Cheika's cross-code vision for NRL

Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is helping old friend Trent Robinson at NRL club the Roosters.
Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is helping old friend Trent Robinson at NRL club the Roosters.

Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is predicting a return to the old days of rugby players switching to league as the NRL fights desperately to survive the coronavirus crisis.

Now a consultant to Trent Robinson at the Sydney Roosters, Cheika says he won't be surprised if a flurry of rugby players make the transition to the 13-man game, as they did in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s.

In recent times, it's mostly been league stars trying their hand at rugby.

Think Andrew Walker, Mat Rogers, Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor, Timana Tahu, Will Chambers, Israel Folau and Karmichael Hunt, who all went on to play for the Wallabies.

But it used to be the other way around, with Arthur Summons way back in 1958, then Phil Hawthorne and Jim Lisle sparking a wave of code-hoppers that also included Ray Price, Michael O'Connor, Brett Papworth and Ricky Stuart.

Scott Gourley, some 29 years ago, was the last Australian to become a dual international after defecting from rugby.

But Cheika thinks it could be a case of back to the future.

"As we become a bit more entrepreneurial, I think there might be a bit more cross-over back the other way going forward as (rugby) league's looking for a different edge," he told League Live on Fox Sports.

"And obviously league's going to change its shape as well, I imagine, over the next little while with what's happening (with the coronavirus pandemic).

"There could be some players going back the other way - or sharing, hybrid games. All those types of things are on the cards going forward."

After falling on his sword following Australia's quarter-final loss to England at last year's Rugby World Cup in Japan, Cheika has found a nice new home at the Roosters.

"I think we're using the term 'assistant' very loosely here. I'd say 'helper' might be more apt," he said of his role.

"But I grew up playing rugby league. I played (SG) Ball for the Roosters, went to a rugby league school (in Randwick).

"I think I was the first schoolboy to get sent to the sin bin for five minutes back in the day, in 1984, it would have been (in the) Commonwealth Bank Cup.

"I've always loved the game."

Cheika and Robinson first met in France a decade ago when Cheika was coaching Stade Francais and Robinson at Catalans in the English Super League.

They've been friends ever since, with Robinson even spending a couple of weeks on the Wallabies' spring tour of Europe in 2014.

"He wants to learn more. I like to meet other coaches and see what they're doing and just how they're thinking," Cheika said.

"He's just very well balanced. He can go to either extreme but come back to the middle, and just very measured.

"And with all the accolades and the trophies and all of those things, probably the No.1 accolade is he's the longest-serving coach of the Roosters. That says something in itself.

"He's built a really good culture there. You can see it in the players and the alignment inside of the organisation - both below and above - he's really clear so you know what to expect once you're in there.

"And full credit to him. He's only young still so a lot of years to go and he's very, very motivated so I like him a lot."

Australian Associated Press