesses had fabricated evidence.
However he did not find proven an initial suggestion that Cheika had verbally threatened either the cameraman or his equipment when being filmed after going to the sideline aiming to speak to sinbinned skipper Dave Dennis.
In the finding, Hampton took into account Cheika’s contrition, but said deterrents were necessary to protect match officials and people charged with running the game.
“Shortly after halftime … Mr Cheika, unfortunately and unprofessionally, vented his frustration on a match-day cameraman,” Hampton said in his ruling.
“On at least two occasions, Mr Cheika told the cameraman to ‘f*** off’ in a heated way, with accompanied finger pointing.”