Talking Analytics: Wallabies coach Michael Cheika

How to use data to make clean decisions

Head coach of Australia’s national Wallabies rugby team Michael Cheika believes leaders must never lose touch with the “feel for the game” when trying to comprehend mountains of data.

Speaking at the recent Melbourne Business Analytics Conference hosted by our School’s Centre for Business Analytics, Michael said he relies heavily on his experience as a rugby player and coach to get the most out of high-level data and make clean objective decisions that get the most out of his team.

Analytics with passion

Michael is constantly exploring new ideas – at times, via people and at other times by carefully analysing unstructured data, such as countless reviews of Wallabies footage. Michael draws on his analytical skills and passion for rugby to carefully label, structure and compare this data to best understand it. Rating and aligning the different data types he and his leadership team creates allows them to make better-informed decisions.

“It’s important to understand the data and believe in the technology you’re using too, so you can sell it to the players, staff and executives,” Michael says. “You lead by being an advocate of the product, the technology and the data.”

Simplicity plus flexibility

Michael’s aim is to use his data to extract “max performance” from his athletes. His overarching goal is build depth in the Australian squad and achieve the best team selections.

To get an idea of what this involves, imagine analysing immense volumes of player data on sleep, weight, state of mind, injuries and other factors to achieve the best ROI for each player and the team.

“You get the real value of data when you put it in layman’s terms,” he notes.

Michael also says that without built-in flexibility, the technology he uses to analyse and create data on his athletes wouldn’t keep the Wallabies ahead of the curve. The flexibility to integrate newer technology allows continuous change and optimal performance.

More insights to come

Talking Analytics will bring you more insights into how top leaders are using data to improve their decision making soon.