Cheika’s Plan To Get Koroibete Started
Marika Koroibete’s transition from rugby league is set to be fast-tracked under a shrewd plan from Wallabies coach Michael Cheika to have the Melbourne Storm NRL grand final star included in the Barbarians side next month.
It is believed Cheika has brokered a spot for the Fijian flyer with rugby union’s most famous invitational team for the November 5 clash with South Africa in front of a 50,000-plus crowd at London’s Wembley stadium. Cheika had been scratching his head for ways to get the former Melbourne Storm try-scoring whiz started in rugby. Playing with the Baa-Baas under former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans would have huge benefits for Cheika’s regeneration agenda. Not only would it provide Koroibete, 24, with a comfortable, limited-stress environment to test his rusty rugby skills but also give him a taste of the code’s international flavour.
A clash against his native Fiji in Belfast a week later is also part of the Baa-Baas schedule. Koroibete would be much better prepared should he then join the touring Wallabies for their noncap game against the French Barbarians in Bordeaux on November 24. The exposure to top coaches and players is just what Koroibete needs before he tackles a big preseason with his new club the Melbourne Rebels. The Baa-Baas move is not without precedent. Mat Rogers, another codehopper, was drafted into the 2001 Barbarians for a match against the Wallabies in Cardiff for exactly the same reason. It gave him a running start at playing for the NSW Waratahs the following year.
The Baa-Baas is also likely to be an avenue to give other fringe Wallabies, like hooker Tolu Latu and wingers Luke Morahan, Sefa Naivalu and Henry Speight some more November rugby. Former dual intentional Lote Tuqiri believes Koroibete’s speed and bumping runs will make him “a success 100 per cent” in rugby. Cheika is a strong advocate for the benefits of the National Rugby Championship and will free up to seven Wallabies to play in this weekend’s semi-finals. No names have been confirmed but it is almost certain Morahan (Perth Spirit) and Scott Fardy (Sydney Rays) will spice up Sunday’s semi-final at Sydney’s Pittwater Park. Minor premiers NSW Country (Nick Phipps and Latu) will likely be strengthened to face Melbourne (Sefa Naivalu and James Hanson) in Newcastle on Saturday. Koroibete had an exhausting year with the Storm so a post-grand final break is what his body needs more than anything.