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Michael Cheika may be on the nose with disillusioned Wallabies fans but he’s a hero to newly crowned John Eales medallist Marika Koroibete.
Koroibete paid a heartfelt tribute to Cheika after joining the modern-day greats of Australian rugby as the Wallabies’ 2019 player of the year.
In just his third season in the 15-man code after defecting from the NRL, the electric winger won the battle of the Fijian-born backs to see off Samu Kerevi and claim the Wallabies’ highest individual honour.
“It’s such an honour to be named with all the great players who’ve won this medal before. I still can’t believe it. I wasn’t expecting this,” Koroibete said on Australian rugby’s night of nights in Sydney.
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The humble star said the gong meant everything to his family, but he singled out the outgoing Cheika for believing in him.
It was Cheika who lured Koroibete from the Melbourne Storm and blooded him on the Wallabies’ 2016 spring tour of Europe. But he made the rookie wait almost another year before handing him his test debut.
“Michael Cheika was the one who spoke to me. He’s the one who moulded me to be here wearing this medal,”
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