Sometimes the Diggity Doc and Wildcard talk to each other...
Diggity Doc - El Wildcardo, Overlord Southern Comfort guzzler. It's almost a week since the Rugby World Cup final, where are you at with your thoughts and opinions on the All Blacks or international rugby in general? I wrote yesterday about the state of rugby so I wouldn't mind getting into that.
Wildcard - Hola Doc, yeah you wrote well on that. It's an interesting issue. I'll say that in some areas there's no problem at all. The Sanzar teams are rolling as always, as are Argentina who've lathed on to that trio and maybe you could add Japan to that lot too based on where they're headed. But it's weird to me how intertwined European and Polynesian rugby seems to be, and it's not the Pacific nations that hold the power there - just look at the issues they had with player selection for the World Cup - the WORLD CUP, the most important rugby tournament on the planet. It's sad really, and it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Then again, getting Polynesian players into Super Rugby doesn't seem to help coz they just end up playing for those nations instead. What's your ideal compromise here?
DD - In some ways Super Rugby doesn't help because as you said they will just end up being in contention for an All Blacks spot for example. I really don't know what the ideal compromise would be, hence it is an absolute kerfuffle. Maybe restricting European clubs to five imports or something similar. Even that will cause drama as you will need the English and French unions for example to agree. It is easily the biggest issue for rugby right now as the European nations were the only teams to go backwards - agree?
WC - Not entirely, because I'd suggest the Pacific nations went backwards a well, though things were made hard for them by those European sides. And it's the Six Nations sides we're talking about because Georgia had a top effort, even Wales and Ireland too to be fair, they were crippled by injuries and were otherwise really solid. Scotland were unlucky not to beat the Aussies. But France and England especially have every reason to feel humiliated and those are the two nations that control that part of world rugby, unfortunately. I'd like to see international spots in Super Rugby. I know the money's not as good but the competition's better and that'll be just as enticing to some players. Ayumu Goromaru signing with the Reds is a cool development. I reckon you bring in these kinds of players, not only do they improve significantly by playing at this level and among these types of players but the fans tend to embrace them. They're cult heroes and that's great for Super Rugby - look at the legend that is Fumi Tanaka. That doesn't solve the European dramas but it at least increases the number of international players able to earn a living (until Eng/Fra put in strict limits and reduce that number again). At least we're talking about growth and expansion. At least people are trying. We'll probably sooner see Japan in the World Cup knockouts then we will Ireland playing test cricket.
DD - The joy for us is that Super Rugby can become the other option for international players which as long as it doesn't take away from local talent, is very cool. You gonna welcome Sam Burgess back into the NRL with a smile on your dial?
WC - Maybe not a smile, but not a frown either. It's actually a bit annoying after all the drooling and fawning over him when he left and what a loss it was for the game and now here he is back after 12 months. It was just a gap year is all. Great to have him back in rugby league, where he at least knows what he's doing, but a shame that he's back at the Bunnies for obvious non-Rabbitoh-supporting reasons. I think he could have made something good of his time in rugby had he stuck with it but it does look now like he was only really after the world cup, which is fair enough but the timing wasn't there, was it? He should have gone over a year earlier, maybe even two years, but then he wouldn't have won that NRL title. If anything it says more about English rugby that they were willing to fast-track the dude into the national team. They thought he was their Sonny Bill Williams, how cute.
DD - It's a bit dumb on both fronts really isn't it? Burgess simply didn't go about it the right way like SBW who started at the bottom and pretty much earned everything he got in rugby, starting at ITM Cup level. Then England rugby kinda messes him around and to sum it all up he played flanker at Bath and got picked in the midfield for England. It was a slim chance of working when you consider all of that.
WC - It happened about as you'd expect it to when you look at it like that, right? Next step I suppose is for him to jump in the ol' celebrity boxing ring. He's probably gonna miss out on the Olympic Sevens though. Poor lad. I get the feeling that he isn't gonna miss a beat when he gets back into the NRL, it'll be like riding a bike for that guy. Maybe it's a bit early for these speckies but what does this do for the Rabbitohs title chances? Are they back in the prospective top four now?
DD - Ah gaining Sam Burgess levels out the loss of Issac Luke, I don't think a player like Burgess automatically makes a team title contenders. He's a hard working forward who gives their forward pack a touch of ruthlessness, however the NRL landscape has changed a bit since that Rabbitohs Premiership season.
WC - It certainly has. Teams like Manly and, yes, the Warriors having made big additions, Melbourne has some great young guns who're a year more experienced, things are changing with the Roosters and the Queensland sides are all of a sudden the cream of the crop. Well... two of them. And then of course here is where I make my obligatory biased Dragons comment. But that can wait 'til closer to the season. Did you know the ASB Premiership starts this weekend? And that it's on TV? We've talked about this before but it's nice to see local sports other than rugby getting good coverage and building the profile.
DD - The annoying thing for me is how the Australian media are blabbering on about how the NRL needs Burgess. The NRL was pretty awesome this season but them Aussies tend to get a lil insecure about it all. Yes we'll actually get some local footy on TV! I guess we will need to watch it first before we make any judgements ... I'd take ASB Premiership over T20 Super Smash every day. What about you?
WC - Thurston > Burgess, to be honest. They even made the intro to the summer's cricket on channel 9 all about Thurston and League to start, which was odd. Guess becuase they had Rabbits taking over where Benaud would have been in the past. #RIPRichie.
