A Nichey Niche Convo - Ali Lauitiiti, You Deserve This Headline

Sometimes the Diggity Doc and the Wildcard talk to each other...

Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo, I hear there is a Manchester derby and a few rugby games in England this weekend. Throw in some cricket and Kiwis tour games and we have a cracking Labour weekend in store for those of us who love sport huh?

Wildcard - G'day Doc, yeah, so much so that I didn't even realise it was Labour Weekend. That extra day of sleep is gonna come in very handy, this is a full slate all of a sudden after a few spread out weeks of fixtures. I mean, where do we even start? I kinda feel like a bit of Kiwis talk, there hasn't been much League in a while. I know you'll feel the opposite of me here but my excitement is sort of tapered by a halves pairing that probably has less than 10 NRL games of experience between them in those positions. Hiku and Tui are top players but it does remind you how much we're missing there, I'm talking world classers. But then I look at that forward pack and I feel safe again.

DD - I can't contain my excitement of seeing Hiku lining up in the halves for the Kiwis so yeah, quite the opposite. Hiku played in the no.6 jersey quite often for the Junior Warriors and has done a Jamie Lyon sort of job there with Manly so it will be interesting to see how he goes against a well drilled Leeds side. Neither Hiku or Lolohea can lay claim to consistently good long kicking games though so that will be something to watch, then again it's hard to see this Kiwis team being pegged back in their own half too often. You mentioned the forward pack -can't forget about Mr 200 himself at fullback.

WC - No of course not, the back five are actually all quality too, if we could only throw Foran and Johnson in there ("Or Benji..." - what? who said that?) then what a team! Fair point about the kicking game, I think that's part of where it comes from for me, blame the Dragons and a bit of Wayne Bennett but I look to the halves more as controlling influences and here we have gamebreakers everywhere. Like an NFL team without a quarterback but with Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch blocking for each other instead. I'll tell you what I'm looking forward to most though, and that's the 2002 NRL Grand Final flashbacks of both Ali Lauitiiti and Adrian Morley playing their final games for Leeds. Talk about a blast from the past, right? They didn't come much cooler than Lauitiiti back in the day. He was Sonny Bill before Sonny Bill came around.

DD - Ali Lauitiiti is thoroughly deserving of this little occasion isn't he? Hopefully he pops up at Mt Smart some time, that would be awesome. Put it this way - Jeff Robson would be the perfect half for the Kiwis. We don't have Robson but we youngsters who will try their bestest so that's cool. Who is the player that you will be keeping a close eye on for the Kiwis this tour?

WC - Perfect for the Kiwis and thus perfect for the Warriors? I mean, there are better versions of Jeff Robson out there but he'll do his job in a way that many more naturally talented folks and that's a majorly underrated aspect, often you need a few of them types to tie it all together for the more creative blokes. Obviously there are two players I'll be watching: Gypsy Nightingale because of my own allegiances, and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for general jaw-dropping awe purposes. The very second they attack down the other wing, I'm getting up to make a fresh cuppa... but not really. Hey, speaking of DYJ players (do ya job, for the uninitiated reader), did you cry when Jarryd Hayne got made inactive for the game against the Seahawks? I'll make the DYJ connection in a sec.

Oh and Ali Lauitiiti = All Time Warriors, NZ & Samoan Rugby League Legend. Leeds too, probably. He deserves it all.

DD - Should I have cried?

WC - Nah, leave that to the Aussies who assume his career's now over. I think it's interesting how he's gone from a sport where many of the same skills still remain but the NRL prioritises chancing your arm and taking risks where in the NFL, doing your job is number one. And Hayne hasn't done his job well enough yet. Fumbles and bad decisions are outnumbering the big plays for him and he maybe needs to be reminded what's at stake for a team that cannot afford special teams mistakes given the ones they're making on offence already. If anything though, I think this being his first proper setback puts into better context how well he's done to get to this point.

DD - You could be mistaken for thinking that the world is about to end given the reaction to the dropping of Hayne. It is more a product of how quickly he rose up the ranks though right? Like everything went a bit too well and now there's a hurdle ... just a hurdle though and not the end of his NFL career.

WC - Yeah I think that's true. He almost got there too quickly and there are still some big holes in what he's doing. Getting schooled on a blitz last week for a Kaepernick sack, for example. The main thing is that he's not better than the top three running backs this team has and his punt return duties have had too many errors for him to get there as effectively a return specialist. Also, not having to play against the Seattle D & Specials might have been a blessing in disguise for him. Or at least a bullet dodged. He'll keep working and getting better behind the scenes. And maybe this puts a halt to every second NRL player being talked up for an NFL switch? That stuff was stale from the start. Hey Doc, is Ivan Cleary gonna coach the Kangaroos?

DD - Omg Wildcard I hope we hear the end of every player who is big and can run kinda fast in the NRL being touted as an NFL possibility. As Hayne is showing, there are so many minute details in the NFL that running over people doesn't translate. Cleary? Ah no (always a chance though), I would assume that he still wants to lead an NRL team. But what about the coaches who don't have jobs - Cleary and Geoff Toovey aka two of the best.

WC - Yeah it's always funny when guys of a certain calibre are out of a job, puts all this pressure on the dudes with gigs already. I remember last Premier League season when Tony Pulis was out of a job (after Crystal Palace screwed him over a bit) and you sorta got the feeling the first bottom-half team to go a couple bad weeks would pull the trigger and bring in Pulis. It was like a race, and West Brom won it. But tell me Doc, what teams are there that might be looking for a new coach if they have a bad month's start to 2016? The Tigers? Titans? There's one team I refuse to mention, of course.

DD - The teams who are most likely to not be very good, thus putting them in the mix for a new coach are the Tigers, Titans and ... well no one else looks that bad at the moment with new signings and all. I still think Cleary has a plan though...

WC - Even some of the teams that struggled this season, they're committed to coaches. The Sea Eagles & Trent Barrett, Eels and Brad Arthur, Knights and Nathan Brown, etc. I feel like you might be leading me in a direction with talk of that plan but... I'm scared to ask. Argh fine. What's the plan? Or is it still confidential?

DD - Exactly - it isn't as though there are many coaching gigs around which is possibly why his name was dropped in the Kangaroos bucket (with Mal Meninga). Well all the fluff from Phil Gould has led me to this purely hypothetical situation that I like - Cleary makes Gould aware of an offer from the Warriors, Gould hates it as Cleary was the guy he hand-picked and then the two start to fall out. Cleary rebuked Gould's suggestion that he was tired, etc. and there was the strongly worded statement saying that the Panthers had terminated Cleary's contract. Clearly there is bad blood there and I'm going out on a limb to say that it is partly because Cleary had a lovely offer from the Warriors.

WC - I'm sceptical (sorry). And I still don't think the Warriors are desperate enough to feel they need to change coaches now. That's a team with a core of all sorts of quality young players (just look at all the rookies they brought through in 2015). If they don't make the necessary strides next year, maybe then, but I'm not convinced Cleary is good enough to tear up the plans to go get him. Only Uncle Wayne and Cousin Craig get that treatment. This isn't a Oklahoma City Thunder type situation where they lose everything if they can't compete all the way this new NBA season. Kevin Durant then leaves in free agency, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka follow him soon after... that's a desperate team. The Warriors, they're right where they wanna be. Leaders of Mannering, Hoffman, Manu, Luke... playmakers in Johnson & RTS... future stars like Tui, Vete, Kata... Now, if Cleary were willing to take on a consultancy-type job...? (But not an assistant, if they bring him in as #2 then they may as well bring him in as #1 coz that's major shade on McFadden). Speaking of the Thunder, I'd also like to let all our readers know that I've got a very good feeling about Steven Adams this season.

DD - Well there the catch sir as I didn't specify what role he would have with the Warriors. It could be anything really. Explain your good feeling about big Stevie...

WC - Well, the way that team is built around a couple dynamic scorers, the way they've added a bunch of perimeter shooters, it all sort of works to prioritise Adams' role as a defender and a rim-protector. The team has plenty of size but not all that much punch down low, which means that even though Enes Kanter got max money this offseason, they need Adams' defence just as much as Kanter's offence, and with KD back there's no shortage of points anyway. So expect to see the pair shuffle a bit depending on opposition but Adams is gonna be the primary starter at C, bank on that. I think coach Billy Donovan has more ideas of how to improve this team defensively and Adams is a player that any coach would love. I see them as genuine championship contenders, maybe the third favourites behind last year's two finalists. 

DD - What about that Ibaka fella? Will Kanter and Adams share minutes with Ibaka and then give Ibaka a break as well?

WC - Umm, Donovan says they will, though there wasn't so much of that in pre-season. But it makes sense, since Kanter is such a bloody turnstile on defence that he has to be handcuffed to Ibaka usually, but if Adams and Ibaka are starting, then that messes things a bit. So a rotating trio sounds enticing. You've also got Nick Collison can play PF, maybe even KD at a stretch too, those two are at least decent defenders, though I think they'd play more with Adams. It also depends what the oppo is offering, since Kanter is a superb offensive centre and that draws coverage away from the guys at the edge of the key. I can see Adams having big success out of the pick and roll though, and also hopefully passing it out of rebounds if he can up that side of his game, so he's got plenty to offer on offence himself. It's a nice variety to have, really. Better than Adams/Kendrick Perkins, where Adams had to be the offensive one of the duo (in his first year and a half in the NBA too). Like I said, I reckon they're the third best team in the NBA heading into next week's tip off.

DD - How do we judge Stevie's season? Obviously we have to take into account his personal numbers and the Thunder's fortunes...

WC - Eh, play it by ear maybe. But I do figure we'll see a rising in the stats. 8 points, 10 boards, something around that range. And the Thunder's fortunes matter enormously because if they don't feel they're competing around the trade deadline, then all bets are off, frankly. I doubt Adams would be traded or anything, though he does have an enticing contract. So... I s'pose we ought to spare a word for the All Blacks about this time. My word is this: Anticipation. Yours?

DD - Anticipation indeed - I anticipate a strong South African side. As the Devil's Advocate I reckon the Springboks will make this one heck of a game and in all my negativity I don't really mind who wins. Who needs peptides this weekend mate? The market has dried up a little...

WC - Jarryd Hayne could use a few. Maybe Kevin Durant too, just to make sure the foot's doing okay. You know, for Stevie's sake. And... hey let's spare a bunch for the clowns of NZ Football. Not that we have the time/patience to get into that debacle.

DD - So I can keep my peppies to myself!? Boom, I will have a great long weekend #bender. Over and out.

WC - It really will be a long weekend, then, haha. A looooong weekend. Adios, el Diggity.