1) The ITM Cup will be no longer. Just as it's predecessors have existed for a few years and then been scrapped, Aotearoa's premier domestic rugby competition will once again switch things up after New Zealand Rugby Union opted not to bring ITM (we'll see you right!) onboard for another stint as the sponsor.
Kicking off the weirdness is that NZRU didn't give ITM the opportunity to counter a competitors' offer to sponsor the competition. This means the NZRU must not have been keen on welcoming ITM back into the picture and once again highlights the joys of having a competition named after a sponsor instead of, I dunno ... the National Provincial Championship (NPC)! Ah bring back the NPC. Maybe that's what the NZRU are going to do?
2) Sevens is fun, especially when they are going to be competing at the Olympics. The latest mens squad to head to Dubai (they play next weekend) has been named with a few interesting inclusions; as you would expect with 15-a-side players eager to get a sniff ahead of the Olympics. There are many notable absentees as we look towards a possible Olympic squad but halfbacks Augustine Pulu and Joe Webber get their chance to stick their hands up.
Dylan Collier (Waikato)
Scott Curry (Capt) (Bay of Plenty)
Sam Dickson (Canterbury)
DJ Forbes (Counties Manukau)
Tim Mikkelson (Waikato)
Declan O’Donnell (Waikato)
Lewis Ormond (Taranaki)
Augustine Pulu (Counties Manukau)
Teddy Stanaway (Bay of Plenty)
Sherwin Stowers (Counties Manukau)
Isaac Te Tamaki (Waikato)
Beaudein Waaka (Taranaki)
Regan Ware (Waikato)
Joe Webber (Waikato)
3)Womens Sevens is equally as fun and the ladies will also head to Dubai as they, like the men try to juggle winning the Dubai event with blooding new players and exposing them to international Sevens. The only new caps is Niall Williams, who as you would already know is the sister of Sonny Bill and while the men welcome 15-a-side players into the fold, Williams comes to Sevens via touch rugby which is a funky transition.
Ruby Tui - Canterbury
Hazel Tubic - Counties Manukau
Jordon Webber - Waikato
Sarah Goss (Captain) - Manawatu
Gayle Broughton - Taranaki
Tyla Nathan-Wong - Auckland
Kelly Brazier - Bay of Plenty
Katarina Whata-Simpkins - Wellington
Portia Woodman - Auckland
Niall Williams* - Auckland
Michaela Blyde - Taranaki
Shiray Tane - Waikato
4) Swiftly moving on to the absolute mayhem going down across the ditch in the NRL and Dylan Walker has been released by the South Sydney Rabbitohs. While Walker had a prescription drug mishap (he wasn't the first and won't be the last) I do get the feeling that the Rabbitohs, Michael Maguire especially were looking for reasons to let Walker leave the club and this conveniently did the trick. Manly Sea Eagles are still the favoured destination for Walker, which would probably push Peta Hiku out of the club - Hiku has Parramatta, Gold Coast and St George chasing his signature.
5) More mayhem! The NRL has refused to register Sam Burgess' contract with the Rabbitohs because the Rabbitohs can't afford him. This basically means that the Rabbitohs now have to let a few players go starting with Walker and then most likely resulting in Chris McQueen heading out the door but not to Penrith Panthers. Other Rabbitohs players who may be shipped are Tim Grant and Dave Tyrell; all of a sudden Burgess' arrival is seeing the Rabbitohs squad get broken up which is a high price to pay for a forward.
6) A sidenote to this mayhem is that the Manly Sea Eagles must not wait on a similar decision from the NRL as they have signed a whole host of players and could add Walker to that list. We have seen that the NRL are happy to not register deals until it's proven that they fit the salary cap so don't be surprised if Manly have to wiggle a few of their own players out of the joint.
7) And then we have the NRL's broadcasting deal, which is now a done deal. There's a lot of money involved as the NRL and Fox Sports figured out their differences resulting in a different telly schedule. While small changes may be made next season, none of this really matters as this deal won't kick in until the 2017 season so there's no real point in worrying yourself with the finer points until then. I will say that David Smith, who recently resigned as NRL top-dawg has now done what he was brought in to do - seal the deal. For all the hate Smith has received, he has now earned the NRL a hefty influx of cash in the next few years and will bow out safe in the knowledge that he did his job. Shout out to all the #JobDoers out there.
8) Last night's T20 Super Smash game in Hamilton between the Northern Districts Knights and Central Districts Stags lit up my Thursday evening. Mahela Jayawardene was playing for the Stags, which in itself had me smiling from ear to ear as there is no better sight than an absolute cricketing legend running around enthusiastically in domestic cricket. Jayawardene top scored for the Stags with 76 off 52 balls and while Anton Devcich got the Knights into a strong position in their run-chase with 70 off 47, the star of the show was young Nick Kelly who finished off the innings with 36 off 16 balls, winning the game for the Knights. Any time you see a young sportsman show that clutch gene that we all love is great and Kelly smacked boundaries for fun despite the pressure mounting.
9) After the Super Smash cricket, the Wellington Phoenix played out a 0-0 draw with Sydney FC in a game that lacked a splash of polish or class. Unlike last Sunday's loss to Western Sydney Wanderers, an away draw (while not ideal) isn't the worst result. What sucked was the lack of any real connection between the Phoenix's attacking players and the blatant lack of someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck ... like Nick Kelly did in the cricket.
10) Today we will witness something new, something fresh and something that could change Test cricket forever. It's hard not to be exciting about this whole day/night Test experiment, even if it is just an experiment and it may not work ... if it does work though, we will have a funk new twist to Test cricket which makes more sense to me than changing the structure of Test cricket with four-day Tests and what not. Most importantly for us this means that we get Test cricket in the evening for five nights in a row #Lovely.
Rest In Peace Phillip Hughes as well.
11) As always, let's finish with some Steven Adams...