WC - Yeah, that Super Smash thing's a really good point because that's a product that's been designed to bridge the gap between fans and viewers, you know what I mean? T20 wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact that it appeals to non-cricket fans as an avenue into the sport, though I'm sceptical how many of those people are currently camping in front of the telly for the tests in Aussie. But the ASB Premiership, I expect elements will be optimised for TV which is perfectly fine, the better it's presented the better for the sport, but it's still the same league it was before, unspoiled. That's awesome. It's asking viewers to come to them by making it easy and accessible rather than bastardising the thing. It's a great job by Sky TV (initially, they could still cock this up) and hopefully it finds the audience it deserves in a crowded marketplace of live sport. These kinds of things need to succeed if they're to have their lead followed.
DD - I am expecting the Super Smash to get small crowds and even smaller ratings which puts NZC in an interesting position as they have put a lot of eggs in this basket. To be honest I would rather watch Australia's Big Bash which is better in every aspect. Are we hoping that Auckland City don't win the ASB Premiership again to spice it up or not fussed?
WC - I think it'd be nice if someone else came through and won it, yeah. At least last season saw a break in the Auckland-Waitakere duopoly, with Team Wellington getting into the final. Don't hold your breath on that though. One pretty sweet element is getting to see the Phoenix reserves play in it too, we all always champion the academy fellas getting a run, well here they are. I'm with you on the diminishing Super Smash too. I actually don't think it offers much of anything without the Blackcaps taking part. The Aussie one's got all sorts of talent and, more important than anything else, it gets huge crowds. Last year you'd see games in the NZ one where the ball'd be slapped into the stands and it'd take five minutes to get it back coz there'd be nobody there. I don't see how it's going to be any better this time around. Cricket's a tough sport to sell because you can't just broadcast an entire four dayer. I'd like to see a highlights show, something like the Football League one. No magazine type stuff, just highlights. You've gotta think outside the box or else they're in trouble. Like you say, there are a lot of eggs in that tattered NZC T20 basket.
DD - What is the best case scenario for the Phoenix and their quest to stay in the A-League with regards to the upcoming ASB Premiership?
WC - Umm... I don't think they're related, really. Other than the big mother hen of NZ Football that sits over both of them. We wanna see all aspects of footy in this country thriving, from the ASB Prem to the Nix to the women's stuff to the youth stuff and beyond, but one doing well doesn't mean others will follow, unfortunately. IF NZ Footy kicked in financially with the Nix, that wouldn't go astray. Mostly I think that whole FFA anti-Nix agenda is an illogical one. There are people in there that didn't want an NZ team in there in the first place and now they have the power to do something about that. The Phoenix aren't gonna be judged fairly, but the #SaveTheNix campaign seems to be doing great work. I'm not too worried with things as they stand, not with all the backlash. New question: Is there a more deranged sports person on the planet over the last couple months than Jose Mourinho?
DD - Besides Chris Cairns?
WC - Haha, I don't know if Cairns is what I'd call deranged. Not on the surface at least, but he's definitely a desperate man, just like ol' Mou. So, yeah, besides Cairnsy. (PS, you're hinted comparison to Lance Armstrong is spot on with Cairnsy).
DD - I wouldn't rule out Cairns bordering on deranged mate. What is your theory on Chelsea?
WC - Not really a theory, I'm just loving the general madness about them. In this very week alone there was Jose refusing to answer questions after a loss, then you couldn't shut him up after the UCL win. There were players dropped, there was legal action taken against him, there were all sorts of reports (across the whole spectrum) about the safety of his job and there was even talk of a silent revolt among the Chelsea players (rumoured to be led by Cesc Fabregas). The mutiny was denied, so I won't get crazy on that, but anybody who thinks Jose should be sacked is a spoilsport in my mind. First of all, they're not getting a better manager, second of all... it's just so much fun! What could possibly come next? A fistfight at training? Re-sign Frank Lampard? Harry Redknapp as managerial consultant? If I read that they were watering the pitch with the blood of journalists then I wouldn't even be surprised.
DD - Mayhem at Chelsea is great for us as Arsenal and Man United fans right? Despite being touched up in the Champions League by Bayern Munich, the Gunners are soaring in the Premier League and Jose is providing a constant distraction which is funny as that's what he does to protect his players.
WC - Exactly, but it's working even still. I've watched a fair bit of them recently and Diego Costa, for example, has been absolutely awful. Every bit as bad as Rooney but it's Wazza getting the heat at United (his manage too to be fair). I was actually pretty annoyed by my MUFC comrades in that Champions League game, moaning and demanding attack. They *were* attacking! But that's what happens after three games without a goal. I think anytime Koscielny doesn't play then Arsenal's defence is irrelevant so the Bayern game isn't as bad as it seems. I've got your lads to draw with Spurs this weekend though, sorry.
DD - Oh that Gabriel kid certainly was poor against Bayern. Reckon the BLACKCAPS need my weekly dose of peptides?
WC - Not to mention the lead boots that Big Per had on. Yeah I reckon if you could inject a few into Southee's back that wouldn't go astray. The rest of the bowlers too to be honest.
DD - Sorry mate, I sold out. Bigger bucks on offer from the Aussies, don't hate me, I just love money. Peace out.
WC - Sounds pretty allegorical there Doc, a lot like what's happening with the domestic T20s. See ya later mate.