Michael Cheika to blame for annoying term that has crept into Aussie rugby vernacular

The former Wallabies coach first introduced the term at the Rugby World Cup in 2015.

Michael Cheika at the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Michael Cheika first introduced the term 'finisher' at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. Image: NSW Waratahs/Getty


Can someone please put a finish to the word 'finisher' when describing players left out of the run-on side. Call them substitutes, reserves, replacements, interchange players, bench warmers, pine sitters – anything but finishers.

That word has slowly crept into our sporting vernacular and, it appears, our initial suspicions that the Yanks were behind it are ill-founded. The culprit looks to be rugby union and, in particular, an Aussie.

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Former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika started using 'finisher' as far back as the 2015 World Cup. Speaking ahead of the crucial pool game against Wales, he said: "We just want to finalise a few things and get our bench organised because I think the finishers in this game are going to be really important."

After the Wallabies won a tight match, Cheika declared: “The finishers did a fantastic job tonight. They were unreal in doing the work of one-and-a-half men each of them to try and bring their freshness in the game."

Okay, we know what he's trying to say. Yes, reserves are there at the finish and astute use of your replacements can make all the difference in top level sport. And yes, those who start on the pine are just as important as those in the run-on side.

But calling them finishers? It sounds like some wanky corporate jargon a bloke with penchant for ponytails and oak caramel macchiatos in a beaker would lean on during a workplace team building exercise. It’s got a touch of PC about it.

Michael Cheika at the Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Michael Cheika looks on after the Rugby World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand in 2015. (FRANCK FIFE via Getty Images)

NSW Waratahs announce Super Rugby team with 'finishers'

Yet, it remains in use long after Cheika introduced the term. And, again, rugby is to blame for perpetuating it.

In announcing their 23-man squad for the Super Rugby opener against Queensland, the Waratahs revealed their forwards, backs and finishers. "Fourie, Thompson-Stringer and Thomson set to make debuts as finishers. Max Jorgensen returns to SRP as a finisher," the social media post declared. As one fan quipped: "After their form in the trials, I think the whole team's finished."

Thankfully, in Queensland where things take a while to catch on, they've listed those outside the starting XV as 'reserves'. Long may it continue.

Some of Australian sport's greatest moments have been as a result of bench warmers coming on to get the job done. Think Tim Cahill at the 2006 World Cup v Japan, Canberra's Steve Jackson in the 1989 rugby league grand final against Balmain, Carlton's Ted Hopkins in the second half of the 1970 VFL decider.

They're all known as 'super subs', not 'fantastic finishers'. The defence rests.

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