A Nichey Niche Convo

The Mystery Doctor and the Wildcard talk to each other every once in a while...

El Wildcardo, hope you've been well and you've been enjoying the interesting plethora of sporting options available. It's a weird time because it feels like it's a lull, and in a position where I like to write about sports you definitely notice times like these. But there's plenty on, it's just a bit of the calm before the storm for me personally with the World Cup around the corner and the NRL Nines kicking off another NRL season. The big thing right now though is the tennis and do you want to join me in a bit of a cry, a collective pouring out some liquor for the homie Roger Federer?

Howdy mister Doctor, you've just touched on a bit of a sore point for me. I feel like every time Roger Federer loses a tennis match, the forces of evil within the world take one more step towards world domination. I watched a bit of the game too and Roger was awful. He looked lazy, tired and he was shanking shots left, right and centre. But I don't think I'm ready to pour one out just yet. The man's still the greatest player ever as far as I'm concerned and even if he doesn't seem to be putting in full tournaments anymore, he's still capable of little moments of wonder that leave you breathless and awestruck. When he wins you wanna roll over and light a cigarette. Damn it, though, I wish he could win just one more Grand Slam...

I don't think I can ever say a negative word about Roger, but yeah winning another Grand Slam would go down very nicely. Why would you want to waste a win on the Aussie Open when you can take centre stage at Wimbledon? That would take me to a new place of joy. Now the Aussie Open is just about seeing as few Aussies in the latter stages as possible really. I would draw a comparison between the way Grant Elliot bats and Roger, but that would be insulting to Roger. I do love how Elliot bats though, guiding the ball in to gaps. I think we're going to be treated to some beautiful batsmanship at the World Cup because all the best batsmen who are scoring heavily at the mo have perfected the art of gap hitting #GapHitta

Yeah Elliott isn't nearly as graceful as Roger, though he's got a bit of that guile. Remember when he was a controversial selection over Jimmy Neesham? With his last two innings, it looks like he hasn't only justified his spot in the side but he's probably earned the number 5 slot in the batting line-up. Elliott seems to bring some variation to the side that would have been lost with Neesham. He can work the gaps. All the time. Only Kane Williamson truly has that ability through the rest of the team, it's like a great point guard in basketball and how they create that new favourite buzzword of every commentator: Spacing. Those guys are the perfect partners to have at the other end, just ask B-Mac or The Ronch (who fill the new-fangled Aerial Spacing idea - attacking above the rim). Oh, and Ronchi. How about Luke Ronchi!? There's a fella that's got it all figured out. All he needs now to be fully integrated in the side is a great nickname. The best I've come up with is The Ronchologist. Not sure that's ever gonna be in good taste though. Any suggestions?

I think the best aspect is the variety, Neesham's pretty similar to Anderson but offers the experienced craft, Ronchi's a right handed hitter and Anderson's a lefty hitter. That not only means that our middle order is able to handle a variety of situations but that the bowlers have to have different plans to each batsmen. It was a bit of a worry how crap Sri Lanka bowled, but at least the hitters got some whack whack practice.

Rozza? Ronchizzle? Roncini? LuRo? Mate I'm full of them! What's your biggest concern right now with the Black Caps?

How about L-Ron? Like A-Rod but mixed with L. Ron Hubbard, the Scientology guy. Hmm, maybe not. Well, aside from Broncho's nickname, my biggest concern is that no matter how well prepared we may be and how many different situations we prove ourselves capable of overcoming, that come a World Cup semi final we'll fall short of the occasion. Like, every team is gonna have a bad day now and then, what if our's comes in a game we can't afford to lose? 
Oh, goddamn, I think I've got it! ... Ronchi Kong.

Scientology, hmmm I'll pass. I like Ronchi Kong, I like it as your nickname for him though as mine has to be Ronchizzle, I'm all about the izzle. Or Roncini. 
Any knockout cricket is going to be a pretty big occasion as it will most likely be in Aotearoa. So just a lack of clutch? A lack of any cricket that can replicate that intensity? Because I mean, while we've been pretty good in ODI series and Test's we weren't too flash at the T20 World Cup and we haven't performed against the very best too often. Have you checked the NRL Nines squads? How do you feel 2nd time around?

Yeah, I dunno. I'll watch it and enjoy it but I wasn't that fussed on the Nines first time round either. To be honest, I've barely thought about League since the Four Nations ended. I've been looking at some of these squads and realising how absent minded I've been over every thing that's happened that doesn't concern the Dragons. Ben Barba's on the Sharks? Oh yeah, that's right. Oh and Josh Hoffman went to the Gold Coast. Forgot about that. But it's cool that we have a televised pre-season now to help people like me get reacquainted.

Probably the thing I'm most worried about with that Black Caps knockout thing is that I didn't think that most of these guys will have played in a situation like that. Plenty will have for county sides and in the NZ domestic stuff but it ain't the same, especially not in a T20 format. Except that I checked the archives just now and Guptill, the McCullums, Williamson, Taylor, Southee and Vettori all played in the semi against Sri Lanka last time. There's a solid core, plus we've added quality around them. For example, Andy McKay played that game. A WORLD CUP SEMI FINAL. ANDY McKAY! There's a battler for you. Replace him, aging Oram & Styris and Jesse Ryder with Ronchi Kong, Elliott and a couple decent bowlers and how about it? Grant Elliott - I had this thought during his game 5 century - has found his role on this team. He is Scott Styris 2.0.

On a similar note, I reckon the first go round of Nines was a bit of a mystery for all teams when it came to tactics and squad selection and all that. Second time around, with the experimentation over, the Warriors will win.

If I can give you and our lovely readers a bit of NRL Nines watching advice, it would be to take note of the names you don't know. That means that when you're tuned in, just treat all the action which involves a player who you've seen before or know of, just ignore it because it doesn't really mean much. Play well in the NRL Nines and well, it's a different game. Play poorly and well, it's a different game to that which pays you. However, the NRL Nines gives the youngsters and those trying to crack the NRL a chance to get a wee taste. I'm going to repeat this a few times leading in to the Nines but the Storm have named two former schoolboy rugby stars in Aotearoa. Nelson Asofa-Solomona had a news story done about him being amazing in Wellington while they've also named Suliasi Vanivalu who tore things up for St Kents. Cool huh? Every team has a few young guns who may or may not play NRL this year but they get a run in the Nines, that's what I love.
Winning the Nines? Well yeah, long hair don't care. I'm just keen to watch youngins, it's hard to get hard out in to it and pick a winner and celebrate the winner when not every clubs is coming to Auckland to win. 

Andy McKay? Didn't he fall off the wagon about as fast as he jumped on it! Yeah, I'd go as far as saying that Styris and Elliot are shitty Nathan Astle's. They all bat a bit differently but they are all good with how much they bowl and if they're called on, they'll do the job. Whether it's 10 overs or 2 overs, they're at the crease with bells on.

Who was the team that Manchester United drew with? Who was that bunch of battlers that Manchester United drew with?

Cambridge, Doc. It was Cambridge. They may not be much for talent but they do have a pretty prestigious university so you can trust them to come up with a plan. Don't worry, we'll kill 'em at Old Trafford, we just felt like giving them a little financial boost, keep the fine folk of Cambridge afloat for another year. Support the students and all that.

Nathan Astle, what a player. With all of these records tumbling in cricket these days, it's a pleasure to see Astle's fastest Test double century still standing. Brendon McCullum politely getting out in the 190s in the Boxing Day test to preserve it. That record is a national treasure. Although true to most of our great cricket moments, we still lost that test.

Don't try slide this one in under the radar, clearly Manchester United are terrible and Louis (pronounced Looo-weeee) isn't the man to do the job. May chaos continue to reign in Manchester. 

It's been odd, as you would have expected the Black Caps winning ways to be just that, without all the records and everything. We've kinda got a buck each way huh?
But, Mr Wildcard, all our petty little sporting issues bow down to Deflategate. We'll finish on that because it's it all deserves in my simple mind. I'll let you explain your opinion, but at some stage could you just tell me whether they can re-write history or take anything away from the New England Patriots? Like what would the punishment be? A big old fine?

I refuse to get caught up in an anti-Man Utd conversation. An NFL scandal I'm all good with though. The Patriots' punishment? A friendly slap on the wrist, maybe. Look, the deflated footballs, even a Colts fan like yourself can't say that the game was influenced by it. All it is is Bill Belichick seeing what he can get away with as always and you know what the NFL is like for sweeping a controversy under the carpet. People complaining about the Patriots cheating their way to victory, they ran the ball all over the Colts. Doesn't really matter how inflated it is when it's tucked under your arm. 

A fine's as bad as I expect to see, though I suppose there's a chance that Billy gets a ban for next season. There's a precedent with Sean Payton spending a year in the stands for the Saints back with the bounty dramas a few seasons ago. To be honest, I don't expect them to do anything dramatic before the Super Bowl that might over-shadow the big show. The only way it's settled soon is if they hand out a little fine just to get it over with. Other than that, the Deflatriots are gonna be free to prepare for another title shot. I'm actually surprised to see this being such a big story. Apparently some folks don't like Mr Belichick (presumably NY Jets fans), but any slander campaign is kinda pointless with their opposition Seattle Seahawks and their notorious PED history. In some ways, with two number one seeds and a famous dynasty against the defending champs, this is the best possible  Super Bowl. In other ways it's the worst. Funny that. I guess that's the tipping point of American sports' fascination with narratives and storylines.

It sounds as though the Colts didn't really care and that the media are building it up to the point where it's a bite of an overdose. It's not going to impact the Super Bowl, it didn't impact the Pat's beating the Colts so I'm pretty happy to stay at a distance. If you even consider writing about Deflategate, I'll trash it. But you won't because you're a sane human being.
That sounds like a pretty awesome Super Bowl, but we've got another week of Deflategate to endure huh?

It's legitimately a non-issue. You're right, the Colts were perfectly classy in ignoring the whole thing and it's really just a media beat-up. Dare I say - put on your tinfoil conspiracy cap for this one - a bit of reporter revenge for all the terse, grumpy interviews that Bill Belichick has given over the years...?

Ah, you see this is why we form the team because the other day i was listening to some lads talk about Russell Westbrook's press conference/locker room chat techniques recently. We've got the Marshawn Lynch thing which is a fun little show, and we don't really have those situations here do we? We definitely have a Bill Belichick though don't we in Shag. All the best coaches are like that huh?

Don't forget Gregg Popovich. He's the master of it all. We're naive if we think that journalists don't let their biases into their writing, or that they aren't capable of a full-scale, organised assault like this. You wonder why Russell Westbrook doesn't get the love that Kevin Durant does, it isn't only because KD's a once in a generation shooter. 

I think there are two reasons we don't get that stuff from NZ sportsmen. One: our culture's more down to earth, our celebrities more human. So they don't feel the need to be so guarded when they're interviewed. Two: There aren't enough journalists or players that we've reached that point. Which is kind of a pity, I think I prefer 'execution' to 'yeah, definitely'. 
You might be selling Shag a little short though. Belichick straight up hates all media interaction. He'd sooner be at a funeral than a press conference. Mr Hansen, I actually think he likes them. He definitely has the same gruff demeanour but if you ask a decent question of Shag you'll get a decent answer. So long as you can traverse the paths of him kiwi monotone. Heck, underneath all that he cracks jokes and everything. But if you serve him up a rubbish question, he'll dispatch that thing clear of the crowd and out of the park. See, Steve Hansen is the Head Coach of the All Blacks. He is the most powerful man in New Zealand and he has no time for silly questions.

The kiwi monotone, our language. Sounds like an ad for New Zealand. So you're telling me Shag enjoys being Shag? Too right he should, I've got another idea about the access of players because i think the access NBA, NFL etc journos get is waaay more than here which may breed this behaviour. Behaviour which I love. As long as the athlete can keep up the gimmick, bring some creativity to the table then keep it coming! The rest of the players can see me out the in the carpark because I got em peptides for ya. Wildcard, love, peace and chicken grease to you sir

That's so true. Imagine the All Blacks getting interviewed in the dressing room after a test match, because that's what happens in America. You want the fella to give a good interview, maybe wait for him to put some pants on after he gets out of the shower. 
But we'll save that for another time. 
Adios, El Doctorino.