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The Roar


Michael Cheika is still Mickey Mouse, but Mickey wins a lot

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Roar Guru
12th August, 2019

And Eddie Jones is Donald Duck.

A minor stoush broke out between Antipodean coaches in the lead up to Bledisloe 1 this year. The national coach of New Zealand called the national coach Australia “Mickey Mouse,” and then fibbed about not calling him that, and said he was just taking the mickey, not calling anyone Mickey, and then the All Blacks lost to the Wallabies, big.

Advantage, Mickey.

But really, all top six teams in rugby have cartoonish coaches.

Ireland’s Kiwi mastermind Josef Schmidt reminds us of tightly wound Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast. He has his team playing like a pendulum. His face is like a clock; tiny movements, timed.

Irish rugby has sung “Be Our Guest” to Joe, and he has tried to dance a jig, in a pub, but his movements are too programmed to bring any mirth or joy.

Control is Schmidt’s game. Control the clock by being a clock. Control the ball by owning it. Control the outcome by inflicting a process on the game. But he does have some big beasts with beastly Celtic names doing his bidding in the scrum and ruck, and a metronomic flyhalf. Nobody loves Joe, and nobody hates him. He’s a clock. His idea of time, is time. He is the continuum.

In contrast, Eddie is a duck. He walks like a duck, he talks like a duck, and he probably farts like a duck. He is partly intelligible, has a mad temper, but somehow seems happy and optimistic while enraged.

He can dish it out, but cannot take it, but still he fights anything, just like Donald: his fear is replaced by anger. As a result, instead of running away, he fights—ghosts, sharks, mountain goats, giant kites, his own players, rain, truth, newspapermen, Celts, his past, and rugby doctrine.

Eddie Jones, the England head coach, looks on

Eddie Jones (Photo by David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

But he wins, at times, despite himself, because even though he went to the Alan Jones School of Charm, and is a filthy poseur, braggart-popinjay, and odious front-runner, he is actually manically perseverant.

Donald Duck is very jealous of Mickey Mouse. In fact, in 1988, Donald Duck was arrested for the kidnapping of Mickey; he was considered to be the chief suspect, due to their feud. Donald got the charges dismissed, due to lack of evidence.

Walt Disney presented Donald with a gigantic birthday cake and said it was “even bigger than Mickey’s”, which pleased Donald. Eddie wants Mickey Michael’s job.

But Eddie, like Donald, has a lot of enemies.

Rassie Erasmus is quite the opposite of Eddie (because who dislikes him?), but he is also the opposite of tight Joe. Grinning Rassie is loose, he undersells, he’s handsome, he’s long-limbed and big-handed, and he doesn’t start fights with anyone.

He innovates but adheres to rugby doctrine, and might could still play in, say, Twiggy’s league. As a player, he was all about speed and skill; because he was a natural. Eddie was all about getting more out of less. Rassie wants more and more.

And so, Rassie is the streetwise mutt Tramp, the dog who wooed Lady. Somehow he has evaded the quota-makers, like Tramp escaped dogcatchers. He’s smart and mischievous, but secretly cunning. Unusual for Bok coaches, Rassie the Tramp loves to travel, is hard to anger, and can be subtle in his approach to foreign media.


He might like hanging out with Steve Hansen, who has a similar disposition, if a bit heavier. I will say Hansen is a honey-loving Winnie the Pooh. He never seems to get too wild. But he always has honey.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

Obsessed with winning, and willing to do whatever it takes to get that honey, Hansen has won more honey than anyone, ever. Just like Winnie, Shag is a bit OCD, and his syndromes come out at times, in press conferences. Especially when he doesn’t get his honey.

He said Cheika is a Mickey Mouse coach. Then he said he didn’t. You can’t trust Pooh. He’s always playing the head game. He’s a player. He wants his honey. And that’s it.

But it is true Cheika is Mickey Mouse. Just like Mickey, he’s a bit of a mouse. And just like Mickey, Michael has changed. He’s grown. He’s softened and become more passive. They both have an annoying voice. They both are thought by many people (who are not me) to have oodles of charisma. Both are a bit cocky and both find themselves in a wide array of self-inflicted trouble. They find a way to stay employed when anyone else would be given the axe.

While their success elevate their egos and drive them to act selfishly at times, Mickey and Michael are devoted friends and care deeply for their mates.

Mickey handles issues better than Donald, but Mickey still tends to act irritable and churlish. He is also relentless when it comes to revenge, and struggles with insecurity, which makes him short-fused, anxious, and intolerant.

Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)


But you can imagine Winnie and Mickey and Tramp and Cogsworth and Donald having fun in a bar.

They wouldn’t want to tell Warren Gatland where they were. He is Commander Rourke from “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” Seemingly composed, pragmatic, and reasonable as he exercises authority; Rourke was in fact manipulative, scheming, and cruel. Expelled from boarding school at the 15, Rourke is as anti-intellectual as Joe Cogsworth is cerebral.

In fact, Commander Gatland thinks intellect prevents people from playing dirty enough to win.

His clothes are fused to his body. He turns his teams into crystalised humanoid monsters, even able to transform Hadleigh Parkes and Gareth Anscomb into test players. Cracks appear on his players’ bodies at times, with beams of red light shining through as every movement cause them extreme pain before being obliterated to pieces by the southern hemisphere. Rourke and Gatland are tragic figures, and this year will be no different.

Will Winnie get more honey? Will Mickey keep growing into a mountain man? Will Tramp find a way to steal the steak from the bin? Will Cogsworth’s clock malfunction again, in a quarter-final? Will Eddie ever stop quacking